November 9, 2005

11/10/05 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. Chanukkah and Vegetarianism (a Letter and Two Articles)/Suggestions Welcome

2. Message From the “Zoo Rabbi” Re Reducing Extinction of Animals

3. Can Cooperation on Water Resources Promote Peaceful Relations in the Middle East

4. Yosef Hakohen’s Letter on Human Nutrition in the Garden of Eden

5. Hazon Bike Ride Registration Open/Hazon Learning Projects

6. Raising Dairy Cows in Israel

7. Help Wanted for Constructing a Vegetarian Retreat

8. Canfei Nesharim (Jewish Orthodox Environmental Group) Announces New York Event and Publication of Environmental Volume

9. Los Angeles Jewish Vegetarian Group Announces Event

10. Your Vote Can Help Improve Israel’s Environment

11. An Addition to Last Issue’s Humor Section

12. When Cleaner Air Is a Biblical Obligation

14. Victory: Trader Joe's Goes Cage-Free with Its Brand of Eggs

15. Another Article on Judaism and Vegetarianism/Please Write

16. Great Humorous Vegetarian Thanksgiving E-Card

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Chanukkah and Vegetarianism (a Letter and Two Articles)/Suggestions Welcome

This is somewhat early, but I am thinking of sending the material below to the Jewish media soon. So, if you have any suggestions for improvements, please let me know. Thanks. Please feel free to share with others and to use the material below as a basis of your own letters, articles, and talking points.

Dear Editor:

This year, I hope that Jews will enhance their celebrations of the
beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Chanukah by making it a
time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism's highest moral
values and teachings by moving toward a vegetarian diet.

Chanukah commemorates the miracle of the oil that was enough for only one day, but miraculously lasted for eight days. A switch to
vegetarianism on the part of the world's people could result in another great miracle: the end of the scandal of world hunger, which results in the death of an estimated 20 million people annually, while over a third of the world's grain is fed to animals destined for slaughter.

The miracle of the oil brings the use of fuel and other resources into focus, and vegetarian diets make resources go much further, since far less water, fuel, land, pesticides, fertilizer, and other agricultural resources are required for plant-based diets than for animal-centered diets. In addition a switch toward vegetarian diets would greatly benefit the health of individuals and would sharply reduce the present mistreatment of billions of farmed animals.


Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Chanukah and Vegetarianism
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Many connections can be made between vegetarianism and the Jewish festival of Chanukah:

1) According to the Book of Maccabees, some Maccabees lived on plant foods since they were unable to get kosher meat when they hid in the mountains to avoid capture.

2) The foods associated with Channukah, latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (fried donuts) are vegetarian foods, and the oils that are used in their preparation are a reminder of the oil used in the lighting of the Menorah in the rededication of the Temple after the Maccabean victory.

3) Chanukah represents the triumph of non-conformity. The Maccabees stuck to their inner beliefs, rather than conforming to external pressure. They were willing to say: This I believe, this I stand for, this I am willing to struggle for. Today, vegetarians represent non-conformity. At a time when most people in the wealthier countries think of animal products as the main part of their meals, when the number of McDonald's and similar fast food establishments are growing rapidly, when almost all celebrations involve an abundance of animal products, vegetarians are resisting and insisting that there is a better, healthier, more humane diet.

4) Chanukah represents the victory of the few, who practiced God's teachings, over the many, who acted according to the values of the surrounding society. Today vegetarians are a very small minority in most countries, but they believe that, consistent with God's original diet (Genesis 1:29), and religious mandates to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, preserve natural resources, and share with hungry people, vegetarianism is the dietary approach most consistent with Jewish values.

5) Chanukah commemorates the miracle of the oil that was enough for only one day, but miraculously lasted for eight days. A switch to vegetarianism on the part of the world's people could help cause an even greater miracle: the end of the scandal of world hunger which results in the death of an estimated 20 million people annually, while over a third of the world's grain is fed to animals destined for slaughter.

6) It is interesting that the ratio of eight days that the oil burned compared to the one day of burning capacity that the oil had is the same ratio (8 to 1) that is often given for the pounds of grain that are necessary to add a pound to a cow in a feed lot (a ratio of 16 to 1 is often given for the amount of edible beef produced). The miracle of the oil brings the use of fuel and other resources into focus, and vegetarian diets make resources go much further, since far less water, fuel, land, pesticides, fertilizer, and other agricultural resources are required for plant-based diets than for animal-centered diets.

7) Chanukah also commemorates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem after it was defiled by the Syrian-Greeks. The Hebrew root of the word Chanukah means dedication. Today, a shift to vegetarianism can be a major factor in the rededication and renewal of Judaism, because it would show that Jewish values are relevant to everyday Jewish life and to addressing current problems, such as hunger, pollution, resource scarcity, global climate change, and huge health care expenditures.

8) Candles are lit during each night of Chanukah, symbolizing a turning from darkness to light, from despair to hope. According to the prophet Isaiah, the role of Jews is to be a "light unto the nations" (Isaiah 42:6). Vegetarianism can be a way of adding light to the darkness of a world with slaughterhouses, factory farms, and vivisection laboratories, as well as other symbols of oppression.

9) Chanukah commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from the Syrian Greeks. So, today, vegetarianism can be a step toward deliverance from modern problems such as hunger, pollution, and resource scarcities.

10) On the Sabbath during Chanukah, the prophetic portion indicates that difficulties can best be overcome "not by might and not by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6). Today, Jewish vegetarians are arguing that the way to a better, less violent world is not by exercising our power over animals, but by applying the spirit of God, "whose tender mercies are over all of His creatures" (Psalm 145:9).

11) The Hebrew root of the word Chanukah also means education, Jewish vegetarians believe that if Jews were educated about the horrible realities of factory farming and the powerful Jewish mandates about taking care of our health, showing compassion to animals, protecting the environment, conserving resources, and helping hungry people, they would seriously consider switching to vegetarian diets.

12) At the morning services during each day of Chanukah, there is a recitation of Hallel, the psalms of praise from Psalm 113 to 118. During the Sabbath of Chanukah and every other Sabbath during the year, the morning service has a prayer that begins, "The soul of all living creatures shall praise God's name". Yet, it is hard for animals to join in the praise of God when in the United States alone almost 10 billion animals are killed annually for their flesh after suffering from cruel treatment on factory farms.

In view of these and other connections, I hope that Jews will enhance their celebrations of the beautiful and spiritually meaningful holiday of Chanukah by making it a time to begin striving even harder to live up to Judaism’s highest moral values and teachings by moving toward a vegetarian diet.

Second article:
Miracles of Chanukah
Daniel Brook, Ph.D. & Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.

Hope springs eternal. Indeed, it’s always been an integral part of Jewish history, spirituality, and politics. Without hope, there wouldn’t be a Chanukah; without hope, there might not even be a Jewish community.

Jewish survival is a miracle of hope. Increasing light at the darkest time of the year to celebrate Chanukah and Jewish survival is also a miracle. This year, we hope for another miracle.

We hope that Jews will enhance their celebrations of this ancient, beautiful, and spiritually-meaningful holiday of Chanukah by making it a time to strive even harder to live up to Judaism’s highest moral values and teachings. We certainly don’t need more “things”; instead, we need more meaning, purpose, and spirit. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this. One significant way is by moving towards a vegetarian diet.

Chanukah commemorates the single container of sacred oil—expected to be enough for only one day—which miraculously lasted for eight days in the rededicated Temple. A switch to vegetarianism on the part of the world’s people could help bring about another great miracle: the end of the tragedy of world hunger and therefore the survival of tens of millions of people annually. Currently, over a third of the world’s grain, and about three-quarters of major crops in the U.S. (e.g., corn, wheat, soybeans, oats), is fed to animals destined for slaughter, while about one billion poor people suffer from malnutrition and its effects, tens of thousands of them consequently dying each day.

The miracle of the oil brings the use of fuel and other resources into focus. Vegetarianism allows resources to go much further, since far less oil, water, land, topsoil, chemicals, labor, and other agricultural resources are required for plant-based diets than for animal-centered diets, while far less waste and pollution are produced. For example, it requires approximately 78 calories of non-renewable fossil fuel for each calorie of protein obtained from factory-farmed beef, but only 2 calories of fossil fuel to produce a calorie of protein from soybeans. Reducing our use of oil by shifting away from the mass production and consumption of meat—thereby making supplies last longer, freeing us from our dangerous dependence on oil—would surely be a fitting way to celebrate the miracles of Chanukah.

In addition to resource conservation and economic efficiency, a switch toward vegetarian diets would greatly benefit the health of individuals, the condition of our environment, and would sharply reduce the suffering and death of billions of animals. Further, the social and psychological benefits should not be underestimated. Many people who switch to a vegetarian diet report feeling physically, emotionally, and spiritually better.

According to the Book of Maccabees, some Maccabees lived on plant foods—to “avoid being polluted”—when they hid in the mountains to escape capture. Further, the two major foods associated with Chanukah, latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (donuts), are vegetarian foods, as is chocolate gelt, and the vegetable oils that are used in their preparation are a reminder of the vegetable oil (olive) used in the lighting of the Temple’s Menorah.

Chanukah represents the victory of the idealistic and courageous few, over the seemingly invincible power and dominant values of the surrounding society. We learn through both study and history that might does not make right, even if it sometimes rules the moment. “Not by might and not by power, but by spirit”, says Zechariah 4:6, part of the prophetic reading for Shabbat Chanukah. Today, vegetarians are relatively few in number and farmed animals are powerless to defend themselves, but the highest ideals and spirit of Judaism are on their side.

Chanukah also represents the triumph of non-conformity. The Maccabees fought for their inner beliefs, rather than conforming to external pressure. They were willing to say: this we believe, this we stand --or, this we are willing to struggle for. Like the Maccabees, vegetarians represent this type of progressive non-conformity. At a time when most people, especially in wealthier countries, think of animal products as the main part of their meals, vegetarians are resisting and insisting that there is a better, healthier, more environmentally sustainable, and ethical choice.

