Earth Day and Torah

  • 0

Happy Earth day everyone.

Wait. Is that the correct salutation? Is Earth Day a “happy” day?

I’m not so sure. Sometimes, it seems that Earth Day is marked by doom and gloom about the environment. It used to exclusively be an opportunity to lambaste those who were not as concerned with the environment. Tempers have generally cooled but there is still some tension on Earth Day. I think this is the wrong approach to Earth Day.

To me Earth Day is a celebration of Planet Earth. It is a day to appreciate the beauty of our planet. It is a day to reflect on the wonders of our existence. Done properly, we all will make an effort to conserve and exercise care in our relationship with Earth.

To capitalize on, celebrate Earth Day, Disney has released their foray into greentertainment (© Eliyahu Fink 2009). It is called Disney Earth (click to watch the trailer, it looks awesome) and is a film about 3 families of wild animals over the course of one year. Disney has been met with some criticism for the film. To me, the value of the film is its beauty and grandeur. The world in which we live is beautiful. It is easy to forget when we spend our lives in cement buildings and driving congested streets. Disney Earth can take us around the world to see just how special our planet truly is.

My issue with the film, is that reportedly, 40 -60% of the footage is taken from the Planet Earth, which is have seen several times already. Planet Earth is epic and I recommend that everyone see it, at least once.

For some wonderful video of our planet from outer space check out the video below.

All this talk about our planet brings to mind the Torah’s approach to our planet.

The Torah is very concerned with our environment. The Torah rule is that one is not permitted to cut down a fruit bearing tree unless one will plant a new tree in its stead. In addition to this particular rule, there is a general rule that one may not waste. The Torah requires that we use our resources wisely and that we care for our world.

This creates a harmonious relationship between man and his environment. There are many other Mitzvos which foster this harmony. The Torah forbids killing or harming animals. The exception for eating meat is only to provide sustenance for man and must be used in the most respectful way possible. The Torah also reminds us to respect the instincts of motherhood in the animal world. Also, the Torah requires us to respect our bodies and the natural needs of humanity.

Living a Torah lifestyle is a world where every day is Earth Day.

The Talmud illustrates this attitude with a great piece of advice. If one has a container used to store fine wheat flour and it gets a small crack or a hole, one should instead use the container fora coarser flour that will not seep through the cracks. If the hole gets a little to big for coarse flour, then one should use it for whole grains, if the hole gets larger, then one should store nuts in the container. The Talmud goes on to describe a use for the container up to the point where one is filling the container with large pomegranates. Only at this point does the Talmud say that the vessel may no longer be fit for use and should be disposed of.

The lesson is profound, eternal and my message for Earth Day. Use what we have carefully, conserve our resources, be mindful of our consumption and respect our environment. This message comes naturally (no pun intended) to one who can appreciate the beauty and complexity of our natural world. An understanding and appreciation for man’s place on this gorgeous planet among its other inhabitants will make every day an Earth Day.