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When Judaism Meets Global Warming (Part 4/4)

Thursday, July 22, 2021 @ 08:07 PM
posted by Roger Price
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Earth, from Space
Image Credit: NASA


     Global warming, which could lead to climate change, is a complex phenomenon, as we discovered in the first three parts of this essay, previously published here. It is also a ubiquitous subject today, so it is easy to forget that it did not emerge into public consciousness as a matter to be treated seriously until the 1970s. The Jewish community was quick to understand the potential gravity of the issue, and, over the last forty years or so, through familiar denominational outlets and more recently by way of independent entities, the community has not hesitated to speak out. It has met global warming with concern and conferences. Whether the resultant rhetoric has accomplished anything or even addressed sufficiently the difficult challenge global warming presents to Judaism is another matter.

     The classic approach.

     The classic Jewish approach to seeking wisdom is to look first to Judaism’s foundational text, the Torah, understood literally as a book (or as books) of instruction. Long ago, and speaking of the Torah, Ben Bag Bag, an early rabbinic sage, described the premise: Turn it and turn it again, he reportedly said, for all is in it. (See Sayings of the Fathers 5:22.) But neither the Torah nor Judaism’s other foundational text, the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible, is a science book, much less a technology book, and its authors lacked the knowledge, the tools, and the perspective to understand something as complex as global warming.

To be sure, by the time the ancient Israelites and Judahites began to record their legends and laws, they, like others, were well aware of the seasonal patterns that then prevailed. But there is no evidence that they knew, for example, that the Earth orbited the Sun in an elliptical path, nor did they likely know that the Earth tilted in its axis. And, surely, they did not know about how the Earth’s atmosphere allowed solar energy to hit the planet’s surface or to trap some of that energy that might otherwise radiate away. Had they any inkling that adding carbon to the atmosphere could potentially and adversely alter temperatures on land, in the seas, and in the sky, would they have insisted on three national pilgrimage festivals and more conventional rituals that called for the sacrificial burning of animals? (See, e.g., Ex. 23:14–17, 34:18-23.) We can speculate, but the truth seems to be that at least early on they conceived of an anthropomorphic god who took pleasure in the aroma of the animal sacrifice (Num. 15:3), and mitigating carbon infusion into the atmosphere was not an issue. 

     That said, the Israelites and Judahites of the first millennium before the Common Era were part of a fundamentally agricultural society. There was some industry and even mining, and there was trade, but the communities that existed then were dependent largely on what they and their neighbors raised and grew, and if their pilgrimage festivals involved animal sacrifices, they were also tied to harvest seasons. Dependent on what sunshine and rain came along, our predecessors expressed reflective gratitude to the supernatural deity they credited with being the creative force responsible for it all. (See, e.g., Pss. 90, 95, 102, 115, 119.) The point is not that ancient Jewish writings were unique in their inattention to global warming. It is simply to observe that, as one might expect, the earliest Jewish texts did not comment on a matter that was not recognized much less understood at that time.

     That reality has not stopped contemporary Jewish advocates of what they call climate justice from pointing to a number of Biblical and other derived passages in support of their goals. Some of these texts are more persuasive than others, though, and the fact that different groups look to different proof texts underscores the point that there is no agreed traditional teaching directly on point, Ben Bag Bag notwithstanding. Let’s review the more commonly cited arguments.

     The argument from the only world we have.

     There are not one but two creation stories found in Genesis, the first book of the Torah. This first creation story contains an imagined description of the order and timeline of the creation of our world from a period of watery chaos to an established and understandable environment. (Gen. 1:1 – 1:31.) In this story, on the sixth day of creation, God made humankind in God’s image and blessed the male and female so made. God said to them “Bear fruit and be many and fill the Earth and subdue it!” (Gen. 1:28.)   While the overall lesson has sometimes been understood in certain quarters not just to countenance but to require exploitation of the planet’s resources, the traditional Jewish view is otherwise.

     This story stands, first and foremost, as testament, in the literal sense of the word, that the planet was not created by humans nor do they own it. The idea is consistent with statements attributed to God in the Torah: “ki li kol ha-aretz,” or, “The whole earth is Mine.” (Ex. 19:5; see also, Lev. 25:23.) The Psalmist phrased it, “The Earth is God’s, in all its fullness.” (Ps. 24:1.)  Later, in the 11th century (CE), the French biblical scholar Rashi understood that the dominion commanded in the first story, at least over beasts and fish, was conditional on humanity’s meritorious conduct.  What follows today, according to Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobbs, is that humankind must act as nothing less than “enlightened stewards of Creation.”  

