Tara and Rachel present Jewish Environmental Ethics

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  • 1. Jewish Environmental Ethics ‘ Tread lightly on the earth…’ By Tara and Rachel
  • 2. Anthropocentric Worldview
    • ‘ Subdue [the earth]; have dominion over… every living thing’ – Genesis 1.28
    • . . .
    • ‘… and placed him in the Garden of Eden to cultivate it and to guard it’ – Genesis 2.15
  • 3.
    • Genesis 1.28 and 2.15 are the fundamental framework for Judaism’s teachings on environmental ethics. While they initially seem contradictory, contemporary interpretations of the Torah understand them to be complementary. Genesis 1.28 is no longer regarded as a command, but a blessing. Humanity only has ‘dominion’ over creation if they obey the command to ‘cultivate and guard it’.
  • 4. Sabbath
    • ‘ And on the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation’ Genesis 2:2-3
  • 5.
    • The ‘dominion’ of humanity over the earth is restricted dramatically by the laws contained in the Torah. One of these is the Jewish prohibition of melacha or work, on the Sabbath. Melacha does not relate to physical effort, but the result of this behaviour.
    • For example, one may rearrange one’s furniture, but not drive a car. The point of he prohibition of melacha on Sabbath is to teach that productive manipulation of the environment is not an absolute right.
  • 6. Law
    • ‘ When in your war against a city… you must not destroy its trees’ Deuteronomy 20:19-20
    • ‘ If your gift for a burnt-offering is from the flock, from the sheep or goats, your offering shall be a male without blemish’
    • i.e. Don’t kill women. We are life givers.
  • 7.
    • Laws for the preservation of the environment can be found on a practical level also. There are many laws which regulate in great detail how Jews ought to treat the environment.