Israel Forever

For the week ending 17 February 2007 / 29 Shevat 5767

Religion and the Environment

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
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"New Environmental Group Aims to Enlist Chareidim" read the headline of a recent story on awareness in chareidi (very observant) circles of protecting the environment.

The Torah's concern for the environment finds perhaps its most practical expression in what we learn in this week's Torah portion about the responsibility one has for creating an obstacle on public property.

"The owner of the pit shall pay for the damage he caused" (Shmot 21:34) is the succinct manner in which the Torah sums up the responsibilities of hole-diggers and litterers who endanger the public.

A new organization whose catchy name has a double meaning has launched a campaign to increase the awareness of the chareidi community in Israel to these dangers and to other environmental issues such as recycling, air and noise pollution, and the effects of cellular phone antennas.

"Chareidim for the Environment" means that chareidi Jews are the target for the new organization's efforts but it also means that these Jews are indeed "chareidim" (the Hebrew word for "fearful") about the lack of concern for the environment shown by the general public.

The new organization held its first conference in Bnei Brak in early January with the participation of the Tel Aviv Chief Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau and Environment Minister Gideon Ezra.

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