Welcome to Western Religions and Ecology. In this first week, let's undertake an introduction and overview to Judaism, focusing on the early formation of the tradition and some early figures. Now obviously, when we talk about religion and ecology in the context of Judaism, one of the first images that comes to mind is the Garden of Eden, that powerful story of Adam and Eve, the human exchange with the divine. And we see here nature, in the ancient Biblical world, was a place where humans could personally meet God and where they were called to exercise responsibility in their use of the natural world. The garden then centers this thinking about responsibility. One could say that Judaism is a tradition of conservation, promoting appropriate use and nurturance of the natural world as a garden, rather than say preservation of nature for itself or nature's intrinsic value apart from the human or God. On the other hand, there are times in the Jewish tradition in which human use of the garden is put in question by the inherent mystery of creation. Creatures possess inherent values because they belong to God, and human limits are acknowledged in Judaism. This tension then in Judaism manifests itself in the story of created world and revealed word that we will explore in this class. Another way to say it is that there is a tension between nature as created by God and scripture as divinely revealed in Torah. In Judaism, Torah is considered the blueprint for creation, so that the study of Torah is believed to bring a deeper understanding of God's creation. Implied in this understanding are ancient ideas about God, creation, law, and history. We will investigate how these religious ideas relate to obligations towards nature. Central to understanding the history of the Israelite people are the covenants with the founding figures and the promise that they held of land, children, and prosperity. This history is considered a sacred history, in which God brings His people back to their covenantal promise. God made a covenant with Noah after the great flood during which Noah had preserved the creatures in the Ark. God initiated the covenant agreement marked by the rainbow, saying, "I now establish my covenant with you and your offspring to come, and with every living thing that is with you: birds, cattle, and every wild beast as well. All that have come out of the ark, every living thing on Earth. I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth." In the Fertile Crescent, some 3,000 years ago before the present, the herders and agriculturalists often located the divine in sacred places. They also had a religious regard for their ancestor's sacred experiences. The originating ancestor of Judaism was a herder, Abraham, who was called with his wife Sarah out of Ur and into the land of Canaan. According to tