Jewish beliefs when it comes to the environment are rooted in the laws and teachings that are written in the Torah and Tanakh. They firmly believe in the doctrinal truths that God created everything around us. And we are assigned to be responsible stewards of these creations. The environment nurtures us, and in return, we should care and nurture them, too. This is what is stated in the Torah.
Texts That Guide Jews In Their Moral Obligation To The Environment
Writings in the Torah and Talmud are designed to guide the Jews through life as how God wishes it to be. Talmud is the oral tradition where moral views are founded. It fills the gaps and explains the laws of the Torah. And Jews are obliged to read and understand them, day and night. It is with a deep understanding that they will be able to apply in their lives what is written in the Torah. Talmud is divided into two parts: the Halachah and Aggada.
Halachah and Aggada both discuss how to put the teachings into their everyday lives as if they are walking with God who is giving them instructions face to face. He is like a father who is imparting his wisdom to his children that they may do good and inspire others with how they live their lives.
The Duty Of The Jews
A good Jew is he who loves society and respects the earth and everything in it. Halachah guides them to do this. For them to be able to do this, they have to be totally committed. They must embrace the covenant by making it a part of their daily lives. Feeding on this results in total respect and willingness to sustain and respect God’s creation.
Bal Tashchit, which means ‘do not destroy or waste’, is the fundamental of Jewish environmental ethics. A wasteful act is widely forbidden in Jewish tradition. Doing so contributes to the ruining of the earth. Learning how not to be wasteful will help us to become better both physically and spiritually.
Where Is This Teaching Rooted?
Deuteronomy 20:19-20 clearly says not to destroy trees for it is the source of our food. It prohibits the destruction of crops. There is no need for killing things that are of use to the people.
In our time today, it applies to the waste of money, energy, food, clothing, time, and more. Wastefully burning of fuel and/or oil adds up to the pollution that damages the earth. Living extravagantly and unnecessarily wasting material things can lead a person to be greedy and do sinful things.
The Jewish tradition is very blunt about being against living a life of greed, human abuse, corruption, and reckless use of resources.
Other Texts That Support Environmental Ethics
Other than Deuteronomy 20:19-20, other texts support Jewish values when it comes to conserving and preserving the Earth as commanded by God.
Both of these texts describe the harmony between humans and all of God’s creation and a protected and healthy environment. And this is not just today but in future time. This is a call for us to learn to preserve a healthy environment for the future as envisioned in the Torah.
The texts say that God placed man in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and take care of it. Men are given the duty to protect the earth. In Jewish environmental ethics, one aspect they focus on is deforestation. It is the solution to the unnecessary destruction of forests. Jews promote tree planting. They venture in projects that will raise awareness and promote environmental conservation. It is their commitment to continue the Jewish value of being good stewards.
A Call To Start Repairing The World
Manfredi is modern Jewish thinking that encourages conservation. Jewish people recycle, conserve energy, and collect rainwater.
Saving water is being taught and practiced in schools across Israel through the Jewish National Fund. It is being done in the hope that kids will lead the way and will educate their parents to do the same. The JNF hopes to help in the water crisis in Israel. They believe in the power of the children’s small hands to help support this endeavor.
The world is now facing a high level of pollution in the air, water, and soil. Jews are trying their best to have a fair share of the responsibilities in preventing the planet from destruction by humans.
Guided by the teachings of Torah and Tanakh on the principles of preservation of life, they believe that we must take care of the earth, for there is no one who will do it right after us. We, not only the Jews, are all God’s creation. It’s not just Adam and Eve or the Jews who are residents of the Earth, but all of us. We must take part in fixing it to make it better. We are all called to be good and faithful stewards of what God had created.
Rachel & Ashleigh. (2008, August 6). Jewish environmental ethics. Retrieved from https://www.slideshare.net/old_roofrat/jewish-environmental-ethics.
Kamin D. (2013, July 11). Saving water, with kids leading the way. Retrieved from https://www.timesofisrael.com/saving-water-with-kids-leading-the-way/.