Parashat Vayishlah

Small Vessels

Jacob views material possessions as essential and indispensable.

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How is it possible that human beings could cause such widespread imbalance? It really comes down to the small vessels--mining aluminum for one can, trucking one glass bottle to a faraway dump, as well as countless other small acts--multiplied by 250 years of industrial society and billions of people.

Today's global environmental crises can be pinned on no group of people or nation, and solving them will require the participation of billions of individuals. It is on this crucial level of the individual that Jacob's actions can speak so profoundly. Jacob's going back for two or three vessels teaches us that little things matter. In our consumer age the message has only become more relevant. We all have the potential to be truly righteous.  May we learn from Jacob's example and come to live in a more Divine-aware and sustainable way.

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Jonathan Neril

Jonathan Neril is the project manager of the Jewish Environmental Parsha Initiative. He is a rabbinical student in his fourth year of Jewish learning in Israel. He received an MA and BA at Stanford with a focus on global environmental issues.