December 21, 2014 · 29 Kislev

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Why is this issue important to me as a member of the Jewish community?

Jewish tradition emphasizes many values that speak to our nation’s need for energy policies that are environmentally responsible and that pay due attention to the public health and safety of both present and future generations. Humankind has a solemn obligation to improve the world for future generations. Genesis 2:15 emphasizes our responsibility to protect the integrity of the environment so that its diverse species, including humans, can thrive: “The human being was placed in the Garden of Eden to till it and to tend it.” Similarly, Jewish tradition teaches us that human dominion over nature does not include a license to abuse the environment. The Biblical concept of bal tashchit, “do not destroy,” was further developed by the Talmudic sages into a universal doctrine that mandated that people not waste in all aspects of their lives—from trees to energy.

Energy policy must also be equitable and just, as the Torah commands, “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). The US and other developed countries are most responsible for our greenhouse gas emissions, yet it is often the poorest developing countries that feel the greatest impact of draughts, famine, disease, and other effects of global climate change. Judaism also underscores the moral imperative of protecting the poor and vulnerable: “When one loves righteousness and justice, the Earth is full of the loving-kindness of the Eternal” (Psalms 33:5).

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