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.

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Read more at Tzarich Iyun

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

How European Fecklessness Encourages the Islamic Republic’s Assassination Campaign

In September, Cypriot police narrowly foiled a plot by an Iranian agent to murder five Jewish businessman. This was but one of roughly a dozen similar operations that Tehran has conducted in Europe since 2015—on both Israeli or Jewish and American targets—which have left three dead. Matthew Karnitschnig traces the use of assassination as a strategic tool to the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, and explains its appeal:

In the West, assassination remains a last resort (think Osama bin Laden); in authoritarian states, it’s the first (who can forget the 2017 assassination by nerve agent of Kim Jong-nam, the playboy half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, upon his arrival in Kuala Lumpur?). For rogue states, even if the murder plots are thwarted, the regimes still win by instilling fear in their enemies’ hearts and minds. That helps explain the recent frequency. Over the course of a few months last year, Iran undertook a flurry of attacks from Latin America to Africa.

Whether such operations succeed or not, the countries behind them can be sure of one thing: they won’t be made to pay for trying. Over the years, the Russian and Iranian regimes have eliminated countless dissidents, traitors, and assorted other enemies (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris, Berlin, and even Washington, often in broad daylight. Others have been quietly abducted and sent home, where they faced sham trials and were then hanged for treason.

While there’s no shortage of criticism in the West in the wake of these crimes, there are rarely real consequences. That’s especially true in Europe, where leaders have looked the other way in the face of a variety of abuses in the hopes of reviving a deal to rein in Tehran’s nuclear-weapons program and renewing business ties.

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Read more at Politico

More about: Europe, Iran, Israeli Security, Terrorism