     There are at least two problems here, of course. First, not everyone accepts the premise of a theology of Divine creation and ownership. In fact, the recent PEW survey of American Jews found that only 26% of American Jews believed in the God of the Bible. (Pew Survey, at 67.) Narrow appeals are understandable, but necessarily of limited effectiveness. Second, conduct that may seem enlightened and meritorious to one person, may be viewed by another as detrimental to their survival. As the saying goes, zeh lo kol kach pashoot, it’s not so simple.

     A comment in the Talmud, concerning a line in Ecclesiastes, accepts the premise in the first Genesis story, but helpfully shifts the rationale for action: “When the Blessed Holy One created the first human, He took him and led him round all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him: ‘Look at My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! And all that I have created, it was for you that I created it. Pay attention that you do not corrupt and destroy My world: if you corrupt it, there is no one to repair it after you.’” (Kohelet Rabbah 7:13.) This approach is both nuanced and practical. While recognizing the wonder of the world in which we find ourselves, it places the rationale for human responsibility to preserve and protect the environment not on the claim that God created it, but on the truth that humankind and only humankind can preserve it. No divine Plan B is even contemplated.

     The powerful warning in Kohelet Rabbah is the opening teaching, and the only Jewish proof text provided, in a 2019 resolution concerning climate change adopted by the Rabbinical Assembly, the rabbinic arm of the Conservative movement in the United States. For context, that resolution was the latest in a series of such resolutions extending back over three decades indicating the RA’s long standing engagement with environmental issues.

     The impetus for the resolution appears to be the October 2018 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a project of the United Nations, which according to the RA “warned of the dire consequences of climate change and its impact on the environment” if “urgent action” was not taken within “12 years.” Unfortunately, the rabbis misunderstood the nature and purpose of the IPCC report and their link to “12 years” leads one to an article in The Guardian, a British news outlet, rather than to the report itself. As should have been clear to anyone who read the IPCC Report itself, it was not designed to predict the future, but, rather, to assess theoretical impacts at different levels of global warming. Consequently, it reviewed four possible carbon emission pathways, each of which resulted in a different concentration level of atmospheric carbon. The worst case scenario, known as RCP8.5, was scary, but also unrealistic. Predicating a resolution on a study, without acknowledging the limitations and qualifications of the study, suggests that the RA’s long standing concern over global warming overrode rigorous analysis. As for following the Report’s advice for urgent action, the best the RA could do was to urge a deeper commitment to combating climate change and to advocate for greater use of renewable sources of energy.

     The argument from Eden.

     In the second creation story in Genesis, God formed ha–adam from adamah, that is, “the human” from the “dust from the soil,” then planted a garden in Eden, and placed the recently formed human in the garden. (Gen. 2:7–8.) The purpose in doing so is stated a few verses later: “YHWH, God, took the human and set him in the garden of Eden, to work it and to watch it.” (Gen. 2:15.) Subsequently, the second story tells us, this man and a female who God built from a rib taken from the man disobeyed a divine injunction against eating fruit from the Tree of Knowing of Good and Evil and, so, were expelled from Eden to work the soil and live a life marked by pain. (See Gen. 2:24, 3:16–17.)  

     In this second telling, the directive to the humans is much more restrained. Rather than dominion over a planet, all that is required is some working and watching of a garden. Nevertheless, The Religious Action Center, an arm of the Reform Movement, contends that Gen. 2:15 “emphasizes our responsibility to protect the integrity of the environment so that its diverse species, including humans, can thrive.” While a stretch from tilling and watching, the notion of personal responsibility is admirable, and it is possible to imagine that the author of this tale was motivated by modern environmental sensibilities. More probably, though, the author simply intended to illustrate the undesirable consequences of disobedience to God’s directives and, also, to explain the prevalence of hardship attendant to working in an agricultural society. 

     Even more problematic is why a rule applicable to two mythical individuals in an idyllic garden has any applicability to a considerably more urban and more complex society in today’s real world. Eden was, according to the text, a place of natural simplicity, a place in which eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, a merism meaning all knowledge, was expressly forbidden by the divine Owner. The penalty for eating was death. (Gen. 2:17.)  So, however blissful the ignorance within it might have been, Eden was still characterized by ignorance, as well as immortality.

