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A selection of initiatives, blogs, resources and communities on Jewcology which focus on eco-theology.


Blogs

Frequently Asked Questions on Jewish Teachings on Animal Sacrifices and the Messianic Period

1. If God wanted us to have vegetarian diets and not harm animals, why were the Biblical sacrificial services established? During the time of Moses, it was the general practice among all nations to worship by means of sacrifice. There were many associated idolatrous practices. The great Jewish philosopher Maimonides stated that God did not command the Israelites to give up and discontinue all these manners of service because "to obey such a commandment would have been contrary to the nature of man, who generally cleaves to that to which he is used," For this reason, ...

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Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers) Related to Judaism and Animal Treatment

There has recently been much interest in animal issues, especially related to diet, animal experimentation, and the wearing of fur. What should be the reaction of Jews to this subject? The following, in question and answer form, provides some background, and perhaps will help begin a respectful dialogue on this increasingly important topic. 1. What does Judaism teach about the proper treatment of animals? Judaism teaches that we are forbidden to be cruel to animals and that we must treat them with compassion. Since animals are part of God's creation, people have ...

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Frequently Asked Questions About Judaism and Vegetarianism

1. What is Jewish about vegetarianism and veganism? Note that when the word vegetarianism is used below it implies both vegetarianism and veganism. he word vegetarian implies both vegetarian and vegan. All the reasons for becoming vegetarian can be connected to important Jewish values. These include taking care of our health, showing compassion to animals, protecting the environment, conserving resources, helping hungry people, and seeking and pursuing peace. As later responses indicate, many teachings in the Torah, the Talmud, and other sacred Jewish texts can ...

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Jewish Teachings on Hunger and Diet

This is factsheet five of a series of five factsheets related to Jewish teachings related to vegetarianism. ---------------- A. Jewish Teachings About Reducing Hunger On Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, while Jews are fasting and praying for a good year, we read in the haftorah the words of the Prophet Isaiah that fasting and prayers are not sufficient; we must work to end oppression and provide food for needy people: "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? To loose the chains of wickedness, to undo the bonds of oppression, and to let the ...

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Factsheet on Judaism and Resource Conservation

This is Factsheet four of a series of five fact sheets on Jewish teachings related to vegetarianism. ------------------ A. Jewish Teachings on Resource Conservation The prohibition against wasting or unnecessarily destroying anything of value, bal tashchit, ("thou shalt not destroy") is based on the following Torah statement: "When you shall besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, you shall not destroy (lo tashchit) the trees thereof by wielding an ax against them; for you may eat of them but you shall not cut them down; for is the ...

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Factsheet on Jewish Teachings on Animals and CurrentTreatment of Animals

This is factsheet 2 of a series of five factsheets A. Jewish Teachings Regarding Animals God's tender mercies are over all His works. (Psalms 145:9). The righteous person regards the life of his/her animal. (Proverbs 12:10) It is prohibited to kill an animal with its young on the same day, in order that people should be restrained and prevented from killing the two together in such a manner that the young is slain in the sight of the mother; for the pain of animals under such circumstances is very great. There is no difference in this case between the pain of ...

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Factsheet on Judaism and Health

A. Some Jewish Teachings on Health v'nishmartem meod l'nafshotechem ("Be extremely protective of your lives.") (Deuteronomy 4:15). You may not in any way weaken your health or shorten your life. Only if the body is healthy is it an efficient instrument for the spirit's activity....Therefore you should avoid everything which might possibly injure your health.... And the law asks you to be even more circumspect in avoiding danger to life and limb than in the avoidance of other transgressions. (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb, Chapter 62, Section 428) Limiting ...

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Is the Sixth Commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill” or “Thou Shalt Not Murder”?

Is the Sixth Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" or "Thou Shalt Not Murder"? Vegetarian and vegan activists are increasingly convinced that a shift away from animal-free diets is a societal imperative because of the significant negative health and environmental effects of such dietse, and a religious imperative because the production and consumption of animal products violate basic religious mandates to preserve human health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, conserve natural resources, and help hungry people. Because of their strong ...

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Are Jews Obligated to be Vegetarians?

In promoting vegetarianism since 1977, I have been arguing that Jews have a choice as to whether or not to be vegetarians. In support of the view that Jews need not eat meat today is the Talmud (Pesachim 109a states that since the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, Jews are not required to eat meat in order to rejoice on festivals), scholarly articles by Rabbi Alfred Cohen and Rabbi J. David Bleich that indicate additional sources and arguments supporting the view that Jews do not need to eat meat in this period, and the fact that several Chief Rabbis are strict ...

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Environmental and Vegetarian/Vegan Lessons from the Shabbat Morning Service

While there has been recent progress on Jewish consideration of environmental and vegetarian issues, much more needs to be done. One approach is to show how central these issues are in the Jewish tradition. This article discusses several statements in the Shabbat morning prayers that point to Judaism's great concern about animals and the environment. In the Baruch Sheh'amar prayer, it states that, "Blessed is the One (God) Who has compassion on the earth; blessed is the One Who has compassion on the creatures [animals and people]". Since Judaism teaches that ...

