Category Archives: Secondary Source

Secondary Sources: Miracles – MS, HS, A

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Secondary Sources: Miracles

Rabbinic notion of daily miracles: “Come and consider how many miracles the Holy One blessed be He, performs for people, and they are unaware of it. If a person was to swallow bread without chewing it, it would hurt them terribly, but God created people with mouths which lets them to chew and then swallow.” (Exodus Rabba 24:1).

 

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Avraham Joshua Heschel talked about the mystery of the universe – how it came to be like it is and the rules that make it work – and how that makes us feel a great sense of wonder” (God in Search of Man).

Image source: Wikimedia Commons.

 

 

 

 

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Mordechai Kaplan explains the miracles in Jewish literature as reflecting the attempt “of the ancient authors to prove and illustrate God’s power and goodness” (Judaism as Civilization, p. 98) Kaplan maintained that these traditions concerning miracles were in conflict with modern thought, and that the belief in miracles that contravene natural law is a “psychological impossibility for most people.” (Questions Jews Ask, p. 155-156)

 

Image source: http://americanjewisharchives.org/education/timeline/kaplan.html

 

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Albert Einstein: “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

Image source :https://i.ytimg.com/vi/paLdIlvLtaw/hqdefault.jpg

 

 

vayeira-miracle-ss-image-3Peggy Noonan: “I think miracles exist in part as gifts and in part as clues that there is something beyond the flat world we see.” Peggy Noonan is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal. She has written eight books on American politics and culture. Quote is from: What I Saw at the Revolution: A Political Life in the Reagan Era (1990).

Image source: http://www.peggynoonan.com/

 

Evidence & Belief

The real question for moderns is not can miracles happen, but did they and do they happen. As Hume recognized, the question is one of evidence. Many events that were seen in the past as miracles can now be understood as due to the operation of natural laws, even though Hume himself is less than categorical about the absolute necessity of cause: A) always to produce the effect, B) it usually seems to produce.

Undoubtedly, a modern Jewish believer will be far less prone to attribute extraordinary events to a supernatural intervention, but his belief in God’s power will not allow him to deny the very possibility of miracles occurring.

A Hasidic saying has it that a Hasid who believes that all the miracles said to have been performed by the Hasidic masters actually happened is a fool, but anyone who believes that vayeira-miracle-ss-image-6they could not have happened is an unbeliever. The same can be said of miracles in general.

Rabbi Dr. Louis Jacobs (1920-2006) was a Masorti rabbi, the first leader of Masorti Judaism (also known as Conservative Judaism) in the United Kingdom, and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism.
Image source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Jacobs#/media/File:Rabbijacobs.jpg

 

 

China’s Miracle Man

Monday, July 9, 2007: He survived against all the odds; “now Peng Shulin has astounded doctors by learning to walk again. When his body was cut in two by a lorry in 1995, it was little short of a medical miracle that he lived.vayeira-miracle-ss-image-4

It took a team of more than 20 doctors to save his life.

Doctors at the China Rehabilitation Research Centre in Beijing found out about Mr Peng’s plight late last year and devised a plan to get him up walking again. They came up with an ingenious way to allow him to walk on his own, creating a sophisticated egg cup-like casing to hold his body with two bionic legs attached to it.
vayeira-miracle-ss-image-5
He has been taking his first steps around the centre with the aid of his specially adapted legs and a resized walking frame. Mr Peng, who has to learn how to walk again, is said to be delighted with the device.

In November 2009, the Australian Daily Telegraph reported that Peng had opened his own bargain supermarket, called the Half Man-Half Price Store.

What self-confidence… and optimism…

Source: http://metro.co.uk/2007/07/09/miracle-man-walks-again-513316/ & http://www.snopes.com/photos/people/peng.asp

 

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In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.

At the creation of the State of Israel on May14th, 1948, David Ben-Gurion became the first Prime minister of Israel and its Defense Minister. For more information, see: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/ben_gurion.html

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

 

 

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Chaim Weizmann was the first President of Israel. He was elected on 16 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952. For more information, see: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/weizmann.html

 

 

 

David Hume on Miracles

source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/hume-miracles.asp

The Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) launched an effective critique of miraculous claims. This sceptical rationalism was a major challenge to religious belief throughout the later 18th and 19th centuries.