     To put it mildly, the environment has changed. As data from the World Bank illustrates, we live in quite a different world. In the real world of today, over half of the population lives in urban communities.  In the United States, the percentage is about 82%, but even in the least developed nations, about a third of the people live in urban areas. This is a far cry from our agricultural antecedents, either in America or the Ancient Near East, to say nothing of Eden.

     Moreover, we live in an age that elevates, or should elevate, science, not ignorance. We have taken not just one bite from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, many of us carry in our pockets a small device which gives us access to the knowledge of the universe. Consequently, while one could perhaps argue that what happened in Eden needs to stay in Eden, if one wants to draw a lesson or three from that story, then the most obvious lessons are (1) before eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil humankind had free will and the ability to choose its path, (2) having tasted the forbidden fruit, humankind now has the knowledge it needs to determine its destiny, and (3) in the limited time we have on this planet we should use that knowledge as we attempt to leave our only home to our descendants in at least as good shape as we found it.

     Those are important lessons, but even they do not provide any direction for evaluating the many choices which face us regarding global warming. For instance, they do not provide much guidance about insuring the secure and affordable production and delivery of electrical power on demand to those who have relied on fossil fuels. They do not tell us how to make steel or concrete without generating carbon dioxide. They do not tell us how to deal with people not similarly situated and on whom a particular course of action might have a different effect than it does on us. Asserting ancient parables and phrases, without more, is not all that helpful or productive. 

     The argument against waste and destruction.

     Toward the end of Deuteronomy, there is a text which is less obviously theological than the Genesis texts and more practical. It consists of a collection of laws concerning warfare. During a multi–day siege of a town, the text says that the Israelites should not cut down any fruit bearing trees, in part because the trees can supply food to eat and also because the trees are not soldiers who can fight them. (See Deut. 20:19.) Based on this text, the Jewish legal principle of bal tashchit, meaning you shall not destroy, or shall not waste, has emerged.

     RAC argues that from “this basic concept it follows that any act of destruction is an offense against the property of God.” (Emphasis supplied.)  One does not have to travel far, though, to learn that RAC’s expansive notion is refuted elsewhere in the Torah. Indeed, the very next line in the text shows that the wartime rules relevant to cutting down trees was applicable only to fruit bearing trees. The Israelites were expressly permitted to destroy non–fruit bearing trees. (See Deut. 20:20.)

     Now, the Reform movement generally and RAC in particular are not the only advocates of bal tashchit as a firm basis for Jewish environmentalism. American born, now Israeli, Rabbi Yonatan Neril writing on a Chabad site, reminds us that in the Talmud Rav Zutra commented that the prohibition applied to wasteful use of oil and kerosene in lamps and suggests that the principle prohibits the destruction “directly or indirectly [of] anything that might be of use to people.” (See BT Shabbat 67b.) The Talmud being the Talmud, that comment came up in the midst of a discussion of the ways of the Amorites, who lived once in the land of Canaan, so what Rav Zutra’s extended environmental views are is not clear.  Rabbi Neril also reminds us that a much more recent teacher, the 19th century (CE) German Orthodox Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, once proclaimed bal tashchit “the most comprehensive warning to human beings not to misuse” the position given them as masters of the world “through capricious, passionate, or merely thoughtless wasteful destruction of anything on earth.”

     We do not have to stretch a Talmudic musing about various fuels for lighting devices to a comprehensive philosophy about carbon containment in order to agree that wanton waste is not a good thing and should be avoided. But how does that help us today? While RAC claims that “(t)he science is clear: global climate change . . . threaten(s) our planet and . . . (w)e have a sacred responsibility to care for the Earth and its inhabitants by advocating for sustainable policies addressing climate change . . . ,” it does not identify any particular waste to be avoided. And Rabbi Neril was focused on not wasting food. So what, exactly, does the oft–cited principle of bal tashchit require with respect to global warming?

