Volume 53 Number 45
                    Produced: Thu Dec 28 19:55:53 EST 2006

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Environmentalism (2)
         [Shoshana L. Boublil, Frank Silbermann]
Secular Law vs. Torah Law
         [David and Toby Curwin]
Source of US rights
         [David Charlap]
         [Tzvi Stein]


From: Shoshana L. Boublil <toramada@...>
Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2006 08:48:42 +0200
Subject: Re: Environmentalism

> From: Orrin Tilevitz <tilevitzo@...>
> In response to a request for teshuvot on global warming, 

The issue isn't global warming per se.  From a Jewish point of view, the
question is: what is our role vis a vis the world -- the natural part of

It would appear to be summed up in Bereishit "U'Rdu BeDgat HaYam...."
Man was given government over the natural/animal kingdom.

IIRC, mefarshim discuss the use of the word "Redu" with it's source
meaning of both to rule and to descend.  Many have used this double
meaning to imply that when we don't rule wisely -- we will descend, or
in every day language - suffer.

Let's examine some of the information that has come to light over the
last century:

Left alone, the coral reefs and sea algae have the power to clean our
atmosphere and the sea of any polutants.  The question is how long it
will take, if they survive the initial polution and what will happen to
the other sea life that we rely on for our food while the clean up is
going on.

Trees and other plants are also capable of cleaning up our air and
water.  There are specific types of trees, that when planted on the
banks of polluted rivers, have been found capable of cleaning up the

NASA has published a book based on their research that shows that many
plants not only provide oxygen (which we need to breath) but that they
absorb pollutants found in our homes -- like various gases that eminate
from furniture (and are harmful for our health).  One of the most useful
is actually the Aloe Vera plant, which can even be placed in our
bedrooms, as it supplies oxygen even at night.

Research has proven the existence of "sick buildings" buildings in which
the abundance of furniture, no open windows and air conditioners have
brought about an enormous increase in sick days of those working there.
The solution recommended by NASA and other researchers is the use of
plants to clean up the air.  Further research has proven that this

Jewish tales are filled with stories of spiders saving lives; of bees
saving reputations, of recommendations to examine animal life to learn
some behavior patterns from them and other tales showing that
traditionally, all animal life was considered of great value.  Yes, we
are permitted to eat meat and plants, but I doubt if we really are
allowed to exterminate them.

And then there is Bal Tashchit.  In the past, people reused everything
-- b/c that was the only way to survive.  Bedouins used every single
part of any camel they slaughtered, nothing was wasted.  In our lives,
we have gotten used to the idea of "taking out the trash daily".  Many
things that could be re-used, we don't even try to.  But don't think
that it's impossible.  I read an article several years ago about a farm
in Australia that managed to "take out the trash" only once a month -
when they couldn't get use any more of the plastic containers they used.
There are books and articles that show that even in an urban
environment, we can reach a situation where we throw out far less
garbage than we do now.

The idea is that Hashem wanted us to rule this world.  Us - mankind.
And "Redu" comes to teach us how: proactively, and wisely for the
benefit of both humaninty and nature.

For further information, I would recommend reading up on Permaculture.

Shoshana L. Boublil
Permacultuer Consultant

From: Frank Silbermann <fs@...>
Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2006 09:45:09 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Environmentalism

In v53 n25, <o7532@...> asked about tshuvot on global warming.
While the Torah has answers for everything, getting answers from the
Torah can be a very error-prone task.  Scholars study for decades just
to be able to know the learnings provided by earlier generations of
sages and apply them to very similar situations.  A rabbi dares not
issue halachic judgements outside his area of expertise; which rabbis
today can claim to have mastered all the Mishnaic and Talmudic sources
that pertain to Global Warming and can cite the relevant rulings of the
Rishonim and Acharonim?

Without clear guidance, a sincere rabbi trembles to issue a ruling.
Once a gezera (command) is issued, it may well stand for all future
generations, to be treated like the word of G-d even if the situation
changes and the reasons for the ruling no longer apply.

For example, suppose a rabbi ruled that in the absence of medical
objections we must lower our thermostats in winter to 68 degrees
Fahrenheit.  It is not too difficult to imagine a situation where people
living in a building heated to 70 degrees by the superintendent cannot
lower the temperature to 68 without running their window air-conditioner
in winter -- thus _wasting_ energy!  For the time being, therefore,
discussion of the issue _without_ issuing halachic rulings would seem to
be the prudent course.

Environmentalism is a particularly dangerous area because many actions
motivated by environmental concerns may contradict our ethical
tradition, and even those actions which do not violate halacha may be
policies which would be unwise for Orthodox Jews to promote.

For example, it has been noted that Americans use three times as much
energy per person as the world average -- and perhaps six times as much
as the average third-worlder.  Environmentalism could therefore be a
motivation for preventing people from immigrating to the U.S. from the
third-world -- lest it give them an opportunity to vastly increase their
use of fossil fuel.  Yet, for the safety of Jews living in Mexico I
would not want Orthodox Judaism to be out in front of those demanding
that the government stop Mexicans from crossing the border.

Another concern of environmentalists is overpopulation.  Americans are
barely reproducing themselves; the number of Jews and Europeans is
dwindling, so this is specifically a third-world problem.  Would halacha
permit us to discourage the transfer of medical knowledge and technology
to the third-world -- lest some of the lives saved seek farmland in the
Brazilian rain forest?  Should we agitate for an end to AIDS research?
I am not sure that halacha would permit this, even though I've heard
opinions that "be fruitful and multiply" may not be one of the seven
Noachade laws.  Even if halacha permits, I would not want to see our
rabbis become publicly associated with such a cause.