From David Hume. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience can possibly be imagined. Why is it more than probable, that all men must die; that lead cannot, of itself, remain suspended in the air; that fire consumes wood, and is extinguished by water; unless it be, that these events are found agreeable to the laws of nature, and there is required a violation of these laws, or in other words, a miracle to prevent them? Nothing is esteemed a miracle, if it ever happen in the common course of nature. It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle, that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation….

Secondary Sources: The Role of Laughter in Life – HS, A

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Secondary Sources: The Role of Laughter in Life

 

Quotes about Laughter
Read and Discuss.

N.B.: you might like to put these on pieces of card face down on floor/table. One at a time student select a card, read it and comment on it (leave time for other students to respond before the next person selects a card.)vayeira-laughter-ss-image-1

  • If you do this before reading the text, then return to the cards after your discussion and see whether they offer insights into Sarah’s laughter.
  • If you do this after your discussion, pause after discussing each one and ask “do you think this quote offers a new way of thinking about Sarah’s laughter?

Laughter can bring a new perspective.
Christopher Durang, Playwright, 1949-
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/christophe355592.html

You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.
Stephen King, author, 1947-
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/stephenkin106358.html

vayeira-laughter-ss-image-2Laughter can help relieve tension in even the heaviest of matters.
Allen Klein, author, 1938
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/allenklein285037.html

It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.
Wayne Dyer, Psychologist, 1940-2015
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/waynedyer127372.html

 

There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.
Erma Bombeck, Journalist, 1927-1996
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/ermabombec133166.html?src=t_laughter

 

Laughter springs from the lawless part of our nature.
Agnes Repplier, 1855-1950
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/agnesreppl382183.html?src=t_laughter

 

I think laughter may be a form of courage. As humans we sometimes stand tall and look into the sun and laugh, and I think we are never more brave than when we do that.
Linda Ellerbee, Journalist, 1944-
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/lindaeller402588.html?src=t_laughter

 

Being able to laugh at a situation can help you hang on to your perspective. And there’s an intimacy in laughter that nothing else can come close to.
Eric Mabius, actor 1971-
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/search_results.html?q=laughter&pg=8

 

Laughter does not deny pain. Laughter – like a wail – acknowledges and replies to pain.
Tim O’Brien, author, 1946-
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/t/timobrien515506.html

 

At the height of laughter, the universe is flung into a kaleidoscope of new possibilities.
Jean Houston, author 1937-
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/search_results.html?q=laughter&pg=6

 

Images provided through openclipart.org

Secondary Sources: Lying – Aaron, Lover and Pursuer of Peace – UPS

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Secondary Sources: Lying

Aaron, Lover and Pursuer of Peace

vayeira-lying-ss-image-1 vayeira-lying-ss-image-2

 

Some Questions you might like to ask:

  • How do you think the friends would react if they found out Aaron had made this up?
  • How do you think Aaron would describe what he did?
  • Do you think Aaron should have done something different?
  • You might like to act out the story in light of these questions.

Secondary Source: What’s in a name – UPS, MS, HS

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Secondary Sources: What’s in a name

Excerpts from: Rabbi Michal Shekel: The Women’s Torah Commentary, Elyse Goldstein (ed.), (Jewish Lights, NY), 2000, pp.57-62
Parshat Lech lecha contains within it two journeys, each of which encompasses a spiritual and physical aspect. The first is the well known story of Abram (Bereshit 12). The second is subtler but still powerful. It is the journey undertaken by Sarai’s handmaiden Hagar….
One can discover three occurrences in this parashah that mirror Abram’s experience. First, Hagar leaves home, her personal Lechi lach, “go forth” (fem.)… Second, God makes a brit, a covenant, with her, in which she is promised that she will have numerous offspring… Third, she is told her son’s name before his birth. But here the parallel ends; for, most significantly, Hagar gives God a name. Abram has never done this, nor has anyone else.
What courage! In these early chapters of the Torah, the act of naming is highly significant. It is both empowering and embracing….
Hagar names God el ro’i “God who sees me.” This is in response to God’s naming of her child Yishma’el, which means “God hears”. In naming God, Hagar affirms that God sees as well as hears. Here too is a parallel with Abraham. After the Akedah, the binding of Isaac, Abraham calls the mountain where he offers his son “Adonai sees”…

Secondary Sources: The Role of Laughter in Life – PS, MS

Download the secondary sources here: Word word-doc-icon PDF pdf-icon

 

Secondary Sources: The Role of Laughter in Life

 

Quotes about Laughter
Read and Discuss.

