Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Wind Power

When the European Wind Energy Association launched the first Wind Day in 2007 (which became Global Wind Day in 2009 in coordination with the Global Wind Energy Council), it was probably not familiar with the fact that Jewish tradition discusses wind as one of the constant, dependable forces of creation. Many of the Global Wind Day (June 15) events demonstrate the incredible potential of harnessed wind energy.

In Tractate Ta’anit of the Babylonian Talmud, the sages discuss the nature of wind: “It has been taught, the sages did not make obligatory on one to mention [in the daily prayers] dew and winds, but if one desires to mention [them] one may do so. What is the reason? Rabbi Chanina said: Because they are never withheld” (Ta’anit 3a). God might hold back the rains or obscure the sunshine (too much rain), but the wind is a constant.

Jewish tradition often discusses winds by the direction from which they come. An east wind not only split the Sea for the Israelites, but brought the locust into Egypt during the Ten Plagues (whereas a west wind swept them away). Rabbi Nachman ben Isaac observed that “legal study requires as much clearness as a north wind day” (Talmud Eiruvin 65a).

Wind, as the energy companies know so well, is a powerful force. It is stated in the Book of Ecclesiastes: “There is no person who has power over the wind, to retain the wind” (Ecclesiastes 8:8). Whereas humankind’s behavior and prayers can effect rain, tradition maintains that this is not the case with wind. So while the inherent energy of wind can be harnessed, it cannot be stopped.

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