BP, Moshe's Staff, and Jewish Environmentalism

This is a guest column by Rabbi Da-vid Rosenthal, from Aish Minnesota.
If I were to mention using a man-made tool to extract liquid from the Earth, what current news item would you immediately think of?
Funnily enough, that is a pretty good description of Moshe’s major blunder in this week’s Parsha. (hitting the rock with his staff to draw out water).
Today’s society holds environmentalism as a pretty high priority. The spill in the Gulf of Mexico has been on the front pages of the news in a way not seen by most other tragedies in the recent past(except of course for Israel’s flotilla incident).
The movie Avatar that made history at the box office, had a theme of Pantheism running through it. A lot of society connects deeply with the values laid out in the film.
In fact, I’ve even heard of people criticizing those with large families. Don’t you realize that the more kids you have, the larger your carbon footprint is? The more kids, the more resources you consume, the more pollution in the world.
Here is a quote from an article in the Sunday Times in London.

“I am unapologetic about asking people to connect up their own responsibility for their total environmental footprint and how they decide to procreate… I think we will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible”

There once was a man who needed to get to another city. He decided to hire a coach to take him in style. It was a long and potentially dangerous journey, so going with a coach was the safest bet. When people heard he was travelling to the city, they asked him to do them a favor and bring an item or two along with him. Before long, the coach was stuffed to the brim with different items needing to be delivered. In fact, it was so full, there was no more room for the man. The coach driver turned to the man and said: “Sorry mate, looks like you’re going to have to wait ‘til I get back”.
“WHAT!?” Exclaimed the man. “I’m the very reason this coach is going in the first place! Without me, there’s no reason for the carriage to drive!”
That in a word is Judaism’s take on environmentalism.

Oil Patterns


The ultimate purpose of Creation is man’s connection to Hashem. That was the reason behind the creation of every blade of grass, every star in the solar system, and every mollusk on every rock. G-d created man to be the center point of creation. Everything is here to facilitate man’s relationship with Hashem.
Of course, we need to be responsible with our environment, and not abuse it, but when there is a conflict between one or the other, man comes first – by far. It is not even a competition.
Nature is not an ends in itself, it is merely a means. A tool to be used to connect us with our Creator through seeing His Greatness in all that He made.
When we loose focus on our priorities, the outcomes can be disastrous.
May we all take care of our environment, but also recognize that it is merely a vehicle for our self actualization. Good Shabbos!
(Photos: Futureatlas.com, Arenamontanus)