     If, as Bill Gates tells us, manufacturing steel and cement results in copious amounts of carbon dioxide being created and released into the atmosphere, is that an act of waste or a necessary byproduct of an essential commodity for today’s metropolitan communities? And if it is waste, what are we to do? Similarly, if extracting and burning hydrocarbons is considered destructive or wasteful, where does that lead us? Shall two–thirds of the households in the United States Midwest and the majority of households in the Northeast and West who use natural gas for heating now be required to install electric furnaces in their homes, even though they do not heat as quickly as gas furnaces, are more costly to operate, and would place additional burdens on a presently imperfect electric grid?

     And in poorer nations, what fuel should people currently dependent on wood and coal utilize? This is no small matter. Since the signing of the 2005 Kyoto Protocol which was designed to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs), China’s emissions of carbon dioxide alone have increased by over 28%, largely due to industrialization fueled by coal. India’s emissions have doubled. Recently, China and India accounted for over a third of such emissions, while the United States and the European Union, where emissions have declined since Kyoto, were responsible for just under one quarter of CO2 emissions. 

     The contemporary quest for boldness.

     The engagement of the established movements, such as it has been, has not satisfied Jewish climate activists. Their reported reasons for dissatisfaction may differ, but the result of their uneasiness has spurred the development of independent and focused efforts to address global warming and climate change. Are their efforts more persuasive? Do they successfully link Jewish ethical principles to a practical proposed course of action?

     One such organization is Aytzim, which describes itself as a “New York-based secular, progressive and pluralistic” Jewish umbrella organization “that supports . . . learn[ing] from one another how to educate communities about and take action on our Jewish responsibility to protect the environment.” Almost uniquely among either old or relatively new organizations, Aytzim provides a Jewish Energy Guide which includes an extended article “The Science of Climate Change” written by a physicist with actual working experience on atmospheric matters. His conclusion is largely correct accurate and humbling: “There is little scientific debate about the basic physics of climate change. How the Earth’s climate system will respond to warming makes predictions of the future climate conditions uncertain.”

     Much newer is Dayenu, founded by self–described “long time climate activists.” Without any reference on its website (when accessed) to any science, it seeks to build a movement to confront “the climate crisis with spiritual audacity and bold political action.” Among other things, Dayenu urges the Biden administration and Congress to “take seven specific climate actions” such as choosing a “climate cabinet,” prioritizing “environmental justice,” setting “aggressive emissions standards,” and appropriating $10 trillion dollars (!) for “green infrastructure.” Putting aside the vagueness of those proposals, and the lack of any analysis as to how any specific course of action would actually reduce any carbon emissions or mitigate global warming, there is nothing particularly Jewish about what Dayenu seeks to achieve. And the Dayenu website makes no effort to tie any particular proposal to any Jewish text or principle.

     As an unintended illustration of the absence of an obvious Jewish core to its approach, following the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers structure in Surfside, Florida, the leader of Dayenu co–authored an article which acknowledged that we do not know the cause of building’s failure, but then immediately asserted “we do know that climate change is shifting the ground underneath South Florida in dramatic and destructive ways.” She then referenced a number of projections about sea levels. That rhetorical switch suggested that global warming was somehow responsible for the collapse of the Champlain condominium. Maybe investigations to come will prove that global warming was a contributing factor, but the Dayenu leader did not provide any causal nexus, nor did she explain why one building in Southeast Florida collapsed when many others, along the same coast and facing the same ocean under essentially the same climate conditions, did not do so. She did not even mention as possible causes of the collapse site selection, design, construction, material choice and preparation, deferred maintenance, or third–party issues, nor, in any case, did she refer to any Jewish sources for any guidance as to what could have been done by Champlain Towers or should be done by others.

     The quest for boldness is not limited to Dayenu. A number of organizations, some more established than others, gathered together virtually in January 2021, to participate in The Big Bold Jewish Climate Fest. Assuming a “crisis,” the organizers of the Bold Fest proclaimed that “Climate Change is a Central Moral Issue of The Jewish Community.” Rabbis Sharon Brous and Rachel Nussbaum, both leaders of independent congregations, drafted a letter in support of the Fest. In their letter, the rabbis upped the ante, writing that the “climate crisis” is the “most pressing moral issue of our time.” (Emphasis supplied.)

     Hyperbole aside, Rabbis Brous and Nussbaum did two things of note. First, they invoked a traditional prooftext, the teaching from Kohelet Rabbah discussed above, from which they argued that we have a “sacred responsibility . . . to honor and sustain the natural world . . . and to be responsible stewards of all we have been entrusted.” Second, they made an admission, rarely seen in Jewish encounters with global warming or climate science. They said that the “climate crisis is complex . . . .” In addition, to action, advocacy, and prayer, they committed to “education.”