Candles are lit for each of the eight nights of Chanukah, symbolizing a turning from darkness to light, from despair to hope, from oppression to miracles. According to the prophet Isaiah, the role of Jews is to be a “light unto the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). Vegetarianism can be a way of adding light and hope to the darkness of a world still suffering with slaughterhouses and factory farms—and their attendant negative consequences—as well as to other symbols of violence and oppression.

The word Chanukah means dedication, while the Hebrew root of the word means education. Each year, we should re-educate ourselves about the horrible realities of factory farming and slaughterhouses, as well as re-dedicate our inner temples by practicing the powerful Jewish teachings about respecting life, taking care of our health, showing compassion to animals, protecting our environment, conserving resources, helping hungry people, being kind and righteous, and pursuing peace and justice.

Chanukah commemorates the deliverance of the Jews from the Syrian-Greeks. In our time, vegetarianism can be a step toward deliverance of society from various modern assaults and tragedies, such as world hunger, heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, deforestation, pollution, global warming, species extinction, resource depletion, rising health care costs, and lost productivity, among others.

One way to achieve the wonderful aspirations of Judaism is by switching to a vegetarian diet. A shift to vegetarianism can be a major factor in the rededication and renewal of Judaism, as it would further demonstrate that Jewish values are not only relevant but essential to everyday life and survival.

The letters on a diaspora dreidel are an acronym for nes gadol hayah sham, a great miracle happened there. May the celebration of this holiday inspire another miracle here.

Have a happy, healthy, and miraculous Chanukah!

For more information, please visit the Jewish Vegetarians of North America web site at and The Vegetarian Mitzvah site at

Daniel Brook, Ph.D., is an instructor of sociology in the San Francisco Bay Area, an author of dozens of articles and a forthcoming book, and a member of the Advisory Committee of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. He can be contacted at

Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D, is the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and over 100 articles located at He is President of Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) and Coordinator of the Society of Ethical and Religious Vegetarians (SERV).

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2. Message From the “Zoo Rabbi” Re Reducing Extinction of Animals

Dear Zoo Torah reader:

The following essay is extracted and adapted from my forthcoming book, Man and Beast: Torah Perspectives And Laws Concerning Man's Relationship With The Animal Kingdom. This book is being prepared for release within the next few months. If you would be able to assist with the publication of this book, dedication opportunities are available. Please write to me at for details. Thank you!

[including this article is not an endorsement of zoos, but of the valuable ideas re the conservation of animals in the article.]

- Rabbi Natan Slifkin

The Religion of Conservation

Part One

I. Conservation - Why Bother?

There are all kinds of endangered birds that require protection nowadays, including the bald eagle, spotted owl, and California condor. Recently, a man was indicted for shooting and eating a California condor. At the trial, he protested that it was the first time he had done anything of this sort, that he had no idea what type of bird it was, and that he had no idea that it was a protected species. The judge let him off, but as they were leaving the court, the judge stopped him and asked, "Tell me, I'm so curious, what did the condor taste like?" "Well," said the man, "It was kind of like a cross between bald eagle and spotted owl."

Joking aside, many people take conservation very seriously. The World Wildlife Fund, one of the largest conservation organizations, has an annual budget of over $300 million, a staff of nearly four thousand and over five million supporters worldwide. The statistics on endangered and extinct species are frightening. The most numerous bird ever, the passenger pigeon of the United States, which numbered some four billion birds in the nineteenth century, was hunted entirely to extinction by 1914. Even prominent creatures are few in number - there are only around ten thousand lions left in the entire world. Every second, one and a half acres of rainforest are cut down. Every twenty minutes, another species of animal or plant goes extinct - a total of 27,000 per year.

But why is conservation important? People are very passionate about it, but why should mankind exert enormous effort and expense to save animals from extinction? What difference does it make if the spotted owl and the California condor become extinct? And does Judaism have anything to say about conservation?

II. The Value of Creatures

One basic reason for conservation is the utilitarian value of the world for us. Animals and plants can be of tremendous value to mankind in many different ways.

"Even things which appear to you to be superfluous in the world, such as flies, fleas and mosquitoes, are also part of the creation of the world, and God performs His operations through the agency of all of them, even through a snake, mosquito or frog." - Midrash Bereishis Rabbah 10:7

There are famous stories along these lines. The Talmud recounts how the wicked Roman emperor Titus was killed by a mosquito that tunneled into his brain. The Midrash describes how King David asked God about the necessity of such creatures as spiders; he was answered when a spider helped him escape from his pursuers, by spinning a web across the mouth of the cave in which he had just hidden, thereby convincing his pursuers that the cave must be empty. This is not necessarily to say that the entire species was created just for the acts of these individuals. Rather, these should be seen as examples of how even apparently useless and unpleasant things are beneficial.

The benefits of the natural world fall into several different categories. First, there are practical physical benefits. Some of these are widely known, such as the meat that we eat and the wool that we wear. [Even a rabbi who is so knowledgable re Jewish teachings on animals can miss certain connections.] But it is not only farm animals that are of benefit to man. Even creatures that seem repulsive and useless can provide physical benefits:

"Of everything that the Holy One created in His world, He did not create anything in vain. He created the snail as a cure for scabs, the fly as an antidote for hornet stings, the mosquito as an antidote for snakebite, snakes as a cure for sores, and spiders as an antidote for the stings of scorpions." - Talmud, Shabbos 77b

Scientists often study obscure creatures and plants from rainforests, looking for new molecules and new drugs. The results are often surprising. The rosy periwinkle, a delicate pink flower originally from Madagascar, is used to make highly successful treatments for leukemia and Hodgkin's disease. Cancer fighting molecules are obtained from the liver of the dogfish shark. Almost fifty per cent of our medications are derived from plants, and most modern drugs were developed from them. But it is not only in the field of medicine that the natural world contains solutions to our problems. Yields of oil from oil palms in Malaysia improved by a value of one hundred million dollars in less than two years when a small beetle was introduced from Cameroon to pollinate them. The Talmud's statement concerning the importance of bugs is echoed in contemporary times:

"In the future perhaps the best reason for studying insects in rainforests will not be because of their intrinsic interest to entomologists or their harm to man, but because of their potential benefits." - Andrew Mitchell, The Enchanted Canopy (London: Collins 1986)

It is not only physical benefits that are provided by animals. They can even be of spiritual benefit. One of these benefits is the inspiration that we are enjoined to draw from the beauty and wonder of the natural world:

"This honored and awesome God - it is a mitzvah to love Him and to fear Him... And how does one come to love and fear Him? When man contemplates the great wonders of His deeds and creations, and he perceives from them His boundless and infinite wisdom, instantly he loves and praises and gives glory, and he has a great desire to know God... And when he contemplates these matters, he instantly recoils and is in awe, and he knows that he is a small, dismal, lowly creature, standing with a minuscule weakness of intellect before the Perfect Wisdom..." - Rambam, Yad HaChazakah, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:1-2

This benefit is enhanced by the sheer volume and diversity of the natural world. Every new and novel species that we discover provides a new source of wonder. In addition, Judaism states that we can learn spiritual lessons from different animals:

" 'He teaches us from the animals of the land, and from the birds of the heavens He makes us wise.' (Job 35:11) Rabbi Yochanan said: Had the Torah not been given, we would have learned modesty from the cat, [the prohibition of] theft from the ant, [the prohibition of] forbidden relationships from the dove, and the proper method of conjugal relations from fowl." - Talmud, Eruvin 100b

However, conservation cannot be justified simply by invoking the physical or even spiritual benefits that the animal kingdom provides to man. There are many creatures, especially insects, that are of no direct physical or spiritual benefit to man. For example, there are hundreds of thousands of species of beetles that are very similar to each other. Any given species is not sufficiently distinct from the others to provide a unique physical or spiritual benefit. We shall have to go further in order to justify the preservation of all species.

III. The Web of the Ecosystem

An important concept in conservation is the idea of the ecosystem. Animals and plants lead lives that are interconnected by a complex web of food chains. Even if one species appears unimportant, it still occupies an important place in the larger ecosystem. Driving it to extinction can harm the ecosystem as a whole.

It is wonderful that the concept of the interconnected-ness and unity of everything is accepted by the wider world. Most children have heard of "The Circle of Life." But it is often not appreciated that this strongly relates to monotheism.

"One who looks at the components of creation according to their superficial appearance, will at first see nothing other than scattered and disparate parts. That is to say, they are not connected to a single purpose, but rather every one is distinct, for a special purpose... but one who goes deeper in wisdom will find that all parts of creation are tied together with a proper knot, as they are all required to complete the concept that the Higher Wisdom intended with creation, and they are all united in a single purpose." - Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, Da'as Tevunos 128

In fact, it is argued that the current appreciation of the unity of the natural world is one of Judaism's legacies.


To be continued in the next installment! Please remember that if you are able to help with sponsoring the publication of this book, write to me at Have a good Shabbos!

Zoo Torah is a non-profit educational enterprise that offers a series of books, programs for both adults and children, zoo tours, and safaris, all on the theme of Judaism and the animal kingdom. For more details and a taste of the experience, see This essay is produced by Zoo Torah in collaboration with Ohr Somayach Institutions ( For details of the books from which these essays are extracted, see

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3. Can Cooperation on Water Resources Promote Peaceful Relations in the Middle East

Forwarded article:
Hope for peace seen in water experts working together

Jewish Review
October 15, 2005
By Paul Haist

On the surface, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seems largely to be about
land disputes—borders, fences, access, security and more—traditional political realities that dominate the news out of the region.

Running beneath the well-publicized land issues is another current outwardly as vexing, but that also has created opportunities for Israelis and Palestinians and others to work together on a common issue: water.

Dr. Jeff Albert of San Francisco is a former analyst for the Israel Water
Commission in Tel Aviv who has participated in several Israeli Palestinian and Israeli-Jordanian projects relating to the region's water supply.

Albert was in Portland in late September as the guest of Brit Tzedek
v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace, a national group with a chapter in Portland. Albert spoke at two venues before visiting the Jewish Review.

