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 It has been a strange and difficult winter weather-wise both in the United States and here in Israel. Jerusalem has absorbed two major snowstorms and the country as a whole felt bitter cold and even snow in areas of our land that are certainly not accustomed to such happenings. The United States has been in the grip of an Arctic polar vortex that has made snow and cold very unpopular words over most of the country.

Not long ago, the world was coming to an end because of global warming. However, since over the past decade no discernible warming is taking place and empirically we are experiencing more bitter winters than what we have felt to be usual, the mantra has now been changed from global warming to climate change. The only problem with climate change is that climate always changes and that there is little that human beings can do to prevent, control or regulate those changes.
Science is convinced – at least in the public pronouncements of many leading scientists – that somehow steps can be taken to alter climate change. By so stating, they crossed the line that separates scientific fact from oftentimes impudent hubris and wishful thinking. When it comes to nature, and weather is definitely a function of nature, we humans remain pretty much impotent when it comes to dealing with its vagaries.
I am not an expert in science or weather and am not one to venture an opinion as to whether carbon emissions that are man-made are the main culprit for climate change. However, I think that in light of all of the adjustments, refinements and retractions of previously sacredly held theories advanced by scientists of note over the ages, caution would be wise when discussing the causes of climate change.
Perhaps climate has always changed and has always moved in cycles, as is true for many other facets of the natural world. We are fascinated by nature and a great deal of this fascination is due to its mystery and nonconformity.
Science could learn a great deal from religion in terms of humility. Religion itself can also benefit greatly from its own lesson of humility. Religion can also benefit from the methodology, curiosity and knowledge that science brings to our civilization.
One of the main lessons of religion is that no matter how great, wise, ingenious and innovative human beings are, there are limits to human abilities and that many of the basic questions of life and nature will remain unanswered. Many of the major human and social disasters over the millennia of human existence can be laid at the doorstep of unjustified certainty, impudent arrogance and an unwarranted exuberance of self. I
t is this self-importance and self- aggrandizement that allows experts in one field of academia to also assume the mantle of expertise in politics, diplomacy and government even though they may be woefully unequipped to do so.
The Talmud teaches us that in pre-messianic times impudence will increase and become the norm of human behavior. The lack of humility on the part of many of the world’s leaders has made us uncomfortable and vulnerable. The senior partner in the law firm that I once worked for had a sign on his wall that read: “Do not confuse me with the facts. My mind is made up!” Unfortunately, much of the world believes and behaves in such a fashion as well.
Because we are blessed with extensive knowledge and amazing technological advances it is difficult for us to admit that in many areas of life we are still powerless and ignorant. What results is that oftentimes the most learned and expert of us are the most arrogant and insufferable of all humans.
The Talmud held up the great Hillel and his descendent Rabi Yehuda HaNassi, as role models of Jewish leadership, not so much for their Torah erudition as for their humility, self effacement and acceptance of the imperfect human state in life. The Talmud emphasizes that the only human characteristic where extremism is allowed, and in fact encouraged, is that of humility.
Humility saves one from impudence and serves as the necessary trait for the refinement of our ideas and behavior. The person who feels that he or she is always right is usually wrong. In fact, belief in one’s own infallibility is, in my opinion, the punishment itself for that arrogance of soul. Perhaps we should enjoy the climate change that we are apparently undergoing, to the extent possible, and realize that Mark Twain’s dictum that there is not much we can do about the weather remains true and valid.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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