After the Flood

After the Flood

Oct 28, 2022 By Alisa Braun | Commentary | Noah

Today it’s common to find divrei torah that use Parashat Noah to raise awareness about our impact on the environment. Yet I recently discovered a voice from the first stirrings of modernity that seemed to already intuit, within a theological framework, the devastating impact of humans on the global environment. For Obadiah Sforno (1475–1550), the “lawlessness” during the days of Noah did not just cause God to flood to earth. It was a force capable of ruining the climate and planet, and thereby shaping the course of human history ever after.

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The World of Creation in Each of Us

The World of Creation in Each of Us

Oct 21, 2022 By Israel Gordan | Commentary | Bereishit

One of the most well-known, and controversial, passages in the Torah comes after God creates man and woman: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea the birds of the sky, and all living things that creep on earth’” (Gen. 1:28).

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Gene Editing and the Transformation of Human Life: Perspectives from Jewish Ethics

Gene Editing and the Transformation of Human Life: Perspectives from Jewish Ethics

Nov 21, 2019 By The Jewish Theological Seminary | Public Event video

Revolutionary technology known as CRISPR has enabled scientists to change human genes, holding great medical promise. But it also raises significant ethical questions. Should there be restrictions on the development of this technology? How can we avoid abuse? Should we be able to design human beings and control evolution? Join us to explore these vital issues from the perspective of Jewish ethics.

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Don’t Wait Until Next Week

Don’t Wait Until Next Week

Oct 25, 2019 By Burton L. Visotzky | Commentary | Bereishit

Authored together with Karenna Gore, Director, Center for Earth Ethics, Union Theological Seminary

The Earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all its inhabitants. God founded it upon the oceans and set it on the rivers. (Psalm 24:1-2)

As the Jewish community once more begins its annual reading of the Torah, and as we recount the grandeur of God’s creation, we focus on God’s charge to newly created humanity: “The Lord God took Adam and placed him in the Garden of Eden, to serve and protect it.” (Gen. 2:15, authors’ translations).

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Human Lives and the Natural World

Human Lives and the Natural World

Oct 18, 2019 By Shuly Rubin Schwartz | Commentary | Sukkot

For many of us who live in dense metropolitan areas, spending time in national parks gives us a unique opportunity to experience in more immediate fashion the majesty of our world. Vacationing in the Canadian Rockies this past summer—hiking in the mountains, walking on glaciers, boating in deep blue lakes, cooling off in the spray of gorgeous waterfalls, identifying rare birds and seeing moose, elk, deer, and the occasional bear (thankfully from a distance)—I felt awed and fortunate to behold this.

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Remember the Land

Remember the Land

May 31, 2019 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Behukkotai

Spring is my favorite season because it draws me outdoors, enticing me to leave the city and enjoy the rivers, fields, and mountains of this glorious earth. Even near the city I often find myself in nature, biking along the Hudson and up the Palisades past waterfalls and nesting eagles. Returning to the land reminds me of the many blessings of our world, filling me with gratitude and awe. It also causes foreboding since the signs of stress on the natural systems that make our lives possible are everywhere evident. While this era of anthropogenic climate change may be new, the concern that human conduct could lead to ruin and exile from the earth is found already in our Torah portion.

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Entering the Clouds of Glory

Entering the Clouds of Glory

Mar 8, 2019 By Daniel Nevins | Commentary | Pekudei

“What do you mean, Rabbi? The clouds are mysterious—it’s like being on Sinai!” This statement by a rabbinical student consoled me several years ago on the summit of Giant Mountain in the Adirondacks. Each fall I take a minyan or so of students hiking for the weekend, and on that day, we had spent many hours climbing this enormous peak. On the way up, we enjoyed stunning views—of an alpine lake called “the Giant’s Washbowl” and the Great Range looming across the valley to our south. But when we reached the top of Giant a thick cloud had parked itself on the summit and would not budge. Visibility was limited to about ten feet, and wisps of mist skimmed between us.

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Holy Work for God’s Creation

Holy Work for God’s Creation

Feb 15, 2019 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Tetzavveh

The most important headline of the week (and perhaps the year) did not appear in the top right column of the New York Times last Thursday. That spot—traditionally reserved for the lead story—was given over to the troubles facing the governor of Virginia, a scandal likely to be resolved and forgotten in a matter of weeks. Not so the fact that “the five warmest years in recorded history have been the last five, and that 18 of the 19 warmest years have occurred since 2001.” This story is likely to shape human history—and the life of the planet—for many years to come; it now seems indisputable that “the quickly rising temperatures . . . correspond with the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity.”

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