In my review of Eco Bible, Volume 1, I recommended the book without qualification, concluding that “It has the potential of being a game-changer in efforts to avert a climate catastrophe and other environmental disasters and to help heal our imperiled planet.”
Because I was so impressed with that book, I ended the review with “I eagerly await the publication of Eco Bible: Volume 2, which will be a commentary on Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.” Well, happily, that second volume is now published, and it is just as powerful and helpful as the first volume.
“I eagerly await the publication of Eco Bible: Volume 2, which will be a commentary on Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.”Richard H. Schwartz
As one who has long been advocating that Jewish values be applied in efforts to resolve current critical threats, I eagerly anticipated reading both volumes. I wondered, “Would these be the books that would help end the failure of the vast majority of Jews to consider Jewish teachings as a way to make a difference?” I was not disappointed at all – quite the contrary. Eco Bible 2, like Eco Bible 1, provides a feast of Bible-related ideas that can be groundbreaking in efforts to help shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.
This potentially transformative book is especially timely and relevant in a period when climate experts are increasingly warning that the world may have only 10 years or less to make “unprecedented changes” to have a chance to avert a climate catastrophe, when glaciers worldwide, polar ice caps, and permafrost are rapidly melting, and there has been a major increase in the frequency and severity of heat waves, droughts, wildfires, storms, floods, and other climate events.
There are many very valuable discussions of environmental issues in the book. I have been involved in reading and writing about environmental issues for over 40 years, but I still gained many additional facts and insights.
Eco Bible is unique in relating key biblical insights to current frightening environmental facts and experts’ climate opinions. It has the potential of activating many Jews and Christians who hear Bible readings weekly in their synagogue or church year after year but do not connect the biblical readings to current critical issues. The Bible is the most widely read book, with billions of the world’s people considering it to be a holy book; but very few are using its teachings to address current environmental threats, largely because very seldom do Bible-related classes, sermons, and articles discuss them.
Eco Bible 2 is extremely well documented. There are 757 endnotes (Volume 1 had 708) and a valuable index, which would help readers to find information on specific issues related to different Bible verses. In Volumes 1 and 2 combined, 450 biblical verses are considered, and there are commentaries from more than 100 rabbis and other Jewish experts. These include Rabbis David Rosen, Nina Beth Cardin, Yuval Cherlow, Akiva Gersh, Shaul David Judelman, Micha Odenheimer, David Sears, David Seidenberg, Joseph Telushkin, Arthur Waskow, and Jonathan Wittenberg; and environmental activists Jeremy Benstein, Devorah Brous, Evonne Marzouk, Nigel Savage, Alon Tal, and Yael Shemesh.
What environmental issues are included in the book?
The many environmental issues considered in the book include climate change, deforestation, species extinction, air and water pollution, water scarcities, plastics proliferation, population growth, overfishing, soil erosion, treatment of animals, and urban sprawl.
At the end of the discussions for each biblical parsha, there are thoughtful “suggested action items” aimed at reducing environmental problems. If they were widely carried out, it would go a very long way toward helping to shift our imperiled planet onto a sustainable path.
In this review, it is not possible to cover the full scope of the many powerful Bible-related lessons in the book. But below is a sampling of some of the key Torah quotations Eco Bible uses to make connections between Torah teachings and current environmental issues, providing an environmental philosophy that can offer much guidance to environmental activists and others.
- Leviticus 19:22: “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap all the way to the edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger. I the Lord am your God.”
- Leviticus 25:4: “But in the seventh year, the land shall have a sabbath of complete rest, a Sabbath of the Lord. You shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard.”
- Deuteronomy 4:9 and 4:15: “But take utmost care and watch yourself scrupulously [about your health]... For your own sake, therefore, be most careful [about your health].”
- Deuteronomy 8:7, 8: “For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land with streams and springs and fountains, issuing from plain and hill; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, figs, and pomegranates, a land of olives and [date] honey.”
- Deuteronomy 20:19: “When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy the trees wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down.”
The feast of material in Eco Bible will enable clergy to deliver environmentally based sermons on each of the portions read on Shabbat throughout the year. Faith-based readers looking for environmental material for a talk on a special occasion would also find the book valuable as would anyone interested in seeking deeper meanings of Bible teachings.
As with Volume 1, I recommend Volume 2 without qualification. It is urgent that its powerful messages be read and acted on so that we can leave a decent, habitable, environmentally sustainable world for future generations. There is no Planet B. ■
Eco Bible: Volume 2: An Ecological Commentary on Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy Rabbi Yonatan Neril and Rabbi Leo DeeThe Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development (www.interfaithsustain.com); Gefen Publishing House322 pages, NIS 39 (or $34 for the two-volume set from Gefen)