In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 11, 2007 / 7 Nissan, 5767

Lessons from a previous global environmental catastrophe

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

No More Flood

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: You explained that solving our environmental problems requires international cooperation. What can Jewish tradition teach us about nearing this ideal?

A: In recent weeks we have explained that Jewish law definitely mandates regulation of pollution and other nuisances, but that most kinds of pollution, even the most threatening kinds, are not direct or defined enough to be forbidden without some kind of concrete legislation or regulation. Global warming is considered a major threat, but it is impossible to forbid creating any heat or emitting any carbon dioxide. Such a prohibition would make it impossible even to breathe, cook or heat dwellings.

Yet doing nothing is also not a viable option. Even a relatively small threat of catastrophic climate change is worrisome enough that people worldwide see the need to do something about it. The only real option is for countries to work together to establish sensible limits. The most important effort to date has been the so-called Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement on future limitations on greenhouse. This protocol is certainly an important contribution but almost certainly an insufficient one, since many countries (including the US) have not ratified it, others have ratified it but are not fulfilling it, and others are currently not regulated by it.

What are the prospects of such cooperation? How could it be achieved?

The Torah provides an instructive parallel scenario. In the past mankind once faced a global environmental catastrophe. This catastrophe too was "anthropogenic" — caused by man's actions. In this case also, mankind was required to act in concert to prevent disaster, and was given ample advance warning in order to do so. How did mankind react? What did the human race learn from the experience?

The catastrophe in question was the great flood. The reason for the flood was man's corrupt actions. "And G-d said to Noah, the end of all flesh approaches before me, for the entire world is filled with injustice before them; therefore, I will devastate them with the earth." (Genesis 6:13) G-d then commands Noah to build an ark to save himself and his family from the coming flood. This ark was a huge sea vessel, which took Noah and his families many years to build. Couldn't G-d have found a simpler way of saving Noah and his family?

Rashi's commentary explains that G-d designated such a prominent and unwieldy means of escape because He purposely wanted to give plenty of advance warning to the rest of mankind, to allow them to reconsider their ways. "In order that the people of the generation of the flood should see him [Noah] occupied with it 120 years, asking him, 'What are you doing?' And he would reply, 'G-d is going to bring a flood on the world'. Perhaps this would bring them to repent."

In a striking foreshadowing of our current situation, mankind faced looming disaster, but also constructive solutions. One solution was for all mankind to unite and return from their corrupt ways, thus saving the entire world. Another possibility was for any group to take stock of the situation and build their own ark to save at any rate their own members. The sad result was that no one took the warning seriously, and all of mankind was destroyed.

Did the human race learn anything from this experience? Scripture tells us that they did. First of all, they learned that society cannot survive solely on the basis of good intentions; there is a need for strict laws equitably enforced. As soon as Noah and his family leave the ark, they are commanded to enforce basic laws of human coexistence: "He who spills the blood of a man, by man will his blood be spilled; for man is created in God's image". (Genesis 9:6.)

Second of all, the generation following the flood internalized the need for international cooperation. "And all the world was of one language, and single intention... And they said, let us build us a city, and a tower whose top will reach the heavens, and thus make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over all the earth" (Genesis 11:1,4).

Sadly, mankind's newfound solidarity was not directed towards creating a just society, but rather towards pride and self-aggrandizement alone: to "make a name for ourselves". Thus God intervened once more in man's affairs and dispersed mankind subsequent to the construction of the Tower of Babel. But they were not punished with destruction as were the members of the generation of the flood; Rashi's commentary (Genesis 11:9) explains that God acknowledged and rewarded their cooperative spirit. "The generation of the flood were thieves and bickered, therefore they disappeared. But these conducted themselves with love and cooperation, as it is written 'One language and single intention.' We learn that dispute is hateful and peace is great."

However, He was disappointed in the direction they channeled it and dispersed them.

The process described in the book of Genesis is one of human progress and advancement driven by a combination of revelation (the commandment of rule of law) and experience (the destruction of the flood due to moral anomie). Both these processes have continued since the time of the flood and the dispersion; the revelation of the Torah and the inspiring vision of world brotherhood enunciated by the great Biblical prophets provide a guide, and the many kinds of anthropogenic destruction — ethical, military, or environmental — may have slowly inculcated in us the necessity for cooperation.

There is hope for concerted and binding steps for limiting environmental damage if mankind internalizes the lessons of the past, both human and divine. The most important message is that human cooperation is always desirable and welcome, but that ultimately it is effective only when it is directed towards perfecting the world, and not solely for pride and fame as it was in the time of the Tower of Babel.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


You've enjoyed his columns on JWR for years. Now the Jewish Ethicist has culled his most intriguing — and controversial — offerings in book form.
Sales help fund JWR.

© 2007, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics