Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

A Sensible Direction

I'm not a believer in the current global warming scare. I do believe the Earth is getting warmer but I don't accept the "evidence" that it is being caused by human civilization. I also think the Kyoto Accord was a joke since the number 2, 3 and 4 polluters in the world (India, China and Russia) either didn't sign on or found ways to weasel out of their pollution-reduction commitments.

Having said that, I accept the air out there is dirtier than it used to be. Smog days in the summer are more common and the sky seems to be grey rather than blue more often than not in July and August. Asthma, cancer, chronic lung disease, all these conditions are increasing in number over time and one cannot escape the conclusion that human civilization is to blame, given our obsession with pollutant-emiting machinery and carcinogen-containing materials.

As a Torah observant Jew, should I care? Is there a mitzvah to care for the planet and take good care of it? Certainly. The famous statement we sing out with every Hallel: "The Heavens are the Heavens of the Lord but the Earth He gave to the children of Man" strongly suggests that the Earth was given to us to care far. Indeed, the first Man set the precedent as the Torah tells us he was put in the Garden of Eden "to guard it and work it". If one looks throughout Jewish law at other things we have been given, such as our bodies, souls and personal property, we see there is a high emphasis as taking care of ourselves and our possessions. We must engage in healthy living habits, we must eat proper foods and we must not waste. Why would one think that taking care of the Earth which is our collective possession should be any different?

The problem with being frum is that, quite often, "doing Jewish" takes over most of one's life. One spends most of the time davening, learning, working and at the end of the day there's little energy left for other things like social causes. We're so busy with the stuff the halachah tells us explicitly to do we don't have time for the implied things, like environmentalism.

That's why I was heartened to see this piece in The Jerusalem Post:

Five years ago on Tu Bishvat, a group of Orthodox environmentalists began Canfei Nesharim ("the wings of eagles"). By linking Jewish law and Torah sources to environmental issues, Canfei Nesharim is bringing environmentalism into the American Orthodox world.
"People take care of the environment because it is central to their values," said Evonne Marzouk, the director of Canfei Nesharim. "We have to show it is central to Orthodox values and in turn that Orthodoxy has something to contribute to the environmental movement."

Canfei Nesharim is determined that environmentalism be seen not simply as a nice sentiment, but as an integral part of Orthodox life, mandated by religious law. The organization provides educational materials, weekly Torah commentary on environmental issues and enthusiastic speakers.
THESE ARE serious, zealous advocates who are versed in halacha, science and law. Marzouk, for instance, works in the US Environmental Protection Agency's Office of International Environmental Policy. Sheinson is an environmental lawyer at the firm Patton Boggs in Newark, New Jersey. Their work is backed by rabbinic and scientific advisory boards.
The group was endorsed by the Rabbinical Council of America, an organization of about 1,000 rabbis that serves as the rabbinic authority of the Orthodox Union. Canfei Nesharim also has the support of the interfaith and non-Orthodox Jewish
environmental groups, which apparently were excited to have a partner who could to reach into the Orthodox world in ways they could not.

An initiative like this should receive support from across the Torah observant world. It can only enhance our appreciation for the beautiful gift that God has given us, the planet we live on.

1 comment:

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

I invite you to take a look at an article, by Howard Pasternack, that we published on this subject at