Here's a great tip:
Enter your email address and we'll send you our weekly magazine by email with fresh, exciting and thoughtful content that will enrich your inbox and your life, week after week. And it's free.
Oh, and don't forget to like our facebook page too!
Printed from chabad.org
All Departments
Jewish Holidays
TheRebbe.org
Jewish.TV - Video
Jewish Audio
News
Kabbalah Online
JewishWoman.org
Kids Zone

What Is the Jewish Approach to Conservation and the Environment?

What Is the Jewish Approach to Conservation and the Environment?

E-mail

Concerning sustainability of natural environments: this is an issue addressed by the Torah—but it is not just a Jewish issue, but an issue for all of humanity. The Torah teaches that the human being is meant to be a steward of planet Earth, “to work it and to protect it.”1 We are told that everything G‑d created, “He saw that it was good.” “The world and all that is in it is G‑d’s.” You can't get a clearer message than that.

Both the Bible and the Mishnah provide environmental legislation. The Jewish nation in Israel felt an eternal bond to the Land of Israel, and therefore a responsibility to protect their environment. This serves as a precedent for humanity today, as we begin to realize that humanity as a whole has an eternal bond to the most beautiful planet we have yet to discover, planet Earth.

Some of the environmental legislation of the Torah:

  1. A city must have a greenbelt surrounding it, thus limiting urban sprawl.
  2. A fruit tree cannot be destroyed when setting siege to a city. Our tradition extended this to include any wanton destruction of nature that could be avoided.
  3. The rabbis severely limited the grazing of goats and sheep in parts of Israel where they caused environmental damage. It is well known today that much of the desert in the Middle and Near East was caused by the grazing of these animals.
  4. King Solomon appointed a minister to limit the harvesting of wood in the forests of Israel.
  5. The Mishnah deals with laws of water and air pollution, limiting the rights of both rural and civic residents.

There are many more such examples. Thankfully, there are many Jewish organizations that are working today to build awareness of the Torah’s message concerning our responsibility to the environment.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman for Chabad.org

FOOTNOTES
1.

Genesis 2:15.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at Chabad.org, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
All names of persons and locations or other identifying features referenced in these questions have been omitted or changed to preserve the anonymity of the questioners.
© Copyright, all rights reserved. If you enjoyed this article, we encourage you to distribute it further, provided that you comply with Chabad.org's copyright policy.
E-mail
1000 characters remaining
Email me when new comments are posted.
Sort By:
Discussion (9)
January 29, 2013
ZPG and veg
There are two best things we can do to protect the environment. First, limit our family size to no more than two children, or Zero Population Growth. That fulfills the commandment to be fruitful and multiply and it will help reduce the destruction of wildlife habitat. That is the single greatest threat to other species. As stewards of the planet, we are obligated to protect them.
The second thing is to eat lower on the food chain, preferably a vegetarian diet. It's for the same reason as ZPG, to reduce our impact on this fragile world. Being vegetarian would also be in accord with God's original intent as specified in Gen 1:29 and His wish that we return to it, Isaiah 11: 6 - 9.
Marty
Denver
January 25, 2013
THANK G-D FOR Judaism being strict on conservation issues!
I fail to see, however, how any Orthodox Jewish person can fall into the American Republican ideology of money being more important than keeping our earth clean! Yet, there are some who believe in both orthodox laws AND anti-conservation. This is a total INIGMA to me!
Karen Joyce Chaya Fradle Kleinman Bell
Riverside, CA U.S.A.
January 24, 2013
Midrash
Genesis 2:15: The Eternal placed the human being in the garden of Eden to till and tend it.
"In the hour when the Holy One, blessed be He created the first human being,
He took him and let him pass before all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him:
'See my works, how fine and excellent they are! Now all that I have created, for you have I created it. Think upon this and do not destroy and desolate My World, For if you corrupt it, there is no one to set it right after you.'"

Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:28
Steven Sacks-Wilner
USA
January 24, 2013
Grazing goats------
Will enjoy a greenbelt near my neighborhood, venturing beyond the Eruv.
Anonymous
USA
January 24, 2013
Concern for others
Mine is a question arising from the discussion above. It has helped me to ask the question; how about the passages for the concern for others in the Torah or talmud? Does lead to the bith of organizations like Jewish care?
Samson
Zimbabwe
January 20, 2013
Recycling
My father OB"M would always refer back to the fact that the wicks for the Menorah were made from the no-longer wearable clothing of the Kohanim. This mindset of not being wasteful has been around for a long time.

Also the commandment of bal tashchis, not wasting, may be extendable beyond food but not being willfully wasteful in general...Just a thought.
Anonymous
USA
April 28, 2010
Re: Daniel
Sorry, but I could not find the source for number 4.
The source for number 5 is Bava Basra 17a-19b, 24b-26a, Rambam Kinyan Hilchos Shcheinim Chapters 9-11
itche
April 18, 2010
Re: Daniel
Here are sources:
1. Bamidbor (Numbers) 35, 2-5. Erchin 33b. Rambam Z'roim, Hil' Shmita 13, 4-5.
2. Dvorim (Deu.) 20, 19. Rambam Shoftim Hil' Mlochim 6, 8-10. See also Shabbos 105b, 129a, 140b.
3. Bava Kama 79b-81b. Rambam Nzikin, Hil' Nizkei Mamon 5, 2-10.
G-d willing I will find the sources for 4 and 5
itche
May 27, 2009
Are there sources?
Where are the sources in Tanach/Talmud/Other Classical Texts to support these 5 statements?
Daniel
Louisville, KY
FEATURED ON CHABAD.ORG