The Obligation to Create New Generations Produces an Obligation to Preserve the World for Them

Nov. 23 2021

Inspired not so much by the spectacle of diplomats and heads of state riding their jets to Glasgow for a climate-change conference as by the fact that this year is shmitah, during which the Bible forbids reaping and sowing, Rabbi Benayahu Tavila reflects on what duties ḥaredi Jews have toward the environment. Tavila sees as a key source for such a duty a classical rabbinic commentary to Ecclesiastes, which has God telling Adam, “Beware that you should not destroy and ruin my world.” But this duty is not absolute; rather it stands in tension with the biblical command to “fill the earth and subdue it.”

What is the cost of humanity’s extractive invasion of nature? One cost is to our self-image. Having conquered technological peaks that were hitherto science-fiction at best, we now see ourselves as being capable of virtually anything. Society sees neither technological nor (given the great benefits) moral limits to its progress, and therefore no limits to how much human beings ought to manipulate nature. But we should always remember that we do not own the earth. God does. He made the world a certain way. Harm to creation consists in destroying the capacities with which it is endowed by God.

There is a point at which the planet will not be sufficiently able to replenish itself for our children and grandchildren to enjoy what we enjoy. Technological progress without restraint means living at the expense of the unborn. This is neither halalkhically acceptable nor morally permissible.

Thus, unlike some secular environmentalists who see human procreation as itself a threat to the planet, Tavila sees in the divine command to populate the earth an obligation to preserve it:

The human’s ability to rule the world derives from his similarity to God. . . . But the commandment of conquest and dominion follows from an earlier instruction to to “be fruitful and multiply.” The plain meaning of the text refers to another, additional aspect: the ability to create, and especially to procreate. Adam himself creates “in his own image and likeness.” Even man creates in God’s image.

Our basic responsibility to the world derives from our responsibility to observe the commandment to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth,” . . . and this commandment itself requires us to ensure we leave future generations with resources.

Read more at Tzarich Iyun

More about: Environmentalism, Genesis, Haredim, Jewish environmentalism, Judaism, Shmita, Technology

Israel’s Covert War on Iran’s Nuclear Program Is Impressive. But Is It Successful?

Sept. 26 2023

The Mossad’s heist of a vast Iranian nuclear archive in 2018 provided abundant evidence that Tehran was not adhering to its commitments; it also provided an enormous amount of actionable intelligence. Two years later, Israel responded to international inspectors’ condemnation of the Islamic Republic’s violations by using this intelligence to launch a spectacular campaign of sabotage—a campaign that is the subject of Target Tehran, by Yonah Jeremy Bob and Ilan Evyatar. David Adesnik writes:

The question that remains open at the conclusion of Target Tehran is whether the Mossad’s tactical wizardry adds up to strategic success in the shadow war with Iran. The authors give a very respectful hearing to skeptics—such as the former Mossad director Tamir Pardo—who believe the country should have embraced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. Bob and Evyatar reject that position, arguing that covert action has proven itself the best way to slow down the nuclear program. They acknowledge, however, that the clerical regime remains fully determined to reach the nuclear threshold. “The Mossad’s secret war, in other words, is not over. Indeed, it may never end,” they write.

Which brings us back to Joe Biden. The clerical regime was headed over a financial cliff when Biden took office, thanks to the reimposition of sanctions after Washington withdrew from the nuclear deal. The billions flowing into Iran on Biden’s watch have made it that much easier for the regime to rebuild whatever Mossad destroys in addition to weathering nationwide protests on behalf of women, life, and freedom. Until Washington and Jerusalem get on the same page—and stay there—Tehran’s nuclear ambitions will remain an affordable luxury for a dictatorship at war with its citizens.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, Mossad, U.S. Foreign policy