View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Judaism and the Environment 

It's always fun to browse through the Google searches that bring people to this site. While I have to admit, "Pat Tillman Jewish" was popular for a few days (no, he's not, by the way), I got one query about "Judaism, Environment."

As a full-service site, I do try to respond to requests. If you're interested in the subject, there's a rigorous, methodical look at the subject in a small book, Judaism, Environmentalism, and the Environment, by Manfred Gerstenfeld. (Mr. Gerstenfeld is now connected to the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a fairly conservative think-tank in Israel.) Try to track down a used copy if you can. It's well worth it.

Mr. Gerstenfeld basically takes the position that Judaism teaches respect for the environment without fetishizing it, or turning it into an object of worship in an of itself. His contention, one that has also been made by David Gelernter, is that the modern environmental movements has pagan overtones, something that Judaism forcefully rejects. We were given both rights and responsibilities with regard to the environment, and it's vitally important not to let one outweigh the other. On the whole, it's balanced look at how Jewish philosophy and outlook treats the environment, and how that outlook asserts itself through Jewish law.

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