The Environment

The central concept for Jews in relation to the world is Tikkun Olam – care for the world and the environment.

At the New Year festival of Rosh Hashanah, Jews thank G-d for the creation of the world because it is G-d’s possession:

The earth is the Lord’s and all that it holds,

the world and its inhabitants (Psalm 24:1).

The scriptures say how the earth is to be treated:

When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the axe against them (Deuteronomy 20:19a).

Respect for trees is shown in the annual festival of Tu B’Shevat – New Year for Trees on the 15th of Shevat:

Agricultural land must be rested once every 50 years if it is to produce good crops. This is a Year of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:8-11).

The Jewish scriptures say little about animal rights. However, animals were seen as very valuable and were offered as sacrifices to G-d in the Temple in Jerusalem.

It is clear that the Judaism has always been concerned about animals. G-d gave Adam control over all the animals:

And G-d said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. They shall rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, the whole earth, and all the creeping things that creep on earth.” And G-d created man in His image, in the image of G-d He created him; male and female He created them. G-d blessed them and G-d said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth” (Genesis 1:26-28).

and:

And the LORD God formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that would be its name. And the man gave names to all the cattle and to the birds of the sky and to all the wild beasts (Genesis 2:19-20a).

Humanity’s stewardship of the world is a gift and an obligation.

That animals are to be shown respect is shown in several passages:

You shall not muzzle an ox while it is threshing (Deuteronomy 25:4).

A righteous man knows the needs of his beast (Proverbs 12:10).

Animals are mentioned in the Ten Commandments:

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your G-d; you shall not do any work-you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your ox or your ass, or any of your cattle, or the stranger in your settlements, so that your male and female slave may rest as you do (Deuteronomy 5:12-14).

Animals were to be shown concern as are humans and given a day’s rest.

On the use of animals for scientific experiments Judaism says that these experiments must be necessary and, as far as possible, suffering should be avoided.

Download the entire essay here

Judaism

.pdf

383.4 KB

Download resource