Of course, most self-proclaimed environmentalists do not advocate these
tactics I've mentioned -- which only goes to show that even
self-proclaimed environmentalists give priority to their pre-existing
political and philosophical concerns over environmentalism.  So we
certainly should not support environmentalist organizations whose
political or philosophical view is harmful (e.g. hostile to Israel).

Some tactics that _are_ currently advocated could also do more harm than
good.  For example, cutting back our own CO2 production will not save
our cities from falling into the sea as the polar ice-caps melt if
third-world countries increase their own CO2 production -- but the wound
to our economies may leave us without the resources necessary to
resettle our cities' inhabitants.

Nevertheless, there are indeed many changes we can and should make to
reduce the danger of Global Warming.  Some are as easy as changing
incandescent bulbs to flourescent.  Others require a very reasonable
degree of sacrifice.  For example, just as we honor Jews of Israel who
risk the bombs of the terrorists, we should honor those American
commuters who put their faith in the seatbelts and airbags of their
little econobox automobiles and HaShem instead of indulging their fears
of collision by driving a luxury gas-guzzler at Israel's expense.  (It
indeed seems to be typical these days for oil-exporting nations to have
wicked governments.)

Frank Silbermann	 Memphis, Tennessee	<fs@...>


From: David and Toby Curwin <tobyndave@...>
Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2006 20:34:16 +0200
Subject: Secular Law vs. Torah Law

 Ari Trachtenberg wrote: 
>  It concerns the conflict between secular law and Torah law, in which
> our traditional unanimously supports the latter at the expense of the
> former (as far as I know).

This is by no means clear cut. As I mentioned before, look at the
Drashot HaRan for Parshat Shoftim, and for more sources (Rashba, Rambam)
and an explanation, read Rav Goren's book on parshat hashavua (parashat

David Curwin
Balashon - Hebrew Language Detective


From: David Charlap <shamino@...>
Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2006 11:50:07 -0500
Subject: Re: Source of US rights

Orrin Tilevitz wrote:
> Third, Daniel has somewhat of a point; in no legal system is there an
> inherent right to freedom of speech--or any freedom for that matter,
> including the freedom to live.  In Germany during the Second World War,
> Jews had no such right under law.  What gives us these freedoms in the
> U.S. is our Constitution. ...

I have no idea what the theory is for other nations, but in the US, this
is not the case.  Rights are not granted by the Constitution.  Several
fundamental rights (like the right to live) are inherent and come from
God.  The legal system exists to guarantee these rights, not to create

This philosophy was best summarized by Jefferson in the Declaration of

	We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
	created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with
	certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty
	and the pursuit of Happiness. ^ That to secure these rights,
	Governments are instituted among Men ...

Note some of the key phrases here:

"endowed by their Creator" - these rights come from God, not from

"...among these are..." - the list provided (life, liberty and pursuit
of happiness) is not an exhaustive list.  There are other unalienable
rights that were not mentioned in addition to these three.

"...to secure these rights, Governments are instituted..." - the purpose
of government is to make sure that these rights are not taken away.  It
is not to grant them.

This philosophy also appears in the US Constitution as the 9th Amendment:

	The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall
	not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the

In other words, people have rights beyond those that are explicitly
stated in the Constitution.  This clearly supports a philosophy that
rights are inherent and are not a creation of government.

This philosophy is one of the things that makes the US legal system
unique.  There are very few other nations that have such a philosophy as
the foundation of their legal system.

-- David


From: Tzvi Stein <Tzvi.Stein@...>
Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2006 07:30:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Zmanim

From: Minden <phminden@...>
>> I was somewhat taken aback about two other zemanim posted. One was for
>> a regular mincha/kabalas Shabbos ONE HOUR after candlelighting
>As a Yekke, I might see this Kabbalat Shabbat novelty more from the
>outside :-) , but I have often wondered about this. You can say Maaref
>shell Shabbes after kiddesh and eating, and according to some, maybe
>even Minche after the shkie. But how can you explicitly be mekabbel
>Shabbes after the shkie?!
>I can't imagine this is even allowed, giving the impression that until
>Lechu nerannena or Lehe cho doho di, it isn't Shabbes yet. This is all
>the more dangerous as a late Kabboles Shabbes/Maaref is more typical of
>shuls that cater for a mixed public of observant and less-observant

Oh, it's allowed all right.  Kabbalas Shabbos is similar to kiddush
halachically, in that just as you can make kiddush either before sunset
(common in the summer months) or after sunset, you can also say Kabbalas
Shabbos before or after sunset.  It is preferable to say it before, so
that you "add to Shabbos" but it is quite common in some shuls for the
Friday Mincha davening to start very close to sunset and for Kabbalas
Shabbos to end up being after sunset... it is not assur, and we don't
concern ourselves that people will get the wrong impression that they
can do melacha until Kabbalas Shabbos is said.

You may be even more surprised to learn that, although not commonly
done, it is allowed to daven the Motzei Shabbos maariv (including "atah
chanantanu") and say Havdala over a cup of wine, on Shabbos afternoon
after Plag HaMincha (omitting the flame).  This is only allowed in cases
where you would not otherwise be able to daven or make havdala (i.e. you
have to depart on a long trip the instant that Shabbos is over).  We are
also not concerned here that people will think Shabbos is over.

I guess the overall reason for this lack of concern in halacha is that
it is assumed that everyone knows that Shabbos is governed by the sun,
so they will not get confused by seeing kiddush, kabalas Shabbos, or
havdala done at "less than ideal" times.


End of Volume 53 Issue 45