The Jewish environment

Act now and insure our world is preserved and made greener for those who come after us.

By DAVID GEFFEN
March 22, 2012 14:16
3 minute read.
Simple Actions for Jews to help Green the Planet

Simple Actions for Jews to help Green the Planet 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Rabbi Dov Elkins has been teaching for almost half a century. An instructor in a variety of Hebrew schools initially, he taught when he was a chaplain in the US Army; he taught in all the congregations where he was the rabbi and he became a scholar-in-residence in synagogues, community centers, camps and many other locales.

Currently, one of his major interests is the environment and what we as Jews can do to preserve it. He has collected a multitude of action plans and sources and organized them into convenient chapters in his new book; all we need to do is explore them and then get under way.

On Page 8 he begins a chapter entitled “What’s a green Jew: learn what the Torah says about protecting our environment.” He quotes a passage from Midrash Ecclesiastes Raba that makes it clear what Judaism believes about our responsibility in maintaining this planet: “When God created the first human beings, He led them around the Garden of Eden and said: ‘Look at my works – see how beautiful they are – excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.’” Elkins then lists what we can do: develop our own moral and spiritual position on this topic by constantly learning about it from Jewish sources. He indicates that a proclamation has been created by the great scientists of the world calling on the “religious communities” to take action and save the world. Then he lists a number of sites we can turn to to enrich our environmental action by utilizing a Jewish perspective.

Elkins reproduces completely the “Ten Commandments of Judaism and Environmentalism” developed by Rabbi Larry Troster, a noted authority in the field. Aside from dealing with God and God’s relation to the world, he points out that the Torah forbids the destruction of species, known as “bal tash’hit,” and causing undue pain to non-human creatures, or “tza’ar ba’alei hayim.” Then he concludes with “tikkun olam”; that the perfection and fixing of the world is in our hands.

Elkins has chapters on reducing the impact of electronic waste; making your Jewish celebrations green; tips for an eco-friendly Purim; making compost; and the top 10 eco-friendly ways to clean your house. Of real interest is the information found in the latter chapter.

Elkins points out that many of the cleaning products under our sink are labeled as poisonous. The assumption is that since they are capped, they cannot hurt us. The author cites studies that show that these poisons make their way through the cans and into our water system. Moreover, it is well known that small children have died from ingesting these cleaning materials.

Therefore, he says, it is important to place these items in sealed closets away from water systems and away from the hands of curious children. A very simple act, but one that can save lives and help preserve our environment.

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“After starting to implement many of the ideas in this book,” Elkins writes in his conclusion, “and making your home and life more green, you will feel that there is much more to be done to make our planet cleaner, safer and healthier for the next generation.”

That is really the message of this book: act now and insure our world is preserved and made greener for those who come after us. Read this book, be inspired by it and employ its practical suggestions.

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