Parashat Tetzaveh

All That's Gold Doesn't Glitter

Behind every gold ring are mountains of waste and trails of destruction.

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A concise list of mining accidents can be found here. Most large mining corporations (even those that use cyanide leaching processes) feature information on social and environmental concerns. After researching the relevant issues, consider contacting local and federal government representatives to advocate for safer mining practices and corporate accountability. Alternative mining processes can be explored and supported, like those described here.

As the truth about gold mining becomes too apparent to ignore, jewelry producers and retailers are taking steps to align themselves with ethical gold mining and acquisition. Most notably, Michael Kowalski, Chairman and CEO of Tiffany & Co., wrote a letter in 2004 to the chief of the US Forest Service, asking him to reverse Forest Service support of a proposed mining project in Montana.

Tiffany and other major jewelry retailers have signed on to an ethical gold campaign sponsored by No Dirty Gold. The campaign suggests purchasing gold only from retailers who pledge to use ethical, environmentally safe gold.

Of course, even ethical mining leaves a mark on the earth. Recycling and reusing old precious metals and gems is the most environmentally friendly way to attain new, personalized jewelry. Companies like Green Karat are dedicated to increasing the recycled gold jewelry market.

There is also a grassroots movement of boutique jewelry artists who only use recycled materials. Many of us have collections of old jewelry from parents and grandparents that, all too often, sit in jewelry boxes or safe-deposit boxes. Recycling and reusing these beloved heirlooms creates precious new pieces that honor the memory of the past while promoting a viable and ethical future.

The ultimate challenge is the cultivation of a holy, honorable, and harmonious relationship with gold. Let us reevaluate our perceived need for gold, and ask ourselves if the jewelry we buy truly reflects our values.

As we adorn ourselves with gold, are we aware of the destruction is it causing the earth, as well as the villagers and animals living near the gold mines? As we celebrate our happiest occasions with traditional gifts of gold jewelry, are we linking our joy to God's joy over the fullness of the earth? As conscious Jews, we must start viewing our use of gold through the pure glimmer of the High Priest's golden headplate, and be sure that we are adorning ourselves not just in splendor, but with honor and holiness.

Suggested Action Items:

1. Educate yourself by visiting the sites mentioned above, and sign on to the No Dirty Gold campaign.

2. Reflect carefully when purchasing gold: is your purchase expressing your values? Contemplate recycling a family heirloom. For example, have your grandmother's large gold ring melted down to create a wedding ring that fits your taste. Or acquaint yourself with Green Karat jewelry and consider buying from them.

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Shimshon Stuart Siegel is studying for rabbinic ordination at the Bat Ayin Yeshiva in the Judean Hills.