N.B.: you might like to put these on pieces of card face down on floor/table. One at a time student select a card, read it and comment on it (leave time for other students to respond before the next person selects a card.)vayeira-laughter-ss-image-1

  • If you do this before reading the text, then return to the cards after your discussion and see whether they offer insights into Sarah’s laughter.
  • If you do this after your discussion, pause after discussing each one and ask “do you think this quote offers a new way of thinking about Sarah’s laughter?

 

Laughter can bring a new perspective.
Christopher Durang, Playwright, 1949-
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/christophe355592.html

 

You can’t deny laughter; when it comes, it plops down in your favorite chair and stays as long as it wants.
Stephen King, author, 1947-
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/stephenkin106358.html

 

vayeira-laughter-ss-image-2Laughter can help relieve tension in even the heaviest of matters.
Allen Klein, author, 1938
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/allenklein285037.html

 

 

 

It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.
Wayne Dyer, Psychologist, 1940-2015
source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/w/waynedyer127372.html

 

Images provided through openclipart.org

Secondary Sources: Going from, Going to – MS, HS, A

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Secondary Sources: Going from — Going to

“Know from where you came, where you are going, and before whom you are destined to give a judgment and accounting.”
Mishna “Pirke Avot”, ch.3:1


American Slavery

Sethe is a central character in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved. She is a slave who runs away to find freedom but is eventually caught and made to go back. This description of Sethe’s escape comes from Susan Babbitt in Impossible Dreams. It is a vivid account of the experience of leaving.

Sethe describes her escape from slavery, saying, “I did that. I had help, of course, lots of that, but still it was my doing it; me saying, Go on, and Now.” Nine months pregnant and alone, she struggles through the woods on swollen, blistered, bare feet. She does take conscious control of her life for that short, difficult time… ”
Susan Babbitt in Impossible Dreams

Hagar in Art

Look at this picture –Having read the story of Hagar, is there anything in this interpretation that you find interesting?

lechlecha-ss-image

 

“Hagar Leaves the House of Abraham”
Rubens, Peter Paul, 1577-1640,
Flemish Baroque Painter

 

 


 
Image source: http://www.artbible.info/art/large/826.html

Secondary Source: She’s Leaving Home – MS, HS, A

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Secondary Sources: She’s Leaving Home

Play “She’s Leaving Home” by the Beatles. Try analyzing it according to some or all of the following; (i) good reasons for leaving, (i) drawing lines, (iii) rhetorical questions, (iv) running from/running to

 

She’s Leaving Home Lyrics – The Beatles

Wednesday morning at five o’clock as the day begins
Silently closing her bedroom door
Leaving the note that she hoped would say more
She goes downstairs to the kitchen clutching her handkerchief
Quietly turning the backdoor key
Stepping outside she is free.

She (We gave her most of our lives)
is leaving (Sacrificed most of our lives)
home (We gave her everything money could buy)
She’s leaving home after living alone
For so many years. Bye, bye

Father snores as his wife gets into her dressing gown
Picks up the letter that’s lying there
Standing alone at the top of the stairs
She breaks down and cries to her husband Daddy our baby’s gone
Why would she treat us so thoughtlessly
How could she do this to me.

She (We never thought of ourselves)
is leaving (Never a thought for ourselves)
home (We struggled hard all our lives to get by)
She’s leaving home after living alone
For so many years. Bye, bye

Friday morning at nine o’clock she is far away
Waiting to keep the appointment she made
Meeting a man from the motor trade.

She (What did we do that was wrong)
is having (We didn’t know it was wrong)
fun (Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy)
Something inside that was always denied
For so many years. Bye, bye
She’s leaving home. Bye, bye

Secondary Source: Reasons for Returning: Hannah Senesh – MS, HS

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Secondary Sources: Reasons for Returning: Hannah Senesh

Hannah Senesh (Szenes) 1921-1944

Hannah Senesh chose to run away from horror and then chose to go back there. Her story is completely different from that of Hagar, yet both leave and then choose to return from the reality they fled from. Hannah was not forced to go back, but did that of her own free will (was Hagar forced to return, or just strongly advised to?). Hagar received a promise for her child’s future from an angel of God, while Hannah found her death upon returning to Hungary – yet despite these differences, the comparison is worth exploring.
Leaving

