Rabbi Gil-Ezer Lerer: A single act | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Rabbi Gil-Ezer Lerer: A single act 

Since he became a rabbi, said Temple Menorah’s Rabbi Gil-Ezer Lerer, he has talked about the difference one act by one person can make. 

A single act might not solve a problem, but it can make a difference, Lerer said. And when those small acts add up, they can become a bigger difference. 

“The little things are the things that accumulate in life,” he said. “Never have that attitude that it won’t make a difference, because if everybody has that attitude, we’re going to hit a dead end, God forbid.” 

The idea of small acts came to mind for Lerer as he reflected on the lessons the high holidays can impart about caring for the earth. For example, a single bottle recycled won’t stop climate change. But, he said, “one person can affect the world.” 

Rosh Hashanah – the start of a new Jewish year – celebrates the birth of the world, Lerer said. With that in mind, he said the occasion should serve as a reminder for the Jewish community to think about how people behave themselves and interact with others. The holiday is an opportunity for reflection and self-improvement. 

“When you talk about God’s creation of this beautiful world, it was a gift to mankind,” Lerer said. “It’s how we treat it that we’re able to celebrate it every year, another year of creation.” 

The beginning of Jewish year 5784 can also serve as a reminder, Lerer said: The earth is “ours to rule, and it’s ours to take care of.” 

That same theme is present throughout Jewish teachings, the rabbi said. The Talmud teaches of four new years, including the new year of the trees – Tu Bishvat. In another example, the book of Deuteronomy teaches the laws of warfare. Lerer points out the rules prohibit cutting down fruit trees. 

“The emphasis (is more) on taking care of the earth itself,” Lerer said. “Climate change is one of the things. There’s other things to talk about, too: soil and trees and how we are to not intermingle things. … I think Judaism has been dealing with this for way longer than people realize.” 

Jewish teachings, he said, also point to the difference one person can make. A lesson in the Talmud says that if a person saves one life, that person saves the world. With that spirit in mind, Lerer said he hopes people will think about the small actions they can take that stand to accumulate – such as recycling that one bottle. 

“It’s what you’re relating to the next generation,” Lerer said. “Take an interest.” 

The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle focused on climate change for the season of the world’s birthday, Rosh Hashanah. This article is part of that series for 2023/5784.