"Water is an important issue and ought to be considered on a par with other issues," said Albert.

Water is important because its supply in the region is limited while water demand is growing at a rate on track to outstrip the natural resource, he explained.

"The consensus among the scientific community is that we are at least pushing up against (the limits) of conventional water availability," said Albert.

"You can't use more than 100 percent of a river," he said, "but you can use more than 100 percent of an aquifer," by drawing it down annually more than natural conditions will refill it.

He said that is already happening, while suggesting that water distribution
in the region is currently less than fair.

He noted that political control of the water resource is largely in Israel's
hands. Jordan also has some control, with the Palestinian Authority having the smallest say over water resource allocation.

At present, Israel is in the business of selling water to the Palestinian Authority, according to Albert.

Albert expressed skepticism over the ability of political leaders to make the best decisions about water allocation. Instead, he believes that water
resource professionals might provide superior leadership in this area, as well as new hope for better times.

"I believe in the power of technological cooperation among professionals," he said. "But they can be stymied by the intransigence of those at the top levels of political control."

He believes in the ability of professionals on both sides of the issue to
transcend political differences.

He noted that the Oslo 2 accords established joint water committees comprising Israelis and Palestinians and that they continued to function amid all the political strife and violence.

"After the outbreak of the second intifada, the (joint) committee issued a communiqué stressing the need for joint water management above the conflict," said Albert. "The committee continued its work despite the conflict."

Speaking as a hydrology specialist, he said, "Joint management is something many of us subscribe to."

In fact, Albert sees the water issue as a possible doorway to broader-based understanding and cooperation, with professionals on both sides of the political divide publishing research together.

"There is a belief among many of them that this can be the vanguard of
reconciliation," said Albert.

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4. Yosef Hakohen’s Letter on Human Nutrition in the Garden of Eden

The Journey to Unity – 148
Human Nutrition in the Garden:

"I have given you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the surface of the entire earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; to you it will be for food." (Genesis 1:29)

Dear Friends,

Rabbeinu Bachya Ben Asher is one of the classical biblical commentators. In his commentary on the above verse, Rebbeinu Bachya states that the human body originally had the ability to regenerate itself; thus, the human being - a unity of body and soul – had the potential to live forever. Rabbenu Bachya explains that the food given to the human being in the Garden was blessed by the Creator with powerful life-giving nutrients which were able to replace whatever vitality the human body loses in the course of each day. As a result, the human being would not experience the process of aging and the progressive weakness associated with that process. After explaining the biological factors in more detail, Rabbenu Bachya cites the teachings of the work "Sefer Hamegaleh" regarding the human diet in the Garden. The following are excerpts from these teachings of the "Sefer Hamegaleh" which were translated by Yaacov Dovid Shulman:

The first human being was blessed that his food, which came from the fruit of the earth and its produce, had the ability to replace any bodily degeneration in any aspect of his size and form. A human being therefore should have lived eternally, for it gave him the ability to replenish his strength.

...This blessing was found in the food of the first human being before he sinned. And this ability will in the future return for humanity, and humanity will return to its original way of being.

[In the next passage, the Sefer Megaleh then begins to explain how an allusion to this future diet is found at the end of the verse which describes the human diet: "I have given you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the surface of the entire earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; to you, it will be for food."]

The verse alludes to this matter, for the second half of the verse is in the future tense: "To you it will be for food." …The first half of the verse, phrased in the past tense, speaks of the past. But the second half of the verse speaks in the future tense, for it alludes to the future days. At that time, the Holy One, blessed be He, will strengthen the ability (of food) to replenish the human body. We will digest food so perfectly that no waste shall remain, and the food will completely replace any sort of bodily deterioration.


The above commentary has discovered in the words "to you it will be for food" a hopeful message for the final stage of human history: Just as the nutritional qualities of the food in the Garden gave us the potential to live forever, so too, the nutritional qualities of the food in the future age will enable us to regain this potential.


Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings and Comments:

1. The above teachings indicate that the vegetarian diet in the Garden provided the human being with all his nutritional needs; thus, from a nutritional perspective, there was no need for the human being to eat meat. The vegetarian diet continued after the human being was expelled from the Garden until the great flood. Although the nutritional quality of the vegetarian food had declined after the expulsion, it was still healthy enough to enable the human being to live hundreds of years; in fact, the Torah records that during the period between the expulsion and the great flood, some people lived to be over nine hundred years old! (For some examples, see the Book of Genesis, chapter 5.)

2. As we discussed in the previous letter of this series, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch made the following observation regarding the vegetarian food that the human being ate before the flood. "It must be, then, that such food was available everywhere, and the earth's climate must have been different than it is today. The fossilized remains of tropical plants, discovered in the far north, attest to this. Only after the flood was it permitted for the human being to kill animals and to eat animal flesh. For the flood also destroyed the very nature of the earth." Rabbi Hirsch adds: "Perhaps for this reason it was necessary to permit animal flesh." In other words, due to changes in the climate, vegetation was no longer plentiful in certain areas of the earth.

3. The Sforno, a classical biblical commentator, discusses the effect of these weather changes in his commentary to Genesis 6:13. The Sforno explains that the great flood also caused an additional decline in the nutritional quality of the earth's produce; thus, after the flood, the human being was permitted to supplement his diet with meat (commentary to Genesis 6:13). The Malbim, a noted biblical commentator of the 19th century, has a similar view.
The Sforno later points out, however, that the Creator will begin to heal the earth and its produce when the messianic age arrives, as it is written, "The new earth which I will make" (Isaiah 66:22). When this healing process begins, writes the Sforno, "there will be a general improvement of the elements, vegetation, and living creatures, including their length of days." (Commentary to Genesis 8:22)

Hazon – Our Universal Vision:

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5. Hazon Bike Ride Registration Open/Hazon Learning Projects

November 4 2005 / 2 Cheshvan, 5766

In this email:

- Israel Ride, May 9-16 - Register now!
Info meetings:
Nov 14 - Philadelphia
Nov 15 - Washington DC
Nov 21 - New York, NY

- Light in the Darkness Retreat at Isabella Freedman, Dec 2-4

- LimmudNY, Jan 13-16, 2006

- Jewish Social Action Month

Dear All,

Registration is in full swing for the 2006 Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride: Cycling for Peace, Partnership & Environmental Protection - we have over 60 riders already registered, and you can sign up at the Trend Setter registration price of $180 ($120 for Israel Ride Alumni). The Ride takes place Tuesday, May 9th to Tuesday, May 16th. You can register now at .

We're incredibly excited about the Ride this year. We launched the Ride three years ago with 35 riders, and we're planning for 150 riders this year. We offer route options for riders who prefer to do longer or shorter routes. If you've been on the NY Ride or have been waiting for the right time to ride with us, you'll be thrilled by the diverse geography of the route - from the lush hills outside Jerusalem to the rich brown deserts of the Negev. This is truly a unique biking experience, and a great way to experience Israel in a way you've never seen it before.

We partner with the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, whose students join us for the Ride. You will raise money to support the important work that the students are doing to meet environmental challenges and bring about coexistence in the Middle East. You will also support the important work that Hazon is doing here in the US. Come join us - register now at

We're having four Israel Ride info meetings in November - join us if you're in the neighborhood, and pass on the invitation to people who might be interested.

Nov. 14Philadelphia Area
Nov. 15Washington DC Area and Maryland
Nov. 21New York City

Please go to here for more details or contact to receive an email invitation you can forward to your contacts.

Light in the Darkness Retreat
Dec 2-4, 2005
Co-sponsored by Hazon, the Skirball Center, and Isabella Freedman

For the past two years, Hazon has held our pre-Ride Shabbaton at the beautiful Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Now you can join Hazon and the Skirball Center for Adult Jewish Learning at Isabella Freedman for an amazing weekend of rest, learning and celebration - without the fundraising! Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Tova Hartman and guest teachers Adam Berman, Rabbi David Ingber, Rabbi Leon Morris and Nigel Savage will explore light in the darkness through teachings on gender, psychology, tradition and modernity.

Same place . same inclusive community . same amazing ruach and learning . new season

For more information.


Four days of Jewish learning and culture, Jan 13-17, 2006

LimmudNY is a conference, a festival, a gathering of Jews from all walks of life, all Jewish backgrounds, all lifestyles, and all ages. Limmud is four days of lectures, workshops, text-study sessions, discussions, exhibits, performances and much more - all planned by a community of volunteers.

LimmudNY takes place January 13-16, 2006, Martin Luther King Weekend.

Go to for more information & to register.

Act to Change the World

This November, Jews worldwide launched the first Jewish Social Action Month. You can join in and help change the world by participating in full-time volunteer work. Thanks to the Jewish Coalition for Service, you can receive information about opportunities in the U.S., Israel, and other locations overseas. Work with experienced staff while doing urgently needed projects - from building homes and doing environmental work to being a camp counselor for kids with disabilities and working for political change.

Visit Resolve To Change the World to learn more:

Kol Tuv,
Hazon's mission is to revitalize Jewish life through our Jewish Environmental Bike Rides and a range of other programs that engage contemporary issues through a Jewish lens. We build inclusive community, foster people's Jewish and life journeys and inspire commitment to environmental stewardship.

Registration is now open for the 2006 Arava Institute Hazon Israel Ride, May 9th -16th, 2006 ! -

"The Torah is a commentary on the world, and the world is a commentary on the Torah"
111 Eighth Avenue
11th Floor
New York, NY 10011

Tel: 212-284-6812
Fax: 212-284-6951

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6. Raising Dairy Cows in Israel

Thanks to JVNA newsletter reader Jackie Efrati for forwarding the following article:

More milk means more udder pain for cows
By Tamara Traubman

The contented cow familiar to us from children's books has undergone a lot of changes in recent decades. Farms have been made efficient, and milk prices have dropped to a level at which milk is affordable to all. Yet at the same time cowsheds have been transformed into an industry that causes suffering to all those involved in it: the cows, whose living conditions are dictated by factors of economic productivity; the Thai workers, who are usually employed in deplorable conditions; and the farm owners, hundreds of whom are on the verge of financial collapse.

