This year, National Geography Awareness Week (this week) has chosen the theme of “freshwater.”

The Torah is laden with prohibitions against harming the environment. Soldiers may not cut down fruit trees that surround enemy cities. The soldiers of Israel must designate a separate place, outside of camp, for their bodily wastes.

Sadly, people have not done as good a job at maintaining the health of the world as one might hope. Freshwater, which is so critical to a healthy environment, is becoming very scarce in many parts of the world. Indeed, the Kinneret (Sea of Galilee), the largest freshwater body in Israel, is shrinking at an alarming rate.

As we of the twenty-first century fret and fuss over whether we can reverse the trend, perhaps we can take heart at the words of the prophet Ezekiel. In chapter 47 (1-9) of the Book of Ezekiel, the prophet is lead by a guide to a trickle of water. They walk together and the water becomes increasingly deeper…to the ankles, knees, loins..until it is unpassable. The guide then passes Ezekiel through the water and says:

“These waters…shall enter into the sea, into the sea of the putrid waters, [and] the waters shall be healed. And it shall come to pass, that every living creature with which it swarms, wherever the rivers shall come, shall live; and there shall be a very great multitude of fish…”

This mysterious passage can, of course, be interpreted in many ways. However, it may also be read as a prophetic teaching that humankind has the responsibility and ability to repair our rivers and streams and, in so doing, rehabilitate the oceans, so they may team with life.

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