Take Care of the Environment

A Selection from My Favorite Jewish Sources
Rabbi Mordechai Levin

Psalm 24:1
The Earth is the Lord’s and all that it holds, the world and its inhabitants.

Shemot Rabbah 10:1
Our Rabbis said, what is this “And the advantage of the land in all things” (Ecclesiastes 5:8)? Even things you see as superfluous in this world — like flies, fleas, and mosquitoes — they are part of the greater scheme of the creation of the world, as it says (Genesis 1:31), “And God saw all that God has created, and behold it was very good.” And Rabbi Acha bar Rabbi Chanina said, even things you see as superfluous in this world — like snakes and scorpions — they are part of the greater scheme of the creation of the world.

Talmud, Shabbat 77b
Rabbi Judah said in the name of Rav: Everything that the Holy One, Blessed Be, created in God’s world — God did not create a single thing in vain.

Psalm 104:10-18
You make springs gush forth in torrents; they make their way between the hills, giving drink to all the wild beast; the wild asses slake their thirst. The birds of the sky dwell beside them and sing among the foliage. You water the mountains from Your lofts; the earth is sated from the fruit of Your work … The trees of the Lord drink their fill, the cedars of Lebanon, [God’s] own planting, where birds make their nest; the stork has her home in the junipers. The high mountains are for wild goats; the crags are a refuge for rock-badgers .

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeb56
Not yours is the earth, but you belong to the earth, to respect it as Divine soil and to deem, every one of its creatures a creature of God, your fellow-being … [consider] the things around you. I lent them to you for wise use only; never forget that I lent them to you. As soon as you use them unwisely, be it the greatest or the smallest, you commit treachery against My world, you commit murder and robbery against My property, you sin against Me!” This is what God calls unto you.

Moreh Nebukhim 1:72, 3:13
It behooves you to represent to yourself in this fashion the whole of this sphere as one living individual, in motion and possessing a soul … It should not be believed that all the beings exist for the sake of the existence of humanity. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of something else.

Leviticus 19:19
You shall not let your cattle mate with a different kind; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed; you shall not put on cloth from a mixture of two kinds of material.)

Nachmanides, commentary to Leviticus 19:19
The reason for the “mixing of seeds” is that God created the species in the world among all that has a soul, among plants and moving creature, and gave them the power of reproduction by which they may sustain themselves forever — for as long as the Blessed One desires the existence of the world. And God commanded that by their power they bring forth [only] after their kind, and that they eternally may never change, as it is said in all of them, “after their kind.”

Deuteronomy 22:6-7
If, along the road, you chance upon a bird’s nest, in any tree or on the ground, with fledglings or eggs and the mother sitting over the fledglings or on the eggs, do not take the mother together with her young, in order that you may fare well and have a long life.

Nachmanides, commentary to Deuteronomy. 22:6
Torah doesn’t permit a killing that would uproot a species, even if it permitted the killing [of individuals] in that species. And here, the one who kills the mother and the child on the same day … it’s as if that person has made that species extinct.

Talmud, Berakhot 58b
The one sees fine creations (people or animals) and fine trees says, “Blessed is the One who has it like this in God’s world!” … Whoever goes out during the days of Nisan and sees trees which are budding should say, “Blessed is the One who left nothing out of God’s world, and created in it wonderful creations and fine trees by which humanity enjoys itself.”

Posted in Articles, Jewish Wisdom

Rabbi Levin is the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in Munster, IN. He received his rabbinic ordination from the Latin American Rabbinical Seminary, and is a member of the Rabbinical Assembly. In 2010, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City for his years of dedicated service to the Conservative movement and the Jewish community...Full bio