Author Archives: Rabbi Shaul D Judelman

Rabbi Shaul D Judelman

About Rabbi Shaul D Judelman

Rabbi Shaul David Judelman spent six years in the Bat Ayin Yeshiva Rabbinical program and now teaches at Yeshivat Simchat Shlomo while working on several different environmental initiatives in Jerusalem. He is the founder and coordinator of Simchat Shlomo's Eco-Activist Beit Midrash, a program offering holistic in-depth Torah study around issues of ecology.

Taking Notice in Our Time

Provided by Canfei Nesharim, providing Torah wisdom about the importance of protecting our environment.

The original Jewish geography, according to our mystical tradition, has three components–Place, Time, and Soul (Olam, Shanah, and Nefesh). These are the basic dimensions in which we exist and interact with our world.

Environmental thought often dwells in the realm of place, as clearly the physical world has inherent ecological import. Therefore, when we read the Torah for its environmental wisdom, we usually look for passages relating to land or material goods.

canfei nesharimIn the Torah portion Bo, however, our attention turns to time: “This month will be to you the head of the months (Exodus 12:2).”  An exploration of this unique mitzvah can reveal profound insights into the Jewish nature of time, and unlock the secret of how the realm of time is also of deep environmental significance.

The First Mitzvah

The commandment to mark the month of Nisan is the very first mitzvah given to the Jewish people as a whole. While still in Egypt the people are commanded to note the month so that they may prepare to observe the first Passover at the time of the Exodus.

This mitzvah is so significant that Rashi‘s first question on the entire Torah (Genesis 1:1) is: if the Torah is the book of the Jewish people’s Divine Law, why doesn’t it start with Parashat Bo? We know that it does not; we go through the whole process of the book of Genesis before arriving to this place of mitzvah. But what is so crucial about the awareness of the new month that it holds the significance of being the Torah’s first mitzvah?

Conceptions of Time

In some of the environmental movement’s writings on religion, what has been called the “Judeo-Christian” conception of time as a linear progression comes under attack. In such a view, history moves towards a culmination of God’s plan–the attainment of an ultimate, eternal good, far beyond that which is accessible in this world. Herein, we find our “end.”

The conception of time as cyclical is considered primitive, oblivious to the reality of a final, heavenly Truth. One of the tasks of Jewish environmentalism is to grapple with this version of religious belief and question whether Judaism really sees time and nature this way.

The Song of the Land

Provided by Canfei Nesharim, providing Torah wisdom about the importance of protecting our environment.

The Environmental movement that has sprung forth from the West bears many imprints of the same paradigms of thought that have led to the environmental crisis itself. There is a tendency to rush towards results and overlook the process required to organically arrive at those results, and part of our work in healing is to redress these internalized ways of thinking to arrive at a truly sustainable way of living. Through the Torah, this lesson of process can be learned.

canfei nesharimAt the beginning of Parashat Miketz we hear of Pharoah’s prophetic dream: seven robust cows devoured by seven frail ones. The signs seem clear for all to see: seven good and seven so bad they devour the good that was. It is a vision that perhaps foretells of our human endeavors with technology: a golden age of Enlightenment and invention, industrialization and higher qualities of life, now quivering under the unknown threat of today’s environmental crisis.

Why weren’t the Egyptians able to understand the dream? Upon hearing Joseph’s interpretation, it seems fairly clear. Was it myopia? Was it denial? How do we as environmentalists, aware of the “dreams” (predictions) of our scientists, share the interpretation?

The challenge of “giving over the bad news” is something environmentalists have been struggling with for the last 30 years. With news that nobody wants to hear, how do we spread the message? And as our goal is not to share bad news, but rather to inspire, motivate, and guide necessary changes that society and individuals need to make–how do we achieve this?

Action & Spirit

The environmental movement faces this challenge to catalyze change in two distinct realms: action and spirit. In the realm of action, consumer patterns, industrial pollution, and carbon footprints are the terms of discourse and site of change.

But in a broader perspective those actions are the result of a deeper problem: an imbalance of spirit, or exile. If our lifestyle is out of balance with the ecosystems we inhabit, is it fair to assume that our inner dimensions are also out of balance? And while we are seeing great advances and potential in addressing the action side of our crisis, is enough attention being paid to the inner dimensions of disconnect?