Green Views. Join me at 37,000 feet. You take the window seat (but sitting next to a rabbi, expect some Judaic commentary on the scenery). Land-use issues are clearest from up here. If you’ve gotta contribute all that carbon through flying, you might as well enjoy the free and educational “movie ” unfolding below. Surrounding what little is left of what we’ve been given, we see out the cabin window what we as a society have chosen. We see the land, patterned after our own likeness.
Blessed are you, THE PROVIDENT, our God, life of all the worlds, who gives the bird of dawn discernment to tell day from night.
The second blessing of Birchot HaShachar, the Morning Blessings, in Kol Haneshamah reads, Baruch atah adonay eloheynu chey ha'olamim hanoten lasechvi vinah lehavchin beyn yom uveyn laylah. It is translated, “Blessed are you, THE PROVIDENT, our God, life of all the worlds, who gives the bird of dawn discernment to tell day from night.” read more »
In other Siddurim (prayer books) this blessing is often the first blessing, but that is not our concern for the sake of this discussion, nor is the Reconstructionist use of the gender-neutral opening of the blessing. What I wish to focus on here is how the ending of the blessing is translated.
Our responsibility for all that dwells in the earth and for the earth itself extends into the future. The earth is not ours to destroy (cf. Dt 20:19), but to hand on in trust to future generations. We cannot, therefore, recklessly consume its resources to satisfy needs that are artificially created and sustained by a society that tends to live only for the present. We also need to act, together whenever feasible, to assure that sound practices, guaranteed by law, are established in our countries and local communities for the future preservation of the environment…Respect for God’s creation, of which we are a part, must become a way of life.—International Catholic-Jewish Liaison Committee, “A Common Declaration on the Environment.” March 1998. read more »
At Kol HaLev in Cleveland, Ohio, a group of members with a common urge to become more vigilant shomrei adamah (guardians of the earth) formed a task force this past February to identify environmental priorities for us to work on as a community.
The transition from paganism to monotheism was marked, in part, by the insight that God is not fully expressed by the workings of creation but rather is above nature, beyond or outside it. As important as this insight is, it has the potential of playing into human egotism. For if we are created in God’s image and God is above and beyond the world, then are we not also above and beyond the world? read more »
In addition, the blessing in Genesis for humans to “manage” or “rule over” the world can lead us to think of nature solely as an instrument for our use. These ideas support the view that nature can be molded to our will and that human control of nature is not only necessary for human comfort or survival, but is commanded by God.
It should not be believed that all the beings exist for the sake of humanity. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes, and not for the sake of something else. (Maimonides, Guide for the Perplexed, 456) read more »
“But Miss Paula! There’s one still alive!” Sixteen pairs of concerned eyes gazed up at me expectantly. Looking closely, I saw that one worm out of a thousand still remained in the shipping box, whereas its fellows were happily ensconced in their new worm bin. The worm was trying to get out of the light and I couldn’t dislodge it from the seam of the box. “That’s okay—I’ll just take it home and put it in my compost bin.” Or, I thought, just chuck the box, worm and all, in my recycle bin.
If you have a sapling in your hand, and someone should say to you that the Messiah has come, stay and complete the planting, and then go to greet the Messiah (Avot de Rabbi Nathan, 31b) read more »
Our native woodland and native prairie project started at Congregation Beth Shalom one year ago. The plan has four phases, each expected to last one year:
Better a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.—Proverbs 27:10
A fixed threshing floor must be kept fifty cubits away from a town, and as it must be kept fifty cubits from a town, so it must be kept fifty cubits from a neighbor’s cucumber and pumpkin fields, from his plantations and his ploughed fallow, to prevent damage being caused.—Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 24b read more »
Focusing locally can be an aspect of the purchasing choices we make, but it also can be applied to focusing our attention to our local ecosystem and natural environment. Different areas of the country and world have different ecosystems, different flora and fauna, and while it is important to have a global consciousness in environmentalism, we can act in a sustainable way by doing what we can to promote and preserve our local ecosystem, the one on which we have the most impact.
One who sells his or her land to another is obligated to give his neighbor who has an adjoining field precedence in any sale… This is in accordance with the principle stated in Torah, “you shall do that which is right and good.” [Deuteronomy 6:18] Our Sages said that... it is right and good that the adjoining landowner should have a prior right of purchase over the one whose fields are far away. —Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Neighbors 12:5
Better a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away. —Proverbs 27:10 read more »
You shall eat unleavened bread for seven days. (Lev. 23:5-6)
Earlier, in Exodus, the command to eat unleavened bread was offset by this command not to eat any leavened products:
Seven days there shall be no leaven found in your houses; for whoever eats what is leavened, that person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is an alien or a native of the land. (Ex. 12:19) read more »
It is forbidden to live in a town that does not have a green garden—Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 4:12 read more »
Our congregation is small, less than 100 families. We’re not large enough to have our own worship space - we meet in a church. Even so, we have an active Social Action/Tikkun Olam Committee. We are part of the Baltimore Interfaith Hospitality Network, providing housing and support for homeless families. We’ve participated in efforts to end the atrocities in Darfur. We presented Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth and used proceeds from the sale of popcorn to purchase compact florescent light bulbs. We were sponsors of the Baltimore Jewish Environmental Conference and participate in the newly formed Baltimore Environmental Network of Synagogues.