I call heaven and earth to witness concerning you
this day, that I have set before thee life and death,
the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life,
that thou mayest live, thou and thy seed.
While the Torah exhorts us to "choose life," in many ways the world today is choosing death:
- While enough food is being produced to provide an adequate diet for all the world's people, waste, greed, and unjust systems of production and distribution result in millions of deaths annually due to hunger and its effects.
- While the lives of people in wealthy countries are threatened by problems related to over-consumption and waste, half the people on earth lack adequate food, shelter, clean water, education, sanitary facilities, and employment.
- The world's prime ecosystems are threatened, many lakes and streams have been destroyed by acid rain, and many of the world's people are threatened by pesticides and toxic wastes.
- Competition for increasingly scarce resources, such as energy, water, and food makes local conflicts and global war more likely. There is need for radical changes if the world is to survive.
Albert Einstein stated about the nuclear age: "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything except our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. Economist Kenneth E. Boulding has indicated: "If the human race is to survive it will have to change more in its ways of thinking in the next twenty-five years than it has done in the last twenty-five thousand."
Actually, we don't need to discover new values and approaches; what is needed is a rediscovery of basic Jewish teachings and mandates, such as to seek and pursue peace, to pursue justice, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to act as co-workers with God in protecting and preserving the world. The application of Jewish values can help reduce global crises such as the nuclear arms, ecological crisis, hunger, poverty, energy shortages, and rapid population growth.
Unfortunately, instead of the Judaism of the prophets and sages, with its passionate concern for justice, peace, and righteousness, we often see in our community today what we might call "establishment Judaism." There is little active involvement, few protests against injustice, and much complacency and conformity. Jews today are in a position to make major contributions toward both global survival and Jewish revitalization. For our scientific and technical expertise enables us to become deeply aware of current world problems and our Jewish knowledge and commitment make us aware of our mandate to work,as partners and co-workers with God, fortikin olam , the preservation and redemption of the world, consistent with Torah values and teachings. I urge Jews and Jewish groups to become far more involved in current issues and problems facing the world. Committees should be formed, material written and distributed, and conferences held, all on the role that Judaism can play in moving our precious planet away from its present path toward annihilation.
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