The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 

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The Flood

We need a spiritual practice for changing how we live.

The story of the Biblical Flood is one way we can frame this spiritual practice. The dates recorded in Genesis for the beginning and end of the Flood are exactly six months apart. These dates are the 17th of Cheshvan, when Noah's ark rested on Mt. Ararat, which was the end the Biblical flood, the 17th of Iyar when the flood rains began (or vice versa) – roughly speaking, November and May. Constant change isn't possible, but could you change one thing every six months, in time with the beginning and ending of the flood? This framework can keep us focused on making change our new habit and allow us to be mindful of how we personally impact the earth's atmosphere without becoming paralyzed by the enormity of the problem.

Another thing we can all do is to make Shabbat or whatever time you designate as your weekly Sabbath a time to give up electricity or cars or various technologies in whatever form you are prepared to do so, a kind of weekly practice for the deep social changes that are to come.

Right now, can you change one habit or do one new thing that will reduce your participation in the disruption of the earth's climate? If you can't think of something you want to change altogether by the next flood date, think of something you can change one day a week by that date. You can record your commitment here to share it with folks on


A Practical Suggestion:

Find a partner (a chevruta) with whom you can share your commitment, and help each other stay on track. Pick a goal you know you can accomplish in the following six-month period. Make it a change for every single day of the week, but if that's not possible, make a change for one day a week, like not driving on your Sabbath. The next flood date falls on May 21. Set something you can complete bhy that date. More importantly, make it something you can really accomplish, something that depends on you only.

Make a phone or lunch date when you can check in with each other to see if you have accomplished what you set out to do. If you made your commitment, pick the next thing you're going to do. If you didn't finish it, help each other revise your plan to make it work.

Keep doing one new thing every six months. Let other people know what you are doing through this website or through forums in your community.


The other date in Genesis is the 27th of Iyyar, when the animals, along with Noah's family, left the ark, and the rainbow appeared. The 17th of Iyyar also happens to be the day before Lag B'omer, with all of that day's connection to fire and Kabbalah. The rainbow signified a new covenant between God and the land. It's time for us to imagine a new covenant between humanity and the land, one that we start to live by more and more, through steady change in our lifestyles and habits. And maybe it's time to celebrate that new covenant as it takes shape. Last year the anniversary of the rainbow fell on June 1.

Click here to record your reflections on how we can use this date to further consciousness, commitment and action for sustainability.


Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006