Professor Nahum Rakover, an Orthodox legalist and Torah/Talmud scholar, was appointed by the World Jewish Congress to write this statement.
The present paper is concerned with the vast and complex problem of protecting our natural environment from pollution and destruction, so that we can live in God’s world while enjoying its beauty and deriving from it the maximum physical and spiritual benefit.
Consider the work of God; for who can make that straight, which man has
made crooked? (Eccles. 7:13)
When God created Adam, he showed him all the trees of the Garden of
Eden and said to him: “See my works, how lovely they are, how fine they
are. All I have created, I created for you. Take care not to corrupt and
destroy my universe, for if you destroy it, no one will come after you to
put it right.” (Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7)
In Jewish sources, the rationale for humanity’s obligation to protect nature may be found in the biblical expression, “For the earth is Mine” (Lev. 25:23). The Bible informs us that the Earth is not subject to man’s absolute ownership, but is rather given to us “to use and protect” (Gen. 2:15).
From biblical sources that refer to our “dominion” over nature, it would appear as though we were granted unlimited control of this world, as we find in Genesis 1:26:
And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let
them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air,
and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing
that creeps upon the earth.”