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July 30, 2008

Another day, another environmentalist rabbi

I'm not going to say much about this Torah commentary from the Jewish Theological Seminary (Conservative Judaism's rabbinical academy), because it's really a self-parody. The commentary was written by Rabbi Abigail Treu, described as the director of Donor Relations and Planned Giving for the Sem. That is, she's a fundraiser, but a rabbi at the same time.

To give you the flavor of the commentary, in case you don't want to click on the link, here's the opening paragraph:

Golda Meir famously quipped: “Let me tell you the one thing I have against Moses. He took us forty years into the desert in order to bring us to the one place in the Middle East that has no oil!” Well, the folks living atop the Marcellus Shale have the opposite gripe. Underneath this formation, which stretches from the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York through Pennsylvania and Ohio to Virginia, there is oil. And with the price of oil being what it is, the oil companies have new incentive to drill there and have come calling. Which presents the farmers and landowners in this four-state stretch with a dilemma: what is more important, the beauty and health of their land or their economic security?
I know! Call on me! The farmers should preserve the beauty of their land, despite their relative poverty, so that rich liberals can enjoy the natural beauty.

Oy, vey! Rabbi Treu's commentary goes on to discuss what she sees as environmentalism in this week's Torah portion, culminating in her tribute to the idealism of Jewish law (about which see my discussion of the prosbul).

Most of us curmudgeons are strong believers in conservation, but that's not what we're talking about here. In case you were still doubting that the great project of environmentalism is to destroy the economy and reduce our standard of living, consider the way Rabbi Treu closes her commentary. We should learn, she says, from the mistakes of the Children of Israel in the wilderness, adding:
We too are poised on a threshold, contemplating how to react to our own scary reports of an uncertain future. We would do well to take the mantle of tikkun ‘olam onto our own shoulders, so that our children may be blessed to recite one hundred blessings a day, and live in a world in which the lack of oil is a source of celebration, not regret.
What's really scary is that the head of fundraising for the Sem is so clueless about why donors have money in the first place: They have money because they engage in commerce. Of course, if she had her way, there would far less commerce. I wonder whether she would then declare that the ensuing drop in donations to the Sem was a source of celebration, not regret.