The Milk Marketing Board reports that Israel now has some 120,000 dairy cows. The cows are mated with bulls on the basis of a computerized database that includes information on the milk production and physical condition of the cows. The mating is carried out in order to produce the most economically viable cow. When a calf is born, the mother is allowed to lick and clean it, but they are separated within 30 minutes to a few hours.

tSome dairy farmers testify that the separation is difficult on both the mother cows and their calves, based on the distressful cries of both animals. The calves continue to call for their mothers for hours after the separation. These separations are imposed because the calf's presence "interrupts" the mother's milking routine, and "wastes" milk.

The calves are penned in wire isolation cages, where they are held for about two months. They are in great need of physical contact and communication, but the cages preclude any such opportunity. The size of the cages varies: In many cowsheds, they measure approximately two meters by 90 centimeters. However, at a dairy in the vicinity of Be'er Tuvia, six calves or so were found in cages that were so small that the animals could not even turn around. Young calves are highly susceptible to diseases, and according to the dairy farmers, the calves are placed in solitary confinement to prevent them from infecting one another.

The calves are subsequently moved into a separate pen with other calves the same age. At about 14 months, they are artificially inseminated. A calf that does not become pregnant is led to slaughter; a calf that does become pregnant will give birth nine months later. Immediately after the birth, the farmer will begin to milk her. After a two-three month period of "recovery," she is inseminated again, and milked. This is her life, which continues for four to seven years.

The attitude toward different cows varies, as well. This has to do with the approach adopted by the dairy farmer. "Bringing a cow into the milking parlor for the first time is very difficult. It means using 20,000 volt electric shocks and plastic truncheons," says a former dairy farmer on a farm in the south. On the other hand, another dairy farmer relates that he exhorts the cows to go in for milking using patience and light slaps on their rear end.

Most of the farmhands are Thais. For the most part, the attitude toward them is also based on function and utility; on one farm, the Thai workers were housed in a shipping container on the grounds of the cowshed. Nor is the profit exorbitant - less than 30 agorot per liter of milk - making it hard for farmers to improve significantly the living conditions of the cows or the employment conditions of the workers.

The milk production of Israel's dairy farms is a source of pride for the local dairy sector. In the past few decades, farmers have trebled milk production through genetic enhancement of cows. Cows in Israel yield the largest quantity of milk in the world. In New Zealand, for instance, cows produce an average of about 3,450 liters of milk a year; in the European Union, cows give 6,450 liters a year; in the U.S., about 8,200 liters. Conversely, a single cow in Israel produces more than 10,000 liters of milk per year.

Nevertheless, the cow's conversion into a milk machine may come a heavy cost. Numerous studies in the U.S. and Europe have consistently shown that the frequency of udder inflammation, lameness and fertility problems increases in direct proportion to the increase of milk production. The genetic enhancement process comes at a cost to the health and well-being of the animal, since the body systems cannot withstand the burden of the intensive activity required by the augmented milk production, thereby effecting a continuous decline in the average life expectancy of the cow.


Emi Ettinger contributed to this report.

© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. All rights reserved

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7. Help Wanted for Constructing a Vegetarian Retreat

Forwarded message:

Dear Richard,

It's been a number of years since we have spoken. You may remember our conference on Food and Jewish Ethics here in the DC area.

I am writing because we (Am Kolel Jewish Resource and Renewal Center) is on the verge of buying a retreat center on 28 acres (farmland and wood) very near D.C.We've raise most of the money but are short some $300,000 and I was wondering if you knew of any philanthropists that might be excited about a strcitly vegetarian retreat center that would also be engaged in organic farming.Photos of the retreat center as it is can be found at Our website is There is more information about what we would like to use the retreat center for at our web site
kol toub,
Rabbi David Shneyer

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8. Canfei Nesharim (Jewish Orthodox Environmental Group) Announces New York Event and Publication of Environmental Volume

Dear subscribers,

Canfei Nesharim is proud to announce details for our upcoming event in New York City, "Lighting the Way: A Halachic Discussion of the Modern Environmental Crisis." At this event, Canfei Nesharim will launch our first publication, a Compendium of Sources in Halacha and the
Environment, which was printed in Jerusalem earlier this month.

We would like to invite you to participate in this special event by sponsoring a page in the program book of this exciting event.

The event will be held on November 29, 2005 at Ohab Zedek, a prominent Orthodox synagogue in New York City. We expect approximately 150 participants, and additional program books will be sent to our sponsors and supporters for their review. Supporters of this program will also be noted on our website.

By sponsoring a page in our program book, you will be showing your
support for an organization that is committed to educating our community to protect the environment. Donations for our program book begin at $250 for a quarter-page, $500 for a half-page, or $1000 for a full page. If you would like to sponsor a page, please email for further details.

I have also attached a flier for the event, which I hope you will share
with your congregations and colleagues.

Thank you!

Evonne Marzouk

Here is the Event Information:

Lighting the Way: A Halachic Discussion of the Modern Environmental Crisis
Tuesday, November 29
7:30 pm
Congregation Ohab Zedek
118 West 95th Street
Rabbi Jonathan Rietti
Guided text study followed by lecture on halacha and the environment.
Dinner will be served.

This event is sponsored by the Ohab Zedek Tuesday Night Learning Program and Canfei Nesharim, an organization dedicated to addressing environmental issues from the Torah perspective ( For more information about this event, email or call 212-284-6745.

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9. Los Angeles Jewish Vegetarian Group Announces Event

Forwarded message from Janine:

A relatively new Jewish Vegetarian group, with over a dozen or so members, wants to expand rapidly, please, with your help! Know anyone in the Los Angeles, California area who would like to come to monthly Sunday evening dinner meetings?

TOPIC:"Overcoming so-called age-related dis-eases"

Organization:K.E.R.O.V.Kosher Ethical RawFoods Organic Vegans

Location of events: Los Angeles, California

When:Every third Sunday of the month, usually at Leaf Cuisine, Los Angeles

Address: Leaf Cuisine, 11938 W. Washington Blvd, Culver City, CA

Contact: Janine Laura B., Organizer
(310) 358-9941


Take care,
Best wishes,

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10. Your Vote Can Help Improve Israel’s Environment

The World Zionist Congress is holding elections this fall. I urge you all to register and vote at . The cost to register is $7. After you register, don't forget to vote for the Green Zionist Alliance ( I am a candidate on their slate. A press release announcing our candidacy is included below.



NEW YORK, October 17, 2005 - The Green Zionist Alliance (GZA) ( proudly introduces its Slate of candidates for the upcoming World Zionist Congress elections.

"We are inspired by the breadth and depth of our Slate," said Rabbi Michael M. Cohen, co-founder of the Green Zionist Alliance. "Collectively, this roster demonstrates that concern for the environment truly transcends religious and political orientation.

The GZA Slate is composed of 38 people in 17 States, from California to New Hampshire and Wisconsin to Arizona. The group includes activists, professionals, rabbis, scientists, students and leaders who represent and reflect the growing community of Jewish environmentalists with deep concern about the country, the people and the land of Israel, all passionately committed to creating a peaceful, pluralistic, and sustainable society.

Devoted to Israel's ecological future, the Alliance works closely with a broad coalition of environmental organizations and leaders in the United States and Israel to ensure a high quality of life for all Israelis.

The Green Zionist Alliance offers a place for all Jews, regardless of political or religious affiliation, who care about humanity's responsibility to preserve Creation and the special responsibility of the Jewish people to preserve the many ecological treasures of the land of Israel.

A complete listing of the Green Zionist Alliance Slate members may be found at

The election will be held from mid-November 2005 through February 28, 2006. The Green Zionist Alliance is aiming to be the third largest delegation from the United States for the 2006 World Zionist Congress.

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11. An Addition to Last Issue’s Humor Section

Hi Richard

You forgot one in your humor section:

Q: What do you get when you cross Lassie with a canteloupe?

Answer: A melancholy baby!


Miriam Gross

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12. When Cleaner Air Is a Biblical Obligation

When Cleaner Air Is a Biblical Obligation
NY Times11/7/05
Published: November 7, 2005


In their long and frustrated efforts pushing Congress to pass legislation on global warming, environmentalists are gaining a new ally.

With increasing vigor, evangelical groups that are part of the base of conservative support for leading Republicans are campaigning for laws that would reduce carbon dioxide emissions, which scientists have linked with global warming.

In the latest effort, the National Association of Evangelicals, a nonprofit organization that includes 45,000 churches serving 30 million people across the country, is circulating among its leaders the draft of a policy statement that would encourage lawmakers to pass legislation creating mandatory controls for carbon emissions.

Environmentalists rely on empirical evidence as their rationale for Congressional action, and many evangelicals further believe that protecting the planet from human activities that cause global warming is a values issue that fulfills Biblical teachings asking humans to be good stewards of the earth.

"Genesis 2:15," said Richard Cizik, the association's vice president for governmental affairs, citing a passage that serves as the justification for the effort: "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it."

"We believe that we have a rightful responsibility for what the Bible itself challenges," Mr. Cizik said. "Working the land and caring for it go hand in hand. That's why I think, and say unapologetically, that we ought to be able to bring to the debate a new voice."

By themselves, environmental groups have made scant progress on global warming legislation in Congress, beyond a nonbinding Senate resolution last summer that recommends a program of mandatory controls on gases that cause global warming.
Officials with the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council said they welcomed the added muscle evangelicals could bring to their cause. But they agreed that it remained uncertain how much difference it could make.

A major obstacle to any measure that would address global warming is Senator James M. Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who is chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and an evangelical himself, but a skeptic of climate change caused by human activities.

Mr. Inhofe has led efforts to keep mandatory controls on greenhouse gases out of any emission reduction bill considered by his committee and has called human activities contributing to global warming "the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people."

"You can always find in Scriptures a passage to misquote for almost anything," Mr. Inhofe said in an interview, dismissing the position of Mr. Cizik's association as "something very strange."

