Rabbi's Message, Rabbi Alvin Kass, January 2016
Rabbi Alvin Kass
Chief Chaplain of the NYPD
JOSEPH THE CLIMATOLOGIST
One of the most colorful personalities in the Bible is Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers, rose to the position of viceroy of Egypt, and ultimately saved the people of his generation from the ravages of famine.
Joseph's plan for handling the problem of scarcity was very simple: put away food during the years of plenty to avert hardship and starvation during the years of want. The wisdom of this approach is the theme of a recent book by Steven Schneider entitled The Genesis Strategy. Dr. Schneider is an eminent climatologist who is concerned about the relationship between climate and food supply. He argues that periods of drought run in 22 year cycles and the only way to counterbalance the destructive effects of drought on world food supply is to do what Joseph did as described in the Book of Genesis.
I do not pretend to possess any expertise in the subject of either climatology or agriculture so that I cannot evaluate the validity or lack of validity of Dr. Schneider's controversial argument about the cyclical characteristic of climate with periods of abundant moisture alternating with periods of drought according to a regular, predictable, rhythmic pattern. What I find fascinating, however, is the sudden rediscovery by Dr. Schneider and others of the wisdom of the Bible. For a long time the march of science from Copernicus to Darwin to Freud to Einstein seemed to land one blow after another at the Bible creating in the minds of many people the impression that the Bible is an archaic, anachronistic relic of a pre-scientific age which has nothing to say to modern man. I have often marveled how many of today's well-educated, literate and informed men and women with all kinds of advanced degrees, who manifested an awareness of all the latest discoveries and innovations, could at the same time display such an abysmally low level of knowledge about the Bible, one of the principal sources of Western civilization. On the television quiz programs, for example, contestants, who can't be stumped on geography, mathematics, physics, chemistry, or anthropology, are consistently bowled over by the simplest Bible-related queries.
It appears now that the tide may be turning. The Bible has again become a popular subject in college literature courses as well as adult education programs.
Movies and television dramatizations about Biblical personalities are likewise becoming more abundant and more artistically performed. The Genesis Strategy appears to be another example of the rediscovery of the truth that the Bible has a great deal to say to modern man. Maybe "The Genesis Strategy" is true not only for climate and food supply but for Biblical study as well. In those periods of drought when Biblical study goes out of style, those of us who believe in the value and the relevance of the Bible should continue to study it so that the world doesn't die of a spiritual famine caused by the scarcity of the Revealed Word.