Abstract

Global climate change and environmental disaster are one of the most pressing ethical and existential crises of our day. This articles examines the intricacies of rabbinic tort law (nezikin) with an eye to contemporary questions of pollution and environmental degradation. Taking up three case studies, it outlines the basic thrust of the rabbinic sources and their medieval interpreters, then demonstrating their relevance for contemporary ethical debates and considering their legal and moral implications for our industrialized and globalized economy. These sources demand behavioral changes and a reverence for the world grounded in personal and communal responsibility. The Talmudic sources—read through the lens of aggadah—offer a prescriptive vocabulary for environmental activism from the heart of Jewish legal literature.

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