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Two Examples, Two Paths

Take a good look at American society today and you see both dysfunctional, shortsighted, thinking, and, if you look, you can see a new kind of thinking that takes the whole picture into account. On the one hand we have the heartbreaking and sickening epidemic of mass shootings that is only getting worse in our country today. You would think that this would now, finally, bring about an awakening to the well documented conclusion that we need better laws to control the number of guns and who wields them. The evidence is clear: The U.S. has many more mass shootings than other ...

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Jewish Views on Population and Population Growth

This posting is chapter 11 of the 2002 2nd edition of my book, "Judaim and Global Survival." I have not updated it. ------ "For the Jewish people, the problem [of the population bomb] does not exist. On the contrary, it would be more accurate to describe our situation as a "Population Bust"... which spells demographic disaster for Jewry."                   Jewish Population: Renascence or Oblivion  -- a report of the N. Y. Jewish Federation[i]  [written in 2001] "Jews are rightfully concerned about the seriousness of the world population problem. ...

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Judaism and Climate Change

This posting is from chapter 10 of the 2nd edition of my book, "Judaism and Global Survival." While it was initially written about 16 years ago, I am posting it for its historical value, the concepts and ideas are still valid, and it has some insights that are relevant and seldom considered today. ------------ "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Proverbs 29: 18 Global climate change may be the most critical problem the world will face in the next few decades.There is a growing scientific consensus that we are already experiencing the effects of global ...

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Noah and Our Embodied Wisdom

This week’s Torah portion, Noah, starts out (Genesis 6:9) with one of those extra words that rabbis and commentators just can’t leave alone: we’ve got to understand why the Torah put in an extra word when it didn’t need to. “This is the line of Noah: Noah was a righteous man…”  In the unpunctuated Torah, it reads: “This is the line of Noah Noah…” One of my most beloved rabbis is Rabbi Kalonymus Kalman Shapira (1889 – 1943). Also known as the Piazetzner Rebbe, or the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto, he was a revered rebbe, teacher and spiritual ...

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Jewish Teachings on Human Rights and Responsibilities

This posting is from chapter 2 of the 2nd edition of my book, “Judaism and Global Survival" (Lantern Books, 2002) "One person (Adam) was created as the common ancestor of all people, for the sake of the peace of the human race, so that one should not be able to say to a neighbor, 'My ancestor was better than yours.' "One person was created to teach us the sanctity and importance of every life, for one who destroys a single life is considered by scripture to have destroyed an entire world, and one who saves a single life is considered by scripture to have saved an ...

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Jewish teachings on Involvement and Protest

This material is chapter one from my book, "Judaism and Global Survival" "Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of his own family and does not do so is punished [liable, held responsible] for the transgressions of his family. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the people of his community and does not do so is punished for the transgressions of his community. Whoever is able to protest against the transgressions of the entire world and does not do so is punished for the transgressions of the entire world." Babylonian Talmud ...

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Looking to the Sky, Remembering Our Ideals

by Rabbi Natan Margalit ~Recently, I read an article in the New York Times Magazine that talked about the way that people do or say things, say, supporting a good cause or political opinion, not because they really believe in it, but because they want to signal to their social network that they are virtuous. Apparently, there is a popular new label for this behavior: “virtue signaling.” The author reports that this term is most often used by people on the right against people on the left (“Virtue Signaling Isn’t the Problem. Not Believing One Another Is,” ...

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Old Habits, New Opportunities

We are creatures of habit. Mostly, that’s a good thing. I almost never forget to brush my teeth, close the windows and lock the doors before I go to bed at night. In the morning I can almost sleep walk while I make my favorite breakfast (fried rice, sardines and kale… I know, it’s not a classic breakfast like cereal and milk, or eggs and toast, but I like it and the kids like it, too. My wife, not such a big fan of sardines…) But, as much as those habits help us stay on an even keel, too much habit can keep us from changes that we want to make. As we enter ...

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A New Kind of Community

My family and I just got back from ten days at our annual “dance camp.” This gathering, which has been happening for more than 30 years, is about dancing, but more so, it’s ten days of living like a village in a tight knit, inclusive and caring community. My oldest son had a great summer this year: Jewish wilderness camp, basketball camp, beaches and more. He loved all of them, but he said that dance camp was the best: it was because he got to hang out with a tight group of teens who spent a ton of time together dancing (he’s becoming a great salsa dancer!), ...

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Tree of Knowledge, Tree of Life

My work at Organic Torah starts with asking a question about chochma/Jewish wisdom: Must the Tree of Knowledge be separated from the Tree of Life? The Tree of Knowledge is what we have become used to in much of our Western education—it begins with breaking things apart into smallest components. Our education system is divided into discreet subjects: math, science, English—too often devoid of context and the vibrancy which comes from what Gregory Bateson called “the pattern which connects.” And if we go to college or grad school we might study a “discipline” ...

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