In the beginning of the Noah and the flood story, it is said “God had deep grief in His heart… for the earth is filled with robbery through them. And behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. …Behold I am about to bring the floodwaters.”

I found this profound statement while studying this afternoon. Rabbi Ovadia ben Jacob Sforno (1475?-1550) in Italy comments on these verses: “Each person robs the other; the landowners rob the sharecroppers forcibly, while the sharecropper robs the landowner through deceit. Thus the earth is producing all its fruit for robbers!”

On the Hebrew word being translated as floodwaters (mahbool), he says “It is a term meaning downfall and catastrophic loss.” On the phrase “with the earth” Sforno writes God is saying that “He will destroy the climate of the earth and air after the deluge of water (the flood). Before the flood, the equinox was constant (day and night were equal length). After the deluge, the angle of the earth to the sun was altered. As a result, immediately after the flood, the span of human life was shortened because weather conditions and fruits were no longer perfect as before. It is for this reason (weather and fruit were no longer perfect) that humanity was permitted to eat the meat of living creatures after the flood.”

I learn from Sforno that the robbery and deceit that human beings do to each other is a root cause of climate change. For what is robbery and deceit? It is selfishness beyond what is needed to survive. It is the antithesis of “Love your neighbor as yourself.” We are temporarily permitted to eat meat (though not blood – because it represents the soul of the animal). But eventually, when we return to a state of not stealing from each other and not being deceitful, then we will no longer be permitted to eat meat, as it was in the Garden of Eden.