search the database
Browse By Category
Human Responsibility Towards the Environment
Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13
Suggested Discussion Questions
1. Describe ways humanity “works” the earth. Are these good or bad or neutral? Describe ways humanity “protects” the earth. Are these good or bad or neutral? Do these two concepts (of “working” and “protecting”) contradict or complement each other? How?
2. We could define “working the earth” as including building upon it, damming the waters, harnessing its renewable energy, inventing materials, medicines, fabrics, farming, and other actions that increase the quality of human (and animal) life. Does this midrash endorse such uses or not?
3. During creation, God grants humans dominion over the other creatures of the world, and declares that our sustenance will result from our working the land. If this work requires changing the world, the question is: what are the boundaries? When does work become destructive instead of constructive? How do we balance “tending/working” and “preserving/protecting”?
4. What do you think about the idea that each individual has a personal obligation to protect the environment? How might that be different from making an individual contribution towards a collective effort?
5. What differences do you notice between contemporary environmentalism and the perspective reflected in this text?
[Based on an exercise developed by Hillel and Panim]
Subscribe to AJWS