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Flashcards in Judaism Depth Study: Environmental Ethics Deck (20)
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Outline Jewish General Ethics. Where do they come from?

• Stem from Torah  613 Mitzvot
• Dictates food, home life, love of neighbour, etc.
• Prophets  appropriate behaviour  e.g. tikkun olam, etc.
• Proverbs  advise wisdom, not foolishness
• Halachah  elaborates on 613 Mitzvot  guiding believers in right relationship with God. Supported by wise sayings in the Aggadah; sets out all religious obligations for Jew inc. the environment.


What do Jewish environmental ethics deal with specifically?

Treatment of animals
Protection of food sources
Water purity
Excessive consumption


What is the reasoning behind Jewish environmental ethics?

Humans are seen as laws of creation; should be grateful to God for creation & hence be responsible for its stewardship.


Theme 1: God has expressed himself through creation

Creation is for our benefit; we should care for it
Look at human need to justify destruction.
“See My works, how fine they are; now all that I have created, I created for your benefit. Think upon this and do not corrupt and destroy My world, for if you destroy it, there is no one to restore it after you.”
“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.” – Psalm 24:1


Theme 2: We must be stewards & use & care for this creation & preserve it for future generations

Responsibility to think of human needs in the future
Tikkun olam - environmental ethics are part of the restorative process.
Look after this earth, so that its produce is available for all God's children.
"When you gather the harvest, you must not completely harvest the corner of your field… you must leave [it] for the poor and the foreigner.” – Lev. 19:9-10
“It is forbidden to live in a town which has no garden or greenery.” – Kiddushin (Talmud)


Theme 3: Bal Taschit

Do not destroy.
“If you besiege a town… you must not chop down its trees. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down.” – Deut. 20:19
• This later extended to general prohibition against any wasteful/wilful destruction
• Nothing created by God without a purpose, thus all creation in need of respect & care.


What are the specific areas of interest for Jewish environmental ethics?

Animal Rights
Shemitto Year


What do the enviro ethics say about animal rights?

• Basic law of humankind to be kind to animals
• Hunting forbidden; special laws minimizing suffering when killing for food  kosher
• Forbidden to work animals on Shabbat
“The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, you or your children, or your servants, or you cattle.” – Ex 20:10
• Animals must be allowed to eat while working.
“You must not muzzle your ox when it is treading grain.” – Lev 25:4
• A Jew must relieve suffering of animals, even if the animal belongs to someone who doesn’t like them, & even if it means doing a work on the Sabbath.
“If you see the donkey of one who hates you fallen under its load, you must not ignore him, but be sure to help him with it.” – Ex 23:5
• It is also believed that animals can achieve spiritual heights.


What do the enviro ethics say about Shemitto year?

• The Torah commands that every 7th year the land must rest. The natural fruits (growing without deliberate cultivation) are to be left “for the poor of your people and the wild beasts of the fields.”
• It is forbidden to plant trees or vegetables, prune or harvest.
• Work on the fields is only allowed if it is for sustaining plants already there – e.g. watering – or for preventing irreparable damage to the earth.


What organisations are there?

Jewish National Fund
Coalition for the Environmental Jewish Life


What does the Jewish National Fund do?

• Founded 1901 by Zionist movement to acquire land in Palestine.
• Environmental rehabilitation in Israel  ¼ billion trees, 400 parks
• Educates Jews about environment in Israel
• Every year in Australia  holds tree planting telethon


What does the Coalition for the Environmental Jewish Life do?

• Awareness  puts environmental protection on agenda for organized Jewish communities  makes it a religious obligation to elect leaders who will preserve/protect it
• Expands tikkun olam  include protection of species from environmental degradation.


Quote 1 - Gen 1:28

"Be fruitful & multiply! Fill the earth & subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and every creature that moves on the ground."


Quote 2 - Gen 2:15

"The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to care for it & to maintain it."


Quote 3 - Psa 24:1

"The Lord owns the earth, the world and all who live in it."


Quote 4 - Lev 22:28

"You must not slaughter an ox or sheep & its young on the same day."


Quote 5 - Ex 20:10

"The 7th day is the Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, or your children, or your servants, or your cattle."


Quote 6 - Talmud

"One may not purchase an animal unless one is able to feed it properly."


Quote 7 - Talmud

"It is forbidden to eat before feeding one's animal, as it says, 'I will give grass in thy fields for thy cattle, and then, thou shalt eat & be satisfied."


Quote 7 - Gen 6

"He was careful to preserve one pair of each spices, regardless of its utility to man."