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Is environmentalism a Jewish value?
We as Jews of today's world see the environment as a very important factor in our lives. There is no reason that the environment should not be a Jewish issue. We all have to live in the world so we must make the world the best possible place. Environmentalism means taking care of the environment and the world at large. It includes many different aspects - caring for animals, recycling, planting trees and plants etc. If we, as humans, do not care for the environment then it will all go to waste and we will not have a decent world to leave for the future generations. (And it is unlikely that we will soon be living in space stations and on other plants and can make the Earth just a large garbage dump.) So, we as Jews hold the same responsibilities as all other humans - and we as an Ohr Lagoyim have to set the example, so we should be helping out in any way possible, and even starting up the various movements.
Not only modern Jews, but also the Torah shows concern for the environment. Let's take a few examples.
1. Kashrut - Kashrut is one way the Torah deals with environmentalist issues. The Torah shows concern not only for human beings but for animals as well. The Torah not only prohibits eating certain animals, but those that are permitted are only permitted with certain restrictions. For example:
"Lo Tivashel Gdi B'chalev Imo" (Parshat Mishpatim)- Meaning that one cannot kill the kid and cook it in its' mother's milk.
Shchita - There are certain restrictions on the way an animal can be killed in order to be eaten. Animals are slaughtered on a certain nerve because that is the fastest and least painful way of killing an animal.
2. Shiluach HaKen - A person MAY NOT take bird eggs from the nest when the mother bird is there. You must shoo the mother bird away before taking the eggs so that the mother bird does not see you taking them and get upset that you stole her children.
3. Fruit trees - A person is NEVER permitted to chop down a fruit bearing tree for the purpose of building. (During war time, no tree is allowed to be chopped down for the purpose of war.)
Trees - Trees are very important for the environment! When all the trees are cut down we will have this problem of not having clean air. Trees are nature's vacuum cleaners. They not only let out the right gasses of which we humans need to breathe, but they also clean up the air from many of the pollutants found in the air. (Besides, without trees, what would we climb on Shabbat afternoon, before during and after SNIF?!)
4. Vegetarianism - this is not an environmentalist issue per say, but it is important. Being a vegetarian shows that you care for animals and are concerned for the well being of the animals. But it is not necessary to be a vegetarian to be concerned for animals. Animal rights is a big issue. Not eating meat is only part of it. It also includes not testing products on animals, and not using animals for lab experiments or wearing that which an animal once wore (fur, leather etc), plus more.
Now, if you still don't see the environment as being an important issue to Jews than not only are you not a good Jew but you are not a good human being. Environmentalism has no reason to be specifically a Jewish or non-Jewish issue. Jews have to help out just as much as the next guy to save the world from complete pollution and destruction.
There are many ways in which you can be involved. On the simplest level, you can refrain from buying products that were tested on animals or even come from an animal. Also trees can be bought at Tu B'shvat time and during the rest of the year as well. You can plant a garden in your back yard. Pick up all the garbage you see lying on the ground - be at school, at Shul, in the park, on the road or at Camp - make your city a nicer one, and help stop litterbugs! Recycle more, throw out less. - Recycle papers (Newspapers, magazines, homework), aluminum, tins, plastic etc. Whatever your Blue Box tells you that you can.
On a more advanced level you can get involved in the Earth Day committee within your school. If there is none, start one! Inform everyone why Earth Day is important, and what they can do to help the environment. During recess organize the class into a cleanup committee and clean up your school yard...
The best way to get involved is by just being aware and doing all the little things to help make the environment a nicer and healthier place in which to live.
Etz, Pri, Perach – The chanichim sit in a circle, the madrich walks around the inside of that circle and assigns each chanich a name by saying “Etz, Pri, Perach … Pri” or “Etz” or “Perach”. The Madrich/a then begins to count to five. The chanich must name either a fruit, a tree or a flower, depending on what you told him/her to name. If s/he answers within the count to five, s/he becomes the leader. A variation of this game is to say Recyclable, Non-recyclable and Biodegradable instead of Etz, Pri and Perach.
Map Making- create a map of Eretz Yisrael out of ice cream. Indicate the forests with chocolate chips.
Extinction Game- play dodgeball, elimination or Risk...what does it feel like to be “extincted”?
Recycling Peulot- this is a recycling exercise for the madrich/a. Find a way of recycling last weeks peula.
Story Recycling- have the chanichim repeat a story many times but in different forms.
Split the chanichim into different groups and give them eat a bag of various objects. Have them use the objects to make a skit for the other chanichim, but be sure to make them use the objects in an unconventional way (ie. Use a cup for a hat rather than to drink out of). Vote on the most creative uses of the objects.
Other games just for the fun of it…
Vampire – Everyone closes their eyes and begin to roam around. The madrich, as the chanichim are roaming, notifies one chanich/a that s/he is the vampire. That chanich must keep his/her eyes shut as well. But when s/he bumps into another chanicha/a, s/he gives a bloodcurdling scream. (The other chanich/a most likely will as well.) The victim of the vampire becomes a vampire as well. This goes on until everyone is a vampire. But one catch – what happens when 2 vampires collide and suck each other’s blood? They transform back into live flesh and blood and must try to escape all the other vampires again.
Prui Prui – The group stands in a circle with eyes shut. They begin to wander around the room. When a chanich/a bumps into another chanich/a they shake hands and each asks: “prui?”. The madrich/a, when all the fun has begun, informs one of the chanichim that s/he is Prui. The prui may open his/her eyes. When s/he is bumped and asked “prui?” s/he does not respond. The Prui is a smiling mute (meaning the chanichim must smile!!!). When the other chanich/a realizes that s/he has found the Prui, s/he opens his eyes and joins hands to form a longer Prui. Now as the Prui gets longer, and happier with all the smiles, the other chanichim will probably bump into the Prui somewhere in the middle. They must find one end and join hands to become one with the Prui.
Laughter – One chanich lies on the floor on his/her back. S/he says “Ha!”. The next chanich lies down as well, just with his/her head on the first one’s tummy. The second chanich then says “Ha Ha!” and so on. Do this until the chanichim just crack up, which they will!
Some Non-Shabbat activities include:
<!--[if !supportLists]-->1) <!--[endif]-->A NATURE HIKE to increase the love of nature in urban chanichim.
2) Camping for a little rough and tough shmutz to dirty their hands a bit.
3) A trip to the nearest planetarium.
4) Collect cans and recyclables and give the money to tzedaka or the snif.