     The Brous/Nussbaum letter is more tempered than what one often sees when Judaism meets global warming. In general, though, the Jewish response to global warming and climate change remains unsatisfying. Part of the reason is the frequent effort to try to fit Jewish square pegs (Edenic myths, ancient agricultural themes) into the round entity that is the biosphere. Judaism originated and developed in situations which offer little if any specific guidance about this recent challenge which is defined by science, and then incompletely, and will be resolved, if at all, by the application of technologies which do not exist today and certainly were not even imagined in the Jewish past. With due respect to Ben Bag Bag, it just may be that we can turn the Torah over and over and not learn much helpful about global warming. This may be why Jewish sponsored approaches often seem contrived and lack persuasive force except, perhaps, to the previously inclined.

     Considered objectively, the all too easy, almost reflexive, invocation of contemporary Jewish rallying cries –– Choose Life!, Repair the World!, and Justice, Justice!—do not necessarily advance any particular remedy to the very real problem at issue because global warming is, by definition, a planetary problem and its effects and potential solutions will affect different people in different ways. For instance, a warming planet might bring devastation to one area and yet open another to new growth and life. What does “Justice” mean in that context? Will an effort to “Repair” aid some at the expense of others? In such a situation, how do you select what kind of life to choose? Or whose? Let’s not dilute these values by spreading them too thin or conversely treat them as magical talismans. We don’t need verbal amulets. We need to understand the limits of traditional language and imagery when they are sought to be applied to the incredibly complex subject of climate science.

     In addition, discussions in Jewish forums are often largely detail free. On rare occasions, such as the Aytzim article or a segment of a recent conference sponsored by Arizona State University, a program will actually discuss some aspect of the science and technology involved, but that is less common than it should be. Most activists seem content to talk about heat without shedding light. But as an engineer might be expected to do, Bill Gates calls for a “fact–based view” of the situation, the challenges, and the potential solutions. (Gates, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, at 226.) And he recognizes that any solutions will require “lots of breakthroughs in science and technology.” (Gates, at 50, 160.) As a rule of thumb, the amount of advocacy should not exceed the amount of analysis that precedes it.

     Discussions are also largely devoid of considerations of alternative strategies. There are, for instance, calls for certain reductions in carbon emissions by 2030 or 2035 or some similar date. But there is little, if any, thought given to whether reaching short term milestones might impair achieving longer term goals. As Gates points out, as an example, replacing coal fired plants with gas –fired ones will reduce carbon emissions, but also leave us for decades with plants that we might not want, thereby limiting our ability to reach longer term goals. (Gates, at 197.)

     Toward a reality-based approach.

     The impatience of those who seek boldness and their quest for relevance and assertiveness are understandable. But if advocacy regarding a truly serious topic is to be taken seriously, it must be enmeshed with healthy doses of reality. One reality is that global warming may not be the most pressing moral issue of our time. A pandemic, lack of access to nutrition around the globe, deprivation of basic liberties in totalitarian regimes, and racism, among other issues, would seem worthy contestants for that honor. Indeed, depending on your definition, global warming may not be predominantly a moral issue at all, but, rather, a scientific, technological, and diplomatic challenge. And even if it is a moral issue, in that it concerns action that may be helpful or harmful to ourselves and others, that cannot excuse the general failure to do the hard work necessary to understand the science and technology needed to address the problem. In short, Jewish discussions on climate science and global warming need to be reality–based.

     Here, two convergent stories from the tradition may be helpful. They both involve the planting of trees, but they are not dependent on any particular kind of tree, or even on the planting of trees, for that matter.  The first story, from the Babylonia Talmud, is about Honi the Circle Maker, so called because during a drought he would draw a circle in the ground and, standing in it, would pray, beg, argue, and, really, nag God for rain, which, after a while, he succeeded in getting in appropriate amounts.

     One day, according to Rabbi Johanan, while Honi was traveling on a road, he saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man how long it would take for the tree to bear fruit?” The man replied, “Seventy years.” Honi then asked the man whether he expected to live seventy years and benefit from the tree. The man replied that he found carob trees in the world, so as his fathers planted those for him, he was going to plant a tree for his children.” (BT Ta’anit 23a.) There is more to the story, about persistence and gratitude in its beginning and about friendship at its end, but this part of the story can and often does stand alone. We do things, not just for ourselves, but for those who come after us. We build for the future. It’s not cosmic wisdom, but it is very human, and can be very productive. 