Hannah Senesh, was born in Budapest. She demonstrated a literary talent from an early age, and she kept a diary from age 13 until shortly before her death. Although her family was assimilated, anti-Semitic sentiment in Budapest led her to involvement in Zionist activities, and she left Hungary for Eretz Yisrael in 1939.
Returning

Watching the war in Europe, in 1943 Senesh knew she had to do something. She decided that her knowledge of Europe could help save Jews. She joined the British Army and volunteered to be parachuted into Europe. After special training in Egypt she was one of thirty-three Israelis chosen to parachute behind enemy lines. The purpose of this operation was to help the Allied efforts in Europe and establish contact with resistance fighters in an attempt to aid Jewish communities. In March, 1944 Senesh was parachuted into Yugoslavia with the goal of making her way to her native Budapest. On June 7, 1944, Senesh crossed the border into Hungary. She was caught almost immediately by the Hungarian police. Throughout her ordeal she remained steadfast in her courage, and when she was executed by a firing squad on November 7, she refused the blindfold, staring squarely at her executors and her fate. In 1950, Senesh’s remains were brought to Israel and re-interred in the military cemetery on Mount Herzl.

lechlecha-returning-ss-image

 

Ya’akov’s bones were also brought back from Egypt with the Exodus, traveling with the Israelites and then finally buried in Canaan – what kind of journey is it to have your bones brought back for burial? Why might you want this?

Image source: wikimedia commons

Secondary Sources: Our Relationship to Nature – HS, A

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Secondary Sources: Relationship to Nature

Deuteronomy 20:18-19

19 When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Is the tree of the field a man, to go into the siege before you?

יטכִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ לְתָפְשָׂהּ לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו גַּרְזֶן כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר:

20 However, a tree you know is not a food tree, you may destroy and cut down, and you shall build bulwarks against the city that makes war with you, until its submission.

כרַק עֵץ אֲשֶׁר תֵּדַע כִּי לֹא עֵץ מַאֲכָל הוּא אֹתוֹ תַשְׁחִית וְכָרָתָּ וּבָנִיתָ מָצוֹר עַל הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר הִוא עֹשָׂה עִמְּךָ מִלְחָמָה עַד רִדְתָּהּ:

 



D’Var Torah

Harriet M. Levine, Woodlands Community Temple, White Plains, NY
http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/shoftim/protect-trees-protect-our-world

… These verses toward the end of the parashah, Deuteronomy 20:19-20, form the basis for the mitzvahbal tashchit, “do not destroy.” While the verses themselves deal specifically with cutting down trees during war, the Sages extended their meaning to cover all forms of wasteful destruction. They taught that anyone who deliberately wastes our resources, either natural or man-made, violates the law.

For over 3,000 years Jews have been concerned about the environment. Although these instructions are specifically directed to the care of fruit trees during war, the lesson gleaned from them has far-reaching implications for life on this planet. Our ancestors understood that life depends upon preserving the land. Although they didn’t use words like “ecology,” “global warming,” or “environmental crisis,” they clearly understood and respected these concepts.

The tree in the Torah text is read by the Sages as a metaphor. They understood that the prohibition to destroy fruit trees implies that it is forbidden to destroy anything that was beneficial to humankind. Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah tells us that a tree may be cut down if it damages other trees or causes harm to neighboring fields. According to Maimonides, the Torah only forbids willful destruction. We are not precluded from making use of God’s creations but are warned against unnecessarily destroying gifts of nature. Needless cutting down of a fruit-bearing tree is forbidden not only in wartime, but at all times. Similarly, we may not destroy or waste anything useful, whether it be food or money or clothing.

In the creation story in Genesis 1:28, humankind is granted dominion over the earth. The same biblical passage that gives us this dominion also requires that we care for the earth; we are reminded that even as we till the earth, we must also preserve it. God’s command to “rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth” gives us the responsibility to guard the world. Because God created the natural world, it is sacred. It is ours on loan, to be used and cared for. We are granted both dominion and stewardship of our world; therefore we are not to pollute its water or air or waste its precious resources.

As a child in religious school, one of the first stories I heard was that of Honi and his planting of the carob tree. When asked why he was planting a tree that would not bear fruit until long after his death, he replied that when he came into the world he found carob trees that had been planted by those who came before him, so he was doing the same for his descendants. It’s a simple story that we tell every Tu BiSh’vat, but one that teaches an age-old truth.

