Shabbat and Environmental Awareness

Rejuvenating Ourselves and Our Planet

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The society that rests and reflects the least is the same society that extracts and consumes the most. This mastery of the earth without sufficient contemplation of its consequences has extincted species, altered the climate, and polluted the air.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development, comprised of executives committed to sustainability from major international corporations, notes that global consumption levels and patterns are primarily driven by three factors: rapid global population growth, the rise in global affluence and associated consumption, “a culture of 'consumerism' among higher income groups, who account for the greatest per capita share of global consumption.” The report continues that “global consumption is putting unsustainable and increasing stress on the Earth’s ecosystems. 60% of the Earth’s ecosystem services have been degraded in the past 50 years. Natural resource consumption is expected to rise to 170% of the Earth’s bio-capacity by 2040.”

Shabbat offers great potential to reduce consumption and thereby benefit the natural world. The act of shutting off a computer or car for a day contains environmental meaning far beyond the energy saved from not using these devices for one day. The deeper significance of the act centers on the reorientation that can occur from outward focus to inward focus, from reading from screens and Blackberries to reading from scrolls and books, from communicating via technology to communicating face to face.

Shabbat can create holy space in our lives and inner peace in ourselves to reveal the sanctity that can get hidden by the stress of day-to-day life. By moving us from incessant doing to the pleasure of being present with the Source of all existence, Shabbat can transform our lives. We will then become more aware of our surroundings, and take better care of G-d’s creation. Let us connect to this potential for renewal and rejuvenation and help bring tikkun olam, repair of the world, to ourselves -- and our planet.

This material was produced as part of the Jewcology project. Jewcology.com is a new web portal for the global Jewish environmental community. Thanks to the ROI community for their generous support, which made the Jewcology project possible. 

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Rabbi Yonatan Neril founded and directs Jewish Eco Seminars, which engages and educates the Jewish community with Jewish environmental wisdom. He has worked with Canfei Nesharim for the past six years in developing educational resources relating to Judaism and the environment.