Mr. Inhofe said the vast majority of the nation's evangelical groups would oppose global warming legislation as inconsistent with a conservative agenda that also includes opposition to abortion rights and gay rights. He said the National Evangelical Association had been "led down a liberal path" by environmentalists and others who have convinced the group that issues like poverty and the environment are worth their efforts.

At the same time, Mr. Inhofe said he took the association's stance seriously because of the influence its leaders had on people who generally voted Republican. Evangelical groups including the Noah's Ark Foundation lobbied successfully in 1996 to block efforts by the House to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

Now known as the Noah Alliance, the group continues to work on environmental issues, along with groups like the Evangelical Environmental Network, which describes itself as a "biblically orthodox Christian" organization. It subscribes to a policy of "creation care," which it defines as "caring for all of God's creation by stopping and preventing activities that are harmful," like air and water pollution and species extinction.

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14. Victory: Trader Joe's Goes Cage-Free with Its Brand of Eggs

Forwarded message:

Campaign Victory: Trader Joe's Goes Cage-Free with Its Brand of Eggs
November 8, 2005

Farm Sanctuary After more than four months of debate over battery cages and corporate policies, The HSUS and Trader Joe's reached an agreement on Monday in which the grocery chain consented to purchase only cage-free eggs for the company's own brand of eggs. The decision is expected to greatly improve the lives of the approximately 380,000 laying hens who provide the more than 100 million Trader Joe's brand eggs sold each year.

Trader Joe's action is the latest victory for The HSUS's No Battery Eggs campaign, which, in its short existence, has already convinced a number of universities, supermarkets, and food service providers to eliminate or dramatically reduce their support for the abusive battery cage system.

"Trader Joe's has taken a positive step that will have a meaningful effect on animal welfare," said HSUS President & CEO Wayne Pacelle. "By converting its brand of eggs to cage-free, Trader Joe's will help to reduce the number of birds confined in cruel battery cages."

The majority of eggs currently sold at Trader Joe's are the company's own brand eggs, laid by hundreds of thousands of hens confined in battery cages&mdashwire enclosures so small the birds cannot even spread their wings. These cages are typically stacked on top of each other on hen factory farms, where some 200,000 birds can be crammed into a single, football-field length barn.

Trader Joe's decision will end this kind of suffering for hundreds of thousands of laying hens. Trader Joe's has agreed that within three months:

* All Trader Joe's brand eggs will be converted to cage-free eggs.
* Any egg promotions by Trader Joe's will be devoted solely to cage-free egg sales.

"While Trader Joe's did stop short of adopting a total cage-free egg policy, the company proved to us that it is serious about improving the lives of laying hens," said The HSUS's Pacelle. "We understand that sometimes change happens a step at a time, and we applaud Trader Joe's for making this strong move."

Added Trader Joe's Chairman and CEO Dan Bane: "Customers looking for cage-free eggs will need to look no further than the Trader Joe's label. We expect this change will help further boost the proportion of sales of cage-free eggs at Trader Joe's."

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15. Another Article on Judaism and Vegetarianism/Please Write

Kosher Vegetarians
Jewish Ledger
Stacey Dresner

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first chief rabbi of Israel, was one.

So was Rabbi David Rosen, the former chief rabbi of Ireland.

Famed Jewish writer Isaac Bashevis Singer was one as well.

Besides their prominence, these Jews shared another thing in they were all vegetarians.

People choose to be vegetarians for several reasons. Some have chosen not to eat meat or animal products due to health reasons, others because of their commitment to animal rights. But some Jewish or kosher vegetarians also do it for another reason -- they say the Torah tells them to.

"I became a vegetarian in 1988 after serious studies of the book of Genesis, particularly the earliest chapters," said Rabbi Stephen Fuchs of Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford. Fuchs talks of the first 11 chapters of Genesis n before Chapter 12 when G-d makes his covenant with Abraham -- and refers to the three attempts G-d made at setting up societies n the Garden of Eden; after Eden until the time of the Flood; and during and after the flood.

In the first two, there was no eating of meat n G-d gave Adam and Eve fruit and berries to nourish themselves with.

"We find different ground rules which govern these societies. Only in the third society n after the flood n does G-d give us permission to eat meat," Fuchs explained.
"I found that there was a real health benefit to a vegan lifestyle," Fuchs said. "I have seen a decrease in headaches, weight loss -- generally feeling better all around. And I have been feeling more spiritually attuned as a vegan."
"There was one fellow who did not eat meat because, he would say, 'I don't want to use my body as a cemetery for dead animals.' I don't say things like that," Tilsen explained. "Although I find meat repulsive aesthetically, I don't think it is a great sin to eat it. If I wanted to be judgmental about others, there is a very long list of concerns I would address before getting to diet."

As far as what Jewish literatures says about eating meat, Tilsen has his own take on that.

"Although there is a Talmudic tradition of 'ein simha ela be-vasar -- there is no joy without flesh,' which was used to suggest that meat eating was mandatory on Shabbat and festivals, I follow the suggestion of the Baal Shem Tov that 'flesh' in this context can be, let us say, the legitimate enjoyment of physical intimacy with the flesh, and one hopes spirit, of another," he explained. "That is, it refers to the "conjugal enjoyment" of Shabbat and festivals. Believe me, it is better than bacon."

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16. Great Humorous Vegetarian Thanksgiving E-Card

Thanks to an old friend and activist susan harris for sending in the following URL for a very cute vegetarian-related Thanksgiving E-card.

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** Fair Use Notice **
This document may contain copyrighted material, use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from thecopyright owner.

November 3, 2005

11/3/05 JNVA Online Newsletter

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. Article Related to Important Teachings on Controversial Statements in Genesis, Chapter One

2. Jerusalem Post Article on Foie Gras Production and Jewish Teachings on Animals

3. Canfei Nesharim Publishes Valuable Volume on Jewish Teachings on the Environment

4. Yosef Hakohen Article About the Original Vegetarian Diet in the Garden of Eden

5. Vegetarianism On a Lighter Note
6. A Call for an Action Campaign on Global Warming

7. Effects of China’s Booming Economy on the Environment

8. Interfaith Celebration of Animals

9. How would the Biblical Noah Respond to Today’s Rapid Species Extinction?

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observance, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.


1. Article Related to Important Teachings on Controversial Statements in Genesis, Chapter One

The following article responds to misconceptions about statements in the first chapter of Genesis and shows that there need not be a dispute between the Jewish community and animal rights activists:

Religion: Friend or Foe of Animal Activism
by Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. and Rabbi Dovid Sears

Many animal activists regard organized religion as an ideological opponent. Concerning Judaism, this negative presumption is largely due to the misunderstanding of two important biblical verses that, when properly conceived, actually endorse the struggle to improve conditions for animals.

The first misunderstanding is that the biblical teaching that humans are granted dominion over animals gives us a warrant to treat them in whatever way we may wish. Jewish tradition interprets "dominion" as guardianship, or stewardship, not domination: we are called upon to be co-workers with God in improving the world. This biblical mandate does not mean that people have the right to wantonly exploit animals, and it certainly does not permit us to breed animals and then treat them as machines designed solely to meet human needs.

In "A Vision of Vegetarianism and Peace," Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, Chief Rabbi of pre-state Israel and a leading 20th century Jewish thinker, states: "There can be no doubt in the mind of any intelligent person that [the Divine empowerment of humanity to derive benefit from nature] does not mean the domination of a harsh ruler, who afflicts his people and servants merely to satisfy his whim and desire, according to the crookedness of his heart. It is unthinkable that the Divine Law would impose such a decree of servitude, sealed for all eternity, upon the world of God, Who is 'good to all, and His mercy is upon all his works' (Psalms 145:9), and Who declared, 'The world shall be built with kindness' (Psalms 89:33)."

This view is reinforced by the fact that immediately after God gave humankind dominion over animals (Genesis 1:26), He prescribed vegetarian foods as the diet best suited to humans (Genesis 1:29). This mandate is almost immediately followed by God's declaration that all of Creation was "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Perhaps this indicates that Adam and Eve's original vegetarian diet was consistent with the stewardship that God entrusted to them and to all humankind.

The second error of some animal activists is the presumption that the biblical teaching that only people are created in the Divine Image means that God places little or no value on animals. While the Torah states that only human beings are created "in the Divine Image" (Genesis 1:27, 5:1), animals are also God's creatures, possessing sensitivity and the capacity for feeling pain. God is concerned that they are protected and treated with compassion and justice. In fact, the Jewish sages state that to be "created in the Divine Image," means that people have the capacity to emulate the Divine compassion for all creatures. "As God is compassionate," they teach, "so you should be compassionate."

A rabbinic teaching that we should imitate God is Hama bar Hanina's interpretation of the verse, "After the Lord your God you shall walk" (Deuteronomy 13: 5): "How can man walk after God?" the ancient sage queries. "Is He not called a 'consuming fire'? Rather, what is meant is that man ought to emulate the attributes of God. Just as God clothes the naked, so you shall clothe the naked. Just as God visits the sick, so you shall visit the sick. Just as God comforts the bereaved, so you shall comfort the bereaved. Just as He buries the dead, so you shall bury the dead."

In his classic work Ahavat Chesed ("The Love of Kindness"), the revered Chafetz Chayim (Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin) discusses this teaching at length. He writes that whoever emulates the Divine love and compassion to all creatures "will bear the stamp of God on his person." Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, a leading 19th century Jewish thinker, also discusses this concept: "You can know God only through His acts of love and justice; and, in turn, you too are called upon to act with love and justice." Concerning the biblical concept that human beings were created to "serve and safeguard the earth" (Genesis 2:15), Rabbi Hirsch states that this actually limits our rights over other living things. He writes: "The earth was not created as a gift to you. You have been given to the earth, to treat it with respectful consideration, as God's earth, and everything on it as God's creation, as your fellow creatures - to be respected, loved, and helped to attain their purpose according to God's will... To this end, your heartstrings vibrate sympathetically with any cry of distress sounding anywhere in Creation, and with any glad sound uttered by a joyful creature."

