By Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb
Today the environment — God’s Creation, our one and only home — needs all the friends and all the help it can get. People of faith have rich traditions that should place us among Creation’s most passionate defenders. Somehow, though, despite strong statements from religious leaders and much scholarship at the intersection of religion and ecology, the message hasn’t sufficiently gotten through. So maybe some spiritual sound bites on sustainability — some Tweets on Creation care — will better reach the faithful and encourage them to curb their carbon. While the Ten Commandments are all found in one place, here are 10 Torah talking points on sustainability, two taken from each of the five books of Moses. Nothing here is new, but the Torah — central in Judaism, revered in Christianity, honored in Islam — can yet guide and inspire us, all in 140 characters or fewer, complete with its own Twitter hashtag:
- Genesis 2:15: God put humans in ecosystem “2 serve & guard” it. Earth shouldn’t degrade but improve or stay the same on our watch. #TT4CC
- Genesis 13:17: God told Abraham “get up & walk yourself around the land.” People of faith, go walk the land, serve & guard it. #TT4CC
- Exodus 7:14-12:30: 10 plagues as environmental punishment for social ills. Eco-justice: Don’t be Pharaoh to Earth or to people. #TT4CC
- Exodus 34:7: God “recalls sins of parents onto … 3rd& 4th generation.” Today’s carbon emissions hurt us & our descendants. #TT4CC
- Leviticus 19:16: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Applies to non-human neighbors too. Love your neighbor, love the Earth. #TT4CC
- Leviticus 25:8-55: Sabbatical & jubilee join justice with sustainability. Give the voiceless — Earth and indebted — respite. #TT4CC
- Numbers 11:4-34: “The graves of craving”: When Israelites demanded meat, too much meat killed many. Consume less, especially meat. #TT4CC
- Numbers 11:26-30: Moses says prophets are tireless advocates for what’s right. Be prophetic: Save the Earth & all its inhabitants. #TT4CC
- Deuteronomy 11:13-20: Do right by God, you’ll enjoy nature; do wrong & “you’ll be quickly banished from the good land.” #TT4CC
- Deuteronomy 22:8: “When you build a house put a parapet around the roof”: origin of precautionary principle. Be careful w/carbon! #TT4CC
So says Scripture, in 140 characters or fewer. And so we should do, whether or not it’s “because God said so.” Let’s care for Creation because Earth and all its inhabitants, human and non-human, today and in the future, deserve no less.
Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb serves as the rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Md., since 1997, during which time the synagogue built its U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Energy Star Award winning building, installed a 43-kilowatt solar array and planted an organic garden. In addition to serving on the governance committee of the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life, Dobb serves as the chairperson of Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light and as co-chair of Religious Witness for the Earth. A co-founder of the Green Zionist Alliance and a past president of the Washington Board of Rabbis, Dobb received his doctorate from Wesley Theological Seminary.
The Jewish Energy Guide presents a comprehensive Jewish approach to the challenges of energy security and climate change and offers a blueprint for the Jewish community to achieve a 14% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by September of 2014, which is the next Shmittah, or sabbatical, year in the Jewish calendar.
The Jewish Energy Guide is part of COEJL’s Jewish Energy Network, a collaborative effort with Jewcology’s Year of Action to engage Jews in energy action and advocacy. The guide was created in partnership with the Green Zionist Alliance.