Eco-Kashrut: Environmental Standards for What and How We Eat

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Indeed, in the last few hundred years, the human race has invented the most brilliant act of work in all of its history. We have affected the planet--its very biology and chemistry--in ways no species ever has before. And we have invented the Holocaust, the H-bomb, global warming. Strange fires, all of them. Fires through which a few people can now kill billions, a few corporations can now kill thousands of species.

What can we learn by renewing the ancient text? For shepherds and farmers, food was what they ate from the earth. For us, it is also coal, oil, electric power, paper, plastics, that we take from the earth. For shepherds and farmers, kashrut was the way of guiding their eating toward holiness. For us, eco-kashrut should do the same.

We should ask: Is it eco-kosher to eat vegetables and fruit that have been grown by drenching the soil with insecticides? Is it eco-kosher to drink Shabbat Kiddush wine from non-biodegradable plastic cups? Is it eco-kosher to use 100 percent unrecycled office paper and newsprint in our homes, our synagogues, our community newspapers? Might it be eco-kosher to insist on 10 percent recycled paper this year, 30 percent in two years, and 80 percent in five years?

Is it eco-kosher to destroy great forests, to ignore insulating our homes, synagogues, and nursing homes, to become addicted to automobiles so that we drunkenly pour carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, there to accelerate the heating of our globe? Strange fire indeed!

We can light a blaze to consume the earth. Or we can make a holy altar of our lives, to light up the spark of God in every human and in every species.

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Rabbi Arthur O. Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow directs the Shalom Center and is the author of numerous books, including Godwrestling, Godwrestling--Round 2, Seasons of Our Joy, The Bush is Burning, and These Holy Sparks.