Today’s environmentalists raise the same concern as Honi. Since the mid-twentieth century, we have become aware that restoring our planet’s diminishing resources is a crucial issue. The destruction of tropical forests, lumbering without reforestation, burning of land, and the general wasting of other natural resources will leave future generations with diminished resources. Just over forty years ago, author Rachel Carson warned of the dangerous effects of our lifestyle on the environment. Silent Spring spoke of our reckless attempt to control our environment by the use of pesticides and warned that destroying the balance of nature would ultimately do more harm than good.

Since Carson’s best-selling publication, others have written on the same subject. Just ten years ago, Al Gore, in his book Earth In the Balance, wrote of his conviction that only radical rethinking of our relationship with nature could save our ecology. Whether or not we believe that we must save our resources because God has commanded us to do so, we cannot ignore what we have done to our world or sit idle without trying to correct the mistakes we’ve made.

Judaism does not separate people from nature. We’re taught that the earth is one unit, just as God is one. Whatever affects plant and animal life affects humans as well. If we destroy other kinds of living things on this earth, we are also destroying ourselves. The most important lessons we can teach our children are that not only do all living things depend upon each other, but also what we do today affects what the world will be like tomorrow. Each generation is linked to the next by its actions. Like Honi, we depend on what those who came before us did, as our children will depend upon us. Whether it is wartime or peacetime, we must care for the natural resources entrusted to us.

 



Your Guide

Throughout the Bible, we are urged to respect creation and not waste or destroy. Living things range from the human being to the simplest of species, and the rich variety of nature is to be cherished. In addition, Jewish tradition is distinctly linked to trees and to water; in fact, our Torah is referred to as the “Tree of Life.” Jewish tracts entreat us time and again to respect and enhance trees and water.

  • Torah has a multitude of verses regarding the care of our resources. How do we decide which ones to follow? Do we pick and choose only those that affect us personally, or do we move beyond our own neighborhoods, cities, and even countries for the betterment of all humankind?
  • How, in this age of technology, can we ensure that we don’t do more damage to our natural resources-our drinking water, our rivers, the soil, or the air?
  • When our military goes into another country to liberate it, as we have recently done in Iraq, do we have any obligations to the people of that country regarding the protection of their natural resources?

 

Secondary Sources: Our Relationship to Nature – PS, MS

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Secondary Sources: Relationship to Nature

 

Deuteronomy 20:18-19

19 When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them, for you may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Is the tree of the field a man, to go into the siege before you?

יטכִּי תָצוּר אֶל עִיר יָמִים רַבִּים לְהִלָּחֵם עָלֶיהָ לְתָפְשָׂהּ לֹא תַשְׁחִית אֶת עֵצָהּ לִנְדֹּחַ עָלָיו גַּרְזֶן כִּי מִמֶּנּוּ תֹאכֵל וְאֹתוֹ לֹא תִכְרֹת כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר:

20 However, a tree you know is not a food tree, you may destroy and cut down, and you shall build bulwarks against the city that makes war with you, until its submission.

כרַק עֵץ אֲשֶׁר תֵּדַע כִּי לֹא עֵץ מַאֲכָל הוּא אֹתוֹ תַשְׁחִית וְכָרָתָּ וּבָנִיתָ מָצוֹר עַל הָעִיר אֲשֶׁר הִוא עֹשָׂה עִמְּךָ מִלְחָמָה עַד רִדְתָּהּ:

 



D’Var Torah

Harriet M. Levine, Woodlands Community Temple, White Plains, NY
http://www.reformjudaism.org/learning/torah-study/shoftim/protect-trees-protect-our-world

While the verses themselves deal specifically with cutting down trees during war, the Sages extended their meaning to cover all forms of wasteful destruction. They taught that anyone who deliberately wastes our resources, either natural or man-made, violates the law.

For over 3,000 years Jews have been concerned about the environment. Although these instructions are specifically directed to the care of fruit trees during war, the lesson gleaned from them has far-reaching implications for life on this planet. Our ancestors understood that life depends upon preserving the land. Although they didn’t use words like “ecology,” “global warming,” or “environmental crisis,” they clearly understood and respected these concepts.

  • How, in this age of technology, can we ensure that we don’t do more damage to our natural resources-our drinking water, our rivers, the soil, or the air?
  • How do you care for your environment within the school/institutions you are part of? Could you reduce wastage of resources further? If so, how?