The New York Times reported this week that a huge fissure in an Antarctic ice shelf, known as Larsen C, extended 17 miles over the past two months: “A rapidly advancing crack in Antarctica’s fourth-largest ice shelf has scientists concerned that it is getting close to a full break. The rift has accelerated this year in an area already vulnerable to warming temperatures… Of greater concern to scientists is how the collapse of ice shelves can affect the glaciers that flow behind them, because the melting of those glaciers can cause much higher levels of ocean rise.”
The Antarctic Larsen C fissure is to due to global warming that NASA estimates is 95% attributed to human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels like coal and oil. The break-off will create a massive iceberg the size of Delaware, approximately 2,000 square miles! Imagine witnessing the splitting of this Larcen C iceberg, a third of a mile deep, as it drifts into the ocean.
The journal Nature reported that based on research in Antarctica, scientists now estimate a six-foot rise in sea level by the Year 2100 which would prove devastating for global coastal communities! This is a jarring wake-up call for the entire world to implement serious measures to reverse man’s unabated use of fossil fuels.
Interestingly, in this week’s Parsha of Beshalach, we recall an earlier “parting” of water when God miraculously split the Yam Suf to enable Bnei Yisroel to escape the pursuing Egyptians. The Medresh (Shemos Rabbah 21:10) points out a striking anomaly. On the one hand, the Jews lacked nothing: they had all their needs cared for; even as the crossed along the dry sea bed, God provided delicious apples and pomegranates for hungry children. Yet, on the other hand, the Medresh compares the Jews to the Dor Hamidbar, who also had all their needs cared for (Devarim 2:7), yet they complained to God. The medresh therefore concludes that those who crossed the Yam Suf actually lacked one essential component – teshuvah, introspection leading to sustained personal growth. They had not sufficiently perfected their character.
In certain respects life has not changed – just as the Dor Hamidbar lacked nothing material, and sorely needed to do teshuvah, so too in our present day, we have all of our material needs cared for by God, yet our unbridled use and abuse of natural resources and more, signal our need to do teshuvah.
The apples and pomegranates nourishing the children in the Yam Suf remind us that this Shabbos is also Tu B’Shvat. Tu B’Shvat contains the inspiration we can draw upon to do the requisite teshuvah. Rabbi Abraham Pam explains (Rav Pam on the Festivals, ArtScroll Publications, p. 90):
“The great masters of mussar and Jewish thought derived many important insights from Tu B’Shvat, which always falls in the midst of winter, while the trees are totally bare of leaves and seemingly bereft of any sign of life. The fields are usually covered with snow, the white shrouds of winter. Yet when this special day arrives, a techiyas hameisim (Resurrection of the Dead) begins. Something happens under the earth; life-giving “sap” begins to work its way up through the trees to give them new life. This expresses itself in buds, blossoms, flowers, and, eventually, luscious fruits that the trees will produce in the coming spring and summer.
“Man is compared to a tree of the field (see Devarim 20:19). At times it seems that he, too, is totally stripped of any spiritual life, with little or no connection to God and His Torah. Yet the pintele Yid, the indestructible spark of one’s Godly soul, lies dormant under the surface. It waits for an opportunity to burst forth and flower with spiritual growth, that can erase years and decades of apathy to a life of spirituality.”