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Torah teachings about climate change l Worship


December 5, 2018

The Torah’s continued relevancy in the modern world amazes me.

While I’m not claiming the Torah’s compilation of wisdom from 3,000 years ago anticipates global warming, I am saying it does offer ethical rules and values applicable to solving the problem.

First there’s Tikkun Olam, a concept about our obligation to “repair the world,” that is presented in Genesis, the first book of the Torah.

In Genesis we are called to “till and tend” the Earth, telling us that human dominion over nature does not provide a license to use and abuse the environment however we want.

Implied is the requirement to mitigate and minimize the impact of human behavior on the physical environment because if we don’t there will be nobody after us to fix it.

Torah Teaching #1: It is our obligation to immediately reduce our production of greenhouse gases to slow down global warming in order to protect the world for future generations to enjoy.

Yet some resist taking the necessary steps by citing the cost to do so.

People who say this have their priorities mixed up. If they understood what the 2nd Commandment is all about, they wouldn’t have this confusion.

The 2nd Commandment first appears (along with the rest of the Ten Commandments) in the second book of the Torah, Exodus.

The most common understanding about the meaning of the 2nd Commandment is that it is a prohibition against praying to false gods and idols.

The commandment starts off with, “You shall have no other gods beside Me,” and continues with, “You shall not bow down to them, nor serve them.”

While worshiping idols was certainly relevant when the Torah was first compiled in 450 BCE it can be argued that’s no longer an issue.

Still, the 2nd Commandment retains its significance in 2018 CE because the 2nd Commandment is more than a specific prohibition against idol worship. It is a general prohibition against all improper worship.

Many elected officials responded to the conclusions in the Fourth National Climate Assessment that was released the Friday after Thanksgiving by saying the dollar cost of taking on global warming is too high.

The president said it would cost millions and millions of jobs. A senator echoed that sentiment saying it would devastate the U.S. economy.

In other words, they believe it is more important to protect wealth than to protect the planet.

People with this point-of-view are worshiping at the altar of the almighty dollar which is just another way of saying they are bowing down to and serving other gods.

Torah Teaching #2: The costs associated with combating climate change are irrelevant; valuing money over the health of our planet is improper worship.

Sea level rise. Global warming. Ocean acidification. Climate change. These contemporary crises require modern technologies to solve.

Fortunately, we have the Torah’s ancient teachings – which are as relevant today as they were 3,000 years ago – to guide us.

The Torah tells us what our priorities should be. The question is, are we humble enough to follow its ancient guidance?


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