The Sceptic Blog

Random thoughts of a random chappy

I’m dreaming of a green Chanukah

with 3 comments

  1. Certain environmentalists want us to curtail our chanukah observances to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. They have calculated an impressive environmental impact to be achieved by reducing our lighting by one candle each.
  2. Much of secular conservation theory is at variance with Jewish thought. In particular, the idea that human beings should restrict themselves to sustainable uses of the planet’s resources, so that we do nothing that would prevent the world from existing indefinitely, ignores the Jewish belief that the world is not intended to last for ever. The Talmud sees the world as intended as a relatively short-term project intended to last no more than a few millenia – different precise lengths according to different rabbinic opinions.
  3. But we share with environmentalists the idea that while the world exists we should use it sensibly. In particular, we have a number of environmental laws, such as, for example, town planning restrictions designed to prevent one interest group from polluting the environment for another.
  4. To reduce our chanukah lighting by one candle per night would make no sense halachically. But it might make halachic sense to go much further than that. While there are different opinions about the optimal number of lights to be lit, everyone agrees that just one light per person per night would satisfy the basic halachic requirement. The Jewish world has opted to exceed this, as a hiddur mitzvah – a beautification of the mitzvah. But it is no beautification to upset others or to add to their ecological difficulties.
  5. It may be that the chemical global effect of the Jewish community resolving to return to the basic requirement of one light per person per night would be minimal, or even nugatory, as a reduction of emissions. But the spiritual effect could be explosive. It could demonstrate a real concern for our fellow human beings, and a real desire to do whatever we can to show sensitivity and a desire to avoid causing offence or discomfort. As a practical exercise in loving our fellow human beings and showing respect for their concerns and desires, it could kindle an eternal spiritual light of which we could be truly proud.

Written by Daniel Greenberg

December 8, 2007 at 9:00 pm

3 Responses

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  1. what a title!!!

    avi greenberg

    December 8, 2007 at 9:29 pm

  2. A similar although slightly different approach here:

    Eli Coten

    December 9, 2007 at 3:43 pm

  3. I had a discussion with a leaned gentleman from Israel who came to see me last week when my Menorah was still on the dining room table, as to what one does with the surplus oil in the cups and with the used wicks. He mentioned that it was a bizui mitzvah to bin the wicks and throw away the oil. The gentleman in question whose name is Rabbi Shmuel Leitner, is in the process of publishing a series of encylopaedia in hebrew and english (separately) which show the observances of the Chaggim by orthodox Jews throughout the world. He has undertaken this task to make some money for the family of his sister whose husband died at a very young age and he felt that by taking sponsorship for these publications was a far more honourable way of helping the widow rather than just making a charity collection for the family. As it so happens, the volume which he brought to m last week included Chanukah pictures of various Gedolim of our age whose practice is to make a fire of all the leftover wicks and oil. This practice is, potentially, far more harmful to the environment than a single chanukah light. I have seen no mention that this practice should be ceased. Any thoughts? By the way, the Rabbi Leitner mentioned has pointed out that his name split into two parts is the same in English and Hebrew. With this in mind, perhaps the author of this blog may wish to cahnge his mane to “Greenyarok” or “Berghar”, but that is another subject entirely.

    The Secretary

    December 16, 2007 at 1:26 pm

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