Is the Environment a "Jewish" Issue
Volume 3 , Issue 1 (Sept, 1989 | Tishrei, 5750)
The quality of urban air compared to the air in the deserts and forests is like thick and turbulent water compared to pure and light water. And this is because in the cities with their tall buildings and narrow roads, the pollution that comes from their residents, their waste, their cadavers, and offal from the cattle, and the stench of their adulterated food, makes their entire air malodorous, turbulent, reeking and thick, and the winds become accordingly so, although no one is aware of it.?
The words of the Rambam, written in 1198 in a work entitled,
early as pre‑rabbinic times, we learn of laws,
prohibiting cemeteries and tanneries anywhere within fifty cubits of town (Baba
Batra 2:9), which were promuglated
to prevent the pollution of the air. Indeed, the Babylonian Talmud records that
among ten special regulations that applied to the city of
does not ordinarily think of the environment as a Jewish issue, and in this
election year in which, in particular,?
mayoral candidates in New York are courting the Jewish vote with their yarmulkas, Talmudic erudition, love for Israel, and
memorials for kristallnacht, one would hardly
suspect that down to earth issues like landfills (no pun intended) recyclables
and sanitation would make a critical difference to the Jewish voter. Yet for
all its power and prestige, the office of mayor of
A story is told in the Midrash about an old man planting fig trees along the road near iberias in the Galilee. The emperor Hadrian admonished the man by saying: ?A hundred years old, and you still stand there breaking up the soil to plant trees. Do you expect to eat the fruit of these trees?? ?If I am worthy, I will eat,? replied the old man, ?but if not, as my father worked for me, I work for my children.? (Leviticus Rabbah 25:5)
Would that we had such a person to run our government.