Religion and the Environment

Religion and the Environment

Religion and the Environment: A Campaign to Raise Awareness of the Environment and Discover Common Ground in the Judeo-Christian and Buddhist Communities

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


Until now, I have never realized how much of Judaism is directly connected with nature. A lot (if not most) of the Old Testament deals with nature as a means of protection or ultimate destruction. Some philosophers believe that god's order of creation is a natural hierarchy. Plants and vegetation were created on the third day, animals on the fifth and man on the sixth. Thus, man is the a top of the ladder and the other creatures in the bottom rungs. But if you look closely at the stories in the old testament, it seems that nature is often more powerful than man and can dictate the direction of a situation. Examples are:

-Noah's ark and the flood that destroyed the world
-The tree of knowledge that serves as the force behind Adam and Eve's dismissal from Eden
-Moses's striking of the rock in the dessert that led to his denied access to Israel
-The red sea (while the waters were parted for the Israelites, the Egyptians later drowned when the walls closed on them)
-Korach (a rebel of the Israelites and Moses in the desert) and his followers were "swallowed" by the earth when it opened up (our guess is more like an earth quake)

But, nature also serves as a means that saves mankind and helps in situations at hand. Examples are:
-the reeds and Nile that carried/protected Moses when he was a child
-The covenant of the rainbow after the flood
-Joseph's dreams dealt with heaps of barley and the stars
-The cave that hid David hid in (and the story that spiders helped to spin a web in the entrance to give the illusion that no one had entered)
-when god appears before the Israelite or Moses, he has been a burning bush, pillar of smoke, or a pillar of fire

While there are more examples in the bible, this is just a taste of how important a role nature plays in the stories.

On another note, I have found many articles about Judaism and nature. Beyond he basic study of Judiasm and its texts comes the zohar which is the main text of kabbalah, a spiritual part of Judaism that many say you should not study until you are 40. While this area is far more complex, i will try to look into this source to gain a greater knowledge of the environments role in the spiritual aspect of Judaism.

I have found a few interesting websites. There is an organization called "Jews in the woods" that allows Jewish people to connect to their spiritual side by engaging in weekend long retreats in the woods. I am going to try to contact the facility to conduct an interview to gain more information in this area. their website is

This week I will be meeting with Rabbi Neil Gillman at the Jewish Theological Seminary. He is one of the foremost authorities in Jewish philosophies and is studied around the world. After I meet with him, there will be more to report on this area. Also, Eliav Bock (a third year rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary) has agreed to provide me with many materials relating to the environment and Judaism. He has worked at a Jewish Summer camp for over 7 years in the area of teva (meaning nature in Hebrew) and as a tripper (a leader for overnight trips in parks and crown land). Many of the trips he leads are centered around a Judaic aspect and he has agreed to share his sources with me for the project. To conclude, here are a few more sites that I have found containing information. Hopefully I will be joining Jessie and Diane in our travel to the Garrison Institute to learn about Buddhism. I am very excited and grateful for this opportunity and hope that it will enhance my understanding for our project.

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