     The second story is found in Avot de Rabbi Natan 31b. It relates a saying attributed to Rabbi Yohanan Ben Zakai, a first century sage: “If you have a sapling in your hand and they tell you ‘The Messiah is coming!’ first plant the sapling and then go to greet him.”  Even the appearance of the promised redeemer is not enough to deter us from completing the practical work, however mundane, however hard, that needs to be done to prepare for the future.

     Together, these stories teach the importance of getting your hands dirty, doing the tough work of preparing the soil, watering the hole, planting the tree, all for the benefit not of ourselves but for others about whom we can only dream. There is not much boldness here, but there is a good measure of humility and duty. Patience and perseverance are Jewish virtues, too.

     If we take an Earth–bound approach, one tied not to myths but to how we actually experience life, we realize that to a great extent, life is about relationships and moral issues are about how we treat others. The Jewish tradition contains a cluster of guidelines that are meant to help us navigate our way. Some believe that these were divinely written or inspired. Others think that they evolved because they were practical approaches to a better social order. Where you come down on that debate matters, but not as much as how you act. These guidelines may well provide a solid basis for an ethical approach to global warming.

     The prime directive of ethical reciprocity was reportedly set forth in or around the first century BCE by the sage Hillel who was challenged to teach the whole Torah quickly. Hillel responded by saying that the entire Torah could be summarized as follows: “What is hateful to you, do not do to another.” (BT Shabbat 31a.) He then added an obligation to study. Where might this principle lead us when considering global warming? Most obviously, they might lead to a commitment to cease our own conduct which contributes to the emissions of harmful GFGs. We would do this first for ourselves because of a related guideline: you shall take “exceeding care for your self.” (Deut. 4:9.) And we would do it for others because we have been taught that we should not “stand by the blood of (our) neighbor.” (Lev. 19:16.)  

     Similarly, a rule found in the Holiness Code, prohibits placing a “stumbling-block” in front of the blind. (Lev. 19:14.) Another requires affirmative action, the placement of a parapet around the roof of a house lest someone fall and spill blood. (Deut. 22:8.) Each maxim seeks to keep a non–actor from harm either because he or she cannot see or anticipate a dangerous condition or because the circumstances are inherently dangerous. Together, perhaps, these provisions, which have provided useful wisdom for thousands of years, can inform our approach to the new challenge we face with global warming.

     If Jewish leaders and organizations want to treat both climate science and global warming seriously, and they should, then they need to ratchet down the rhetoric, and put a pause on posturing. And they need to elevate education. Here are some ideas:

  1. Know that credibility is hard won and easily lost. So, if you want to make statement or pass resolutions about science and technology, learn some science and technology. Start by reading and calling on your friends to read books like those written by Bill Gates and Steven Koonin (Unsettled) so that you and they better understand the enormity of the challenge from the various perspectives of science, technology, politics, and economics. If you think that the facts and arguments raised in those books are incorrect, by all means, counter them, but do so with facts and reasoning, not with a preconceived narrative or ad hominem attacks.
  2. Select one area where carbon emissions (or other GHGs) are problematic and study that area in order to speak authoritatively. Engage with speakers from industry and academia to discuss practical solutions to the problems you uncover.
  3. Without using Jewish phrases that often prove too much like Tzedek, Tzedek and Tikkun Olam, or Jewish myths from places or events that never were, try to fashion a truly relevant Jewish approach based on the human relationship principles that are at the core of Jewish ethics.
  4. Always remember that your audience is bright and carries with them the knowledge of the universe in a little device. If you are going to speak up, then do not speak down to them. 
  5. Finally, as you proceed, realize that you will be judged not by how loudly you speak or how extreme your proposals are, but simply by whether your conduct will make life on our little blue marble a bit safer and a bit easier for yourself, for your neighbors, and for generations yet to come.  Your efforts may not complete the task, but if you can achieve that modest goal, you will have done well and our planet, and all of its inhabitants, will be in your debt

      . . .

     NB: English quotations from the Torah are the translations of Everett Fox from his book, The Five Books of Moses.

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