In summation, as the Lord is our shepherd, we are to be shepherds of voiceless creatures. As God is kind and compassionate to us, we must be considerate of the needs and feelings of animals. To this we may add that by showing compassion to animals through a vegetarian diet, we help fulfill the commandment to imitate God's ways.

Critics of religion may be correct in asserting that the various religious communities are not doing enough to end the many horrible abuses of animals today. However, the correct response to this failure is not to scorn and repudiate religion altogether, but as much as possible to enlist the religious world in the common cause of eliminating the cruel misuses of animals.

Jewish tradition clearly forbids any display of cruelty toward animals. In Hebrew, this is called tza'ar ba'alei chayim, the biblical mandate not to cause "pain to any living creature." In contrast to this, Psalms 104 and 148 bespeak the worthiness of the animals of the field, creatures of the sea, and birds of the air before their Creator. Psalm 104 depicts God as "giving drink to every beast of the field," and "causing grass to spring up for the cattle." Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best summarized by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person regards the life of his or her animal." In his explanation of this verse, the Malbim, a 19th century biblical commentator, explained that the righteous person understands the nature of the animal, and hence provides food at the proper time, and according to the amount needed. He is also careful not to overwork the animal. According to the Malbim, the tzaddik (righteous person) acts according to the laws of justice. Not only does he act according to these laws with human beings, but also with animals.

In conclusion, it would be a tragic mistake for animal activists to dismiss the various religious communities as unconcerned with the plight of animals. Rather, we all should seek ways to transcend our philosophical differences, and find a common ground on which we may stand together for the benefit of animals and humankind.

Rabbi Dovid Sears is the director of the New York-based Breslov Center for Spirituality and Inner Growth. His comprehensive anthology of original translations and essays entitled “The Vision of Eden: Animal Welfare and Vegetarianism in Jewish Law and Mysticism,” was published by OROT in 2003. His previous books include “Compassion for Humanity in the Jewish Tradition,” “The Path of the Baal Shem Tov: Early Chasidic Teachings and Customs,” and “The Flame of the Heart: Prayers of a Chasidic Mystic.”

Richard H. Schwartz is Professor Emeritus, Mathematics, College of Staten Island , and the author of Judaism and Vegetarianism, Judaism and Global Survival, and Mathematics and Global Survival. He has over 100 articles on the Internet at His e-mail address is

2. Jerusalem Post Article on Foie Gras Production and Jewish Teachings on Animals

Thanks to author Yosef Hakohen for forwarding the following article:

Jews say no to animal suffering

The recent High Court ban on force-feeding of geese and ducks to produce foie gras means that for many of Israel's fowl farmers their proverbial goose is cooked. No one can deny that forcing a long metal tube down a goose's neck and shoving two kilos of food directly into its stomach using compressed air is cruel and inhumane. The liver swells up to seven to 10 times normal size causing breathing difficulties and other health problems.

But goose livers are not chicken-feed. Foie gras (literally "fat liver") is a lucrative item - Israel was, until now, the world's third biggest exporter - bringing in some NIS 180 million per year. The farmers who have now lost their livelihood intend to claim NIS 450m. in compensation from the government.

The High Court in 2003 gave the Agriculture Ministry 18 months to come up with a more humane method for feeding, otherwise the practice would be outlawed. That time is up, and the Ministers' Committee for Legislative Affairs has now rejected Agriculture Minister Yisrael Katz's plea for a respite of an additional three years. Like many other issues in Israel, things always seem to be more complicated here.

The farmers are now considering transferring their operations to Jordan, replacing the cheap foreign labor they used here with local Jordanian workers.

As well as deliberating over the animal welfare issues like in any other open, modern, Western democracy, and calculating fair damages to the farmers, we have a Jewish facet to take into account. The welfare of animals has been a Jewish concern since biblical times, and it can be a source of pride to Jews that the issue of the prevention of cruelty to animals (tza'ar ba'alei haim) has been addressed, discussed and ruled on by rabbis for many centuries.

Biblical sources not only forbid cruelty, but demand compassion and mercy toward animals. Animal owners are required to rest their animals, as they themselves rest, on Shabbat (Exodus 20:10). Acts usually forbidden on Shabbat were permitted to avoid animals' pain because of the precedence of biblical injunctions. Modern halachic technological solutions have been developed to allow milking cows on Shabbat, avoiding the cows' discomfort, while not contravening the prohibition of work. A talmudic imperative forbids an animal owner from eating before feeding his livestock.

THE RABBIS do not forbid the killing of animals for human consumption, but the exacting regulations governing the method of slaughter, such as the use of an extremely sharp knife which is repeatedly checked for the slightest nick, are interpreted as being the most painless and humane technique.

Although these principles set the tone for our attitude to animals they don't give us all the answers. We are required to unload an ass struggling under its burden (Exodus 23:5). It is clear that Judaism sanctions the use of animals for man's benefit; however, the decision of what constitutes suffering is left with us. To load up a donkey with 50 kilos is OK, but is 55 kilos too much? Where do we set the limits? I'm sure the poor donkey would rather be left alone not to carry anything at all.

Although not discussing force-feeding geese specifically, one of the most renowned contemporary halachic authorities, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, ruled on raising calves for veal. Feinstein (Even Ha'ezer IV, 92) forbade the method of raising the calves in miserable conditions in small cages which produced a very light-colored meat. However, animal activists might not be so happy with his line of reasoning (he may have even approved force feeding geese). He would have sanctioned this method of raising calves if it really led to better quality meat, but he ruled that it only improved its light appearance and this alone did not justify the animals' suffering. [Actually, this conclusion is questionable, because Rabbi Feinstein also discussed Judaism’s strong teachings on compassion to animals.]

Is the current concern for animal rights in modern Western society just a fad? The general issue of the appropriateness of using contemporary moral yardsticks compared with the Jewish ethical system which has been developing for thousands of years is too heavy a subject to be dealt with adequately in one op-ed article.

One is tempted to say that like the wearing of fur coats and stoles in their time, foie gras is on its way out, never to be seen again, and that we have progressed in our humanity. Yet wearing leather shoes and the eating of meat is all but universally accepted.

It seems that the ultimate yardstick, in both Jewish and Western ethics (although the distinction is blurred as Western ethics are largely influenced by Jewish values), is whether the animal suffers excessively. This criterion bans force feeding but doesn't force us into feeding as vegetarians.

The High Court's approach, to allow time to develop humane feeding methods, seems to have been level headed. However, the demand remains, and customers are willing to pay top prices for this luxury kosher gourmet item. We are left with the question: Has the High Court killed a goose that laid golden eggs? Or should we just treat it like water off a duck's back?

The writer, a member of Kibbutz Alumim, is senior educator in Melitz Centers for Jewish-Zionist Education.

This article can also be read here.

[ Back to the Article ]

Copyright 1995-2005 The Jerusalem Post -

3. Canfei Nesharim Publishes Valuable Volume on Jewish Teachings on the Environment

Forwarded message:

Compendium of Sources in Halacha and the Environment
Volume One

With articles on:
Bal Taschit: Do not waste
Tzaar Ba'alei Chaim: Treatment of Animals
Nature in Tefilla
On Conserving Water and Netilas Yadayim
The Unity of Creation
Ecology and Spirituality

And Including:
Source Sheets for Learning Sessions
Bibliography of Jewish Law & the Environment

Cost: $10.00 (inquire about reduced community rate)

For more information contact

4. Yosef Hakohen Article About the Original Vegetarian Diet in the Garden of Eden

The Journey to Unity - 147
Our Diet in the Garden:

Dear Friends,

As most of you know, I am taking care of four parakeets, including Georgie, the "talking" parakeet. I do not know if this was reported in your local media, but Georgie recently added a new Hebrew term to his vocabulary: "Gan Eden" - the Garden of Eden. During the last week, I have been busy studying commentaries on the diet in the Garden of Eden, and it was therefore a delight to hear Georgie crying out to his mate, "Gan Eden! Gan Eden!" (For further information about Georgie, see the article, "The Song of the Pious Parakeet," in the lower section of our archive.)

We will begin our discussion with the following Divine proclamation to the first man/woman in the Garden of Eden:

"I have given you every seed-bearing plant that is upon the surface of the entire earth and every tree that has seed-bearing fruit; it shall be yours for food." (Genesis 1:29)

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch was a noted 19th century sage and biblical commentator. In his commentary on the above verse, Rabbi Hirsch points out that there are actually two separate statements within this verse – one at the beginning of the verse and one at the end. The first statement is, "I have given you every seed-bearing plant." The second statement is, "it shall be yours for food." Rabbi Hirsch therefore interprets these two statements in the following manner:

"I have given you every seed-bearing plant..." - These plants and trees are entrusted to you; their continued development depends on you and your care.
"It shall be yours for food" - You will therefore benefit from them when you fulfill your duty to wisely nurture and protect them.

The Divine menu offered to the human being in the Garden is a vegetarian one. And what did the other creatures eat? An answer can be found in the very next verse:

"And to every animal of the earth, to all the birds of the sky, and to everything that moved upon the earth in which there is a living spirit - all green plants for food. And it was so." (1:30)

According to the classical biblical commentator, Rashi, this verse is a direct continuation of the previous verse, and it comes to tell us that the animals and birds had the same diet as the human being. The verse concludes with the statement that this general diet for all creatures includes all green plants.

The Ramban (Nachmanides), another classical biblical commentator, disagrees with Rashi's interpretation. According to the Ramban, this verse is introducing the unique diet of the animals and birds, which is different from that of the human being. The human diet was limited to seed-bearing plants and fruits; moreover, the Ramban explains that "seed-bearing plants" refers to the seeds of plants such as the grains of wheat, barley, and pulse. The animals and birds, however, did not eat the seed-bearing plants and fruits; instead, they ate "green plants" - leaves and herbage.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch follows the view of the Ramban, and he makes the following observation:

"The human being was commanded here to 'fill the earth' (Genesis 1:28); yet, originally he was restricted exclusively to vegetarian food – grain and fruit. It must be, then, that such food was available everywhere, and the earth's climate must have been different than it is today. The fossilized remains of tropical plants, discovered in the far north, attest to this. Only after the flood was it permitted for the human being to kill animals and to eat animal flesh. For the flood also destroyed the very nature of the earth." Rabbi Hirsch adds: "Perhaps for this reason it was necessary to permit animal flesh." In other words, due to changes in the climate, vegetation was no longer plentiful in certain areas of the earth.

