The Natural World

Quick revise
Environmental Problems

Some examples:

  • Pollution (e.g. waste products being pumped into the air, sea, etc.)
  • Global Warming (The greenhouse effect is changing the climate in the world.)
  • Deforestation (destruction of rainforests means less oxygen is produced by the trees.)
  • The Ozone Layer (holes in the ozone layer mean we are not protected by from harmful rays from the sun.)
  • Population Explosion (which stretches the world’s resources.)
  • Use of fossil fuels (not using renewable energy means we are wasting the world’s resources.)
  • Animal and plant extinction (upsetting the balance of nature.)
General Jewish Beliefs
  • God created the world and so we must respect it.
  • We must be good stewards, looking after the world.
  • All life is holy (sacred) and should not be destroyed unnecessarily.
  • People have a duty to ‘repair God’s world’ (tikkum olam) by making sure it is treated properly.
Specific Teachings

Exodus 23:10-11 teaches that land must be rested every seven years.

Deuteronomy 20:19 says that if an army is invading it should not destroy the trees.

Psalm 24:1 ‘The earth and everything that is in it belongs to the Lord.’

‘It is forbidden to live in a town that does not have greenery.’ (Talmud)

‘It is our Jewish responsibility to put the defence of the whole of nature at the very centre of our concern.’ (Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, Vice President, World Jewish Congress)

  • God told Noah to save animals from the flood so they are important to God.
  • Animals may be used to help humans as humans are higher up in nature than animals.
  • Animals should be allowed to rest on the Sabbath.
  • Jews must not upset animals.
  • Animal testing is allowed to help with medical research.
Blood Sports
  • Hunting is not allowed as humans must look after animals.
  • However, if the animal is trapped and then killed correctly (see next section) then it is permitted.
  • Proverbs 12:10 – ‘A righteous man cares for the needs of his animal.’
  • Jews are permitted to eat meat.
  • Kashrut (dietary) laws say that the method of killing must be shechitah (humane).
  • To be a butcher (schochet) you have to train for five years and before killing the animal a prayer is said to give thanks to G-d for the animal.
  • Some animals, e.g. pigs, cannot be eaten.
  • Jews cannot mix dairy food with meat.
What can Jews do?
  • Take responsibility for tikkun olam by not wasting or destroying things, not causing distress to living creatures, stopping pollution and so on.
  • Support agencies that work for the good of the environment (e.g. the Noah Project).
  • Encourage governments to have respectful policies.