Rashi also explains that the above verses teach us that the Creator did not permit Adam and Eve "to put a creature to death and eat its meat." Rashi then reminds us that this prohibition existed until after the great flood, when the human survivors – Noah and his family – were given Divine permission to eat meat (Genesis 9:3). Rashi's statement about the original prohibition against eating meat is based on the Talmud's explanation of the above verses, where Rav Yehudah says in the name of Rav: "The first human being was not permitted to have meat as food" (Sanhedrin 59b).

Why were Adam and Eve not permitted to have meat as food? Through my study and research I discovered various answers to this question, and one answer can be found in the following midrashic teaching: "The Holy One, Blessed be He, did not create His creatures in order that they should die, for if the human being had not sinned, the creatures would not die" (Midrash Aggadah). According to this explanation, human beings and all creatures were originally supposed to live forever, which is why the human being could not kill an animal for food. Nevertheless, the selfish sin of the human being in the Garden caused death to enter the world.

The above midrashic teaching has profound implications, and it also raises profound questions; thus, a full discussion on this teaching would require an entire series! What we can learn from the above midrash, at this stage of our discussion, is that the Garden of Eden was meant to be a place of eternal life. Had Adam and Eve continued to fulfill the original mandate "to serve and preserve" the Garden (Genesis 2:15), death would not have come into the world. But when Adam and Eve stopped viewing the world as a place for serving and instead began to view the world as a place for self-gratification, they felt free to eat from the "forbidden fruit." And when human beings begin to feel that nothing is forbidden and that they have complete freedom to exploit the entire world for their own selfish gratification, then they have chosen a path which leads to death for themselves and all creatures. As the Midrash teaches in the name of Rabbi Akiva: The Omnipresent One set before the human being two paths - the path of life and the path of death – and the human being chose the latter. (Midrash Rabbah 21:5 – Rashi)

This tragic choice, however, is not the end of the story. For the Compassionate One has given us the Torah - a holistic spiritual path which can lead us once again to the Garden and eternal life. This is why the Torah is described in the following manner: "She is a Tree of Life" (Proverbs 3:18).

In the age when we all return to the life-giving Torah of the Compassionate One, death will suffer its own death, as the Prophet Isaiah proclaimed: "He will eliminate death forever" (Isaiah 25:8).

L'Chayim – To Life!
Shalom, and a Good Month,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See below)

Related Teachings:

1. As the above teachings indicate, the human being had a vegetarian diet in the Garden of Eden. Nevertheless, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59b) cites an oral tradition which seems to imply that the human being did eat some meat in the Garden. According to this tradition, there were angels in the Garden that roasted meat for the first human being. The Talmud answers that this tradition is not a contradiction to the vegetarian diet given to the human being in the Garden, as this "meat" descended from heaven. In other words, this was not real meat; it was a "heavenly" food which had some of the qualities of meat. The term "meat" is therefore a metaphor and is not meant to be taken literally. Rabbi Aharon Yeshaya Roter, a noted Torah scholar in Israel, suggests that this heavenly "meat" may have been similar in nature to the plants of the field. ("Sha'arei Aharon" – An Anthology of Commentaries on the Torah)

2. It is written, "Keep My statutes and My social laws, which a human being shall carry out and through which he gains life - I am the Compassionate One" (Leviticus 18:5). This verse is reminding us that the Torah gives us life. A midrashic work known as "Toras Kohanim" points out that the verse does not refer to an "Israelite" who keeps the Torah, but a "human being" who keeps the Torah, as within the Torah we also find a universal moral code for all humanity. The Torah therefore gives life to all human beings. In this spirit, our sages teach: "Just as water is life for all human beings, so too, the words of Torah are life for all human beings" (Tana Dvei Eliyahu 18:74).

Hazon – Our Universal Vision:

5. Vegetarianism On a Lighter Note

Thanks to Pam Rice, leader of the VivaVegetarian Society. for forwarding this to me, along with the message, “Thanks. volunteer Arlen Baden, punster fiend (and friend), who passed this one along.”

Q: What vegetable might you find in your basement?
A: celery

Q: What is green and goes to a summer camp?
A: a Brussels' scout

Q: What vegetable do you need a plumber for?
A: a leek

Q: Why do potatoes make good detectives?
A: Because they keep their eyes peeled.

Q: What is small, red and whispers?
A: a hoarse radish

Q: What vegetable can tie your stomach in knots?
A .string beans

Q: Why is it not wise to tell secrets in a cornfield?
A: too many ears

Q: When is a cucumber like a strawberry?
A: when one is in a pickle and the other is in a jam

Q: What did the lettuce say to the celery?
A: Quit stalking me.

Q: What do you say to rotten lettuce?
A: You should have your head examined.

Q: Why did the tomato go out with a prune?
A: Because he couldn't find a date!
Boy melon: Honey, dew you want to run away and get married?
Girl melon: Sorry, I cantaloupe.

6. A Call for an Action Campaign on Global Warming

Forwarded message:

A Day of Action on December 3, 2005

From November 28th to December 9th representatives from 150 or more nations will be meeting at a Climate Conference in Montreal, Canada. The vast majority of those present will be signers of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. They will be discussing the latest developments with this deepening world crisis and what should be done about it.

The representatives of the United States government, however, will be present working behind the scenes to try to block any positive action. This is the role they have played for several years.

We are outraged that our government has taken this obstructionist approach to one of, if not the, most critical and urgent issues of our time. Powerful dirty energy corporations like Exxon/Mobil are calling the shots on U.S. energy policy. Resources and lives are being wasted in a tragic war instead of going into energy conservation and development of clean, safe energy that would end our reliance on Middle East oil while generating millions of new jobs.

We must stand up and take action now! This fall let's mobilize a nationwide, grassroots education and action campaign leading up to mass demonstrations in Montreal and throughout the U.S. on Saturday, December 3rd. Help gather signatures for the Peoples Ratification of the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty, which will be presented in Montreal. Join Climate Crisis, USA Join the World as we call for:

• U.S.A., Join the World by Ratifying the Kyoto Protocol
• Support and Export Clean, Safe, Non-Nuclear Energy Alternatives
• End Government Subsidies for Oil and Coal Corporations
• Dramatically Strengthen Energy Conservation and Fuel Efficiency Standards
• A Just Transition for Workers, Indigenous and Other Communities Affected by a Change to Clean Energy
• Defend the World's Forests; Support Community-Run Tree Planting Campaigns

This organizing campaign in the United States is part of an international effort. A call has been issued and organizing is underway for demonstrations on December 3rd in many other countries around the world.

There are a variety of events that we are encouraging and will help organize. Leading up to December 3rd local groups can organize house parties, forums, teach-ins, conferences or town meetings. You can circulate the Kyoto and Beyond petition. We will be putting together a listing of resources that can provide information and analysis on the climate crisis and what can be done about it.

We urge widespread participation in this urgently needed campaign!
P.O. Box 648, Lenox, MA 01240
(413) 637-2486

7. Effects of China’s Booming Economy on the Environment

China's Next Big Boom Could Be the Foul Air
NY Times Week in Review 10/30/05
Published: October 30, 2005

BEIJING — The steady barrage of statistics trumpeting China's rise is often greeted elsewhere as if the figures were torpedoes and the rest of the world a sinking ship. Economic growth tops 9 percent! Textile exports jump 500 percent! Military spending up! Manufacturing up!

Liu Jin/Agence France-Presse - Getty ImagesA cement factory clouded the skies in Qianwei, in Sichuan, China. Until recently, the government's economic concerns far outstripped its concerns for the condition of the environment.

What should the Chinese government do to control pollution? The numbers inflame the exaggerated perception that China is methodically inhaling jobs and resources and, in the process, inhaling the rest of the planet. Burp. There goes the American furniture industry. Burp. Thanks for your oil, Venezuela.

But one statistic offered last week by a top Chinese environmental official should stimulate genuine alarm inside and outside China. The official, Zhang Lijun, warned that pollution levels here could more than quadruple within 15 years if the country does not curb its rapid growth in energy consumption and automobile use.

China, it seems, has reached a tipping point familiar to many developed countries, including the United States, that have raced headlong after economic development only to look up suddenly and see the environmental carnage. The difference with China, as is so often the case, is that the potential problems are much bigger, have happened much faster and could pose greater concerns for the entire world.

"I don't think it will jump four or five times," Robert Watson, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said of the pollution prediction by Mr. Zhang. "But it could double or triple without too much trouble. And that's a scary thought, given how bad things are now."

China is already the world's second-biggest producer of greenhouse gas emissions and is expected to surpass the United States as the biggest. Roughly a third of China is exposed to acid rain. A recent study by a Chinese research institute found that 400,000 people die prematurely every year in China from diseases linked to air pollution.

Nor does China's air pollution respect borders: on certain days almost 25 percent of the particulate matter clotting the skies above Los Angeles can be traced to China, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental experts in California predict that China could eventually account for roughly a third of the state's air pollution.

The air problem could become a major embarrassment if, as some experts believe, Beijing does not meet its environmental targets for 2008, when the Olympic Games will be played here.

For the Chinese government, the question is how to change the country's booming economy without crippling it. President Hu Jintao has made "sustainable development" a centerpiece of his effort to shift the country from unbridled growth to a more efficient economy. Mr. Hu and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao have repeatedly mentioned environmental protection in speeches.

The political attention comes as environmental problems are begetting social and economic problems. Violent riots have erupted in the countryside over contaminated water, stunted crops and mounting health woes. In a handful of villages, farmers have stormed chemical factories to stop the dumping of filthy water. Roughly 70 percent of China's rivers and lakes are polluted. In cities, people drink bottled water; in the countryside, most people are too poor to pay for bottled water, so they boil polluted water or simply drink it.

Public anger is also rising in cities. In some, air pollution is so thick that on the worst days doctors advise, impractically, against going outside. Last week, hundreds of people living in the Beijing outskirts protested plans for a factory they fear would inundate the neighborhood with pollution.

The severity of the situation has created an opening for environmentalists in and out of the government. Environmentalism is a chic issue for college students, who have participated in garbage cleanups and joined the growing number of nongovernment organizations focused on pollution. The once-meek State Environmental Protection Administration, or SEPA, has become more aggressive in identifying and going after polluters and calling for reforms.

But the political and practical obstacles are formidable. Car ownership has become part of the Chinese middle-class dream, and the car industry has become a major contributor to tax coffers and a force in the overall economy.

Industrial pollution is difficult to control because local officials often ignore emissions standards to appease polluting factories that pay local taxes. SEPA has closed factories, only to see them reopen weeks later. To make a serious reduction in air pollution, experts say, tougher, enforceable standards are needed, and many factories would need new pollution control equipment.

"There has to be the political will," said Steve Page, director of the E.P.A office of air quality planning and standards. "The challenge they face is how will these plants be lined up and told this will happen?"

Part 1 of 2 parts

8. Interfaith Celebration of Animals

Forwarded message from: (Marian Hussenbux)

Here is what I wrote for Young Quaker –


Some sixty people attended this inspiring event at Quaker Concern for Animals committee member, Feargus O'Connor's, Unitarian church in Golders Green, London. Also present were five members of QCA.

After Feargus's welcome, Jackie Ballard, Director General of the RSPCA, lit a candle for all the world's animals.

Ayndrilla Singharay, of the BRAHMO SAMAJ faith, quoted Rabindranath Tagore, and his beautiful concept, The Stream of Life, which flows through all living creatures. She stressed that we are all part of the same great body of love and light.

Speaking for the BUDDHISTS, Venerable Sumana Nepal, reminded us that a central Buddhist belief is "not to destroy, or cause to destroy". Buddhists are encouraged to love all beings, and to constantly practise loving kindness.

Sid Dahar, for the HINDUS, talked about the harmony that exists in Nature, and implored us to live in rhythm with this harmony and to lend a helping hand to all creatures.

We next heard from Nitin Mehta, our patron, representing the JAIN faith. He told us a charming tale of Lord Mohammed and the Cobra, the moral of which was that "it is in our own interest to be compassionate to all living beings. This also tied in with individual and collective karma.

Charanjit Ajit Singh, spoke on behalf of the SIKH religion. Her particular message was that human beings have a responsibility to look after all of God's creation.

The Rev. Marcus Braybrooke (CHRISTIAN - and President of the WCF) mentioned Jesus' example of the five sparrows sold for two farthings, "and not one of them forgotten by God", and he also talked about the beautiful parable of The Good Shepherd. His wife, Mrs. Mary Braybrooke, read to us William Blake's inspirational poem 'To See a World in a Grain of Sand, and a Heaven in a Wild Flower ... the theme being Kill Not!

For the JEWISH faith, Rabbi Jacqueline Tabick (Chair, WCF) quoted Isaiah's vision of a peaceful world, with its strong message "They shall not hurt nor do harm in all my holy kingdom". She also reminded us not to forget that insects have their place, telling us a delightful story of David - before he became king - being saved by a spider, and later by a wasp.

Khalid Hussenbux spoke on behalf of MUSLIMS, in particular stressing that all creatures are sentient beings, and therefore that cruelty to all living animals must be condemned.

Jackie Ballard (RSPCA) talked about their vision of "a world where humans respect and live in harmony with animals"

Phyllis Campbell-McRae (IFAW) reminded us of how much animals do for us, and how we can learn from them.

Marian Hussenbux (QCA) reading from an article by the American animal advocate, Judy Carman, spoke of how our culture has, sadly, lost its connection with the sacred web of life. "We are mystical activists.truly blessed, because we live in awe and wonder at the miracle of our animal relations and of life itself. We know firsthand that we belong with them in this sacred family of earth. We have brothers and sisters swimming in the sea, flying above us, walking beside us and talking to us, each in their own way. This path we have taken of No Harm and Communion with All Life is. the great Path of Compassion and Joy. On this sacred path, we walk together toward the Heaven on Earth or Peaceable Kingdom prophesied by the wise optimists of all ages, in which all beings truly "love one another.

Speaking for the International Primate Protection League, Cyril Rosen told us some delightful tales of monkeys and humans living peacefully together.

Oliver Southgate, for Compassion in World Farming, gave us some shocking details of the horrors of factory farming, and reminded us that the Biblical word 'dominion' -as in "Man will have dominion over the animals" - always includes responsibility and compassion.

A collection was made for The Doctor Hadwen Trust, in memory of the Unitarian social reformer and animal protection campaigner, Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904), who, with Lord Shaftesbury, founded the world's first anti-vivisection society. (Friends will be aware that QCA began life in 1889 as the Friends' Anti-Vivisection Society.)

The address was given by Professor Timothy Sprigge, Emeritus Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, University of Edinburgh.

He began with an overview of different faiths' attitudes to animals, making the important point that, whereas all religions condemn cruelty to animals, their definitions of what actually constitutes cruelty causes some difficulty.

Are animals inferior? Do they have a sense of self? Do they have souls? These were among the questions he raised. Timothy's view is that other animals have consciousness as we do - they are not merely automata, as Descartes conveniently labelled them - they certainly feel pain (even insects), there is a non-physical dimension to their lives, and they do have moral rights.

Timothy finished by discussing current campaigns for animal protection and rights. It is perfectly legitimate to mount public protests against factory farms and vivisection labs. If some supporters of causes we share are violent, whilst we would consider this to be wrong and counter-productive, it does not nullify the cause.

After the sung Benediction, refreshments, including copious Indian food provided by a Bangladeshi friend of Feargus's, completed an inspiring event.

This article first appeared in the November issue of Young Quaker.

9. How would the Biblical Noah Respond to Today’s Rapid Species Extinction?

The article below is very timely as the Torah portion about Noah and the flood will be read this Shabbat in synagogues.

What Would Noah Do?

By Adam C. Stern
Executive Director, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life

November 1, 2005

This week we read Parshah Noah in the Torah - the story of the Great Flood, the ark that saved two living creatures of each species, and the covenant God made with Noah to abide by God's laws. The story is especially relevant this year in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the other destructive storms that have followed. Many scientists now agree that the increasing frequency and intensity of these hurricanes have been at least partially caused by human activity, including burning fossil fuels and the related release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Our climate is changing on a scale bigger than even Noah could have imagined.

Responding to climate change and the warming of the planet already underway is going to require a multi-decade effort by governments, businesses, communities, and individuals. A key challenge is to build public awareness about the likely consequences of climate change, especially the injustice to people living in poverty who surely will be harmed the most. In the spirit of tikkun olam (repairing the Earth), Jewish leaders must convey the moral urgency of taking action now. Since we are all part of the problem, we must all join in developing solutions for a more environmentally-sustainable world.

One place to start is to protect the strong environmental laws already in place. For more than 30 years, the federal Endangered Species Act has served as a safety net for wildlife, fish and plants that are on the brink of extinction. During that time, of the 1,800 species protected by the law, only nine have been declared extinct - a remarkable record of the Act's positive impact. Without the Endangered Species Act, wildlife such as the bald eagle, American alligator, California condor, Florida panther and many other animals that are part of America's natural heritage could have disappeared from the planet years ago. The Endangered Species Act works because it safeguards the places where endangered animals and plants live.

But in a stunning expression of self-interest at the expense of the national interest, some members of Congress, with support from land developers, are trying to severely weaken, or even eliminate, the Endangered Species Act. In September, the House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill, misleadingly named "The Threatened and Endangered Species Reform Act of 2005," that would hamstring the federal government in its efforts to protect the critical habitat areas that endangered animals and plants need to survive. The legislation would also exempt the pesticide industry from the Endangered Species Act's most important provisions.

In addition to the many environmental reasons for defending the Act, Jewish and Christian leaders are stepping forward to make the religious case for preserving this vital conservation law. Forty prominent rabbis and 30 distinguished Jewish scientists - a group not seen working together everyday - have signed a statement to Congress in which they affirm that:

"...the Endangered Species Act is one of our generation's richest fulfillments of our biblical destiny as b'tselem elohim, created in the image of God (Genesis 1: 26), with the unique power and responsibility to shape, preserve, and renew creation through the work of our hands, our hearts, and our minds.

The rabbis and Jewish scientists call upon U.S. policymakers to "... emulate the forethought, self-restraint, and prodigious effort modeled by the biblical Noah - "a righteous man . . . blameless in his age" (Genesis 6: 9). The writers - describing "the Endangered Species Act as the legislative equivalent of Noah's cedar grove" - urge Congress to strengthen the law as a resource for building our environmental future.

Jewish groups are also playing a leading role in the Noah Alliance, an interfaith partnership established to defend the Endangered Species Act. Public service ads, take action steps, and materials for use in synagogues and churches can be found on the Noah Alliance web site (

The engagement of religious communities at both national and congregational levels will be crucial to protecting the Endangered Species Act when it is considered by the U.S. Senate, later this year or early in 2006. With the House having already passed an extreme measure to weaken the law, the battle in the Senate is shaping up as a key test of our nation's moral resolve to protect endangered species, and by extension, to protect ourselves.

Jewish texts clearly state that all species deserve our wonder and protection. "Of all that the Holy One created in the world, not a single thing is useless," teaches the Talmud (B. Shabbat 77b), while the Midrash elaborates, "Even those creatures that you may look upon as superfluous in the world . . . they too are part of the entirety of creation." (Genesis Rabbah 10:7). Every species of plant or animal is thus understood by Jewish tradition to occupy an ecological niche in our interdependent, living world.

In the story of Noah, God considered destroying the Earth and did not. Now with the planet's environmental well-being threatened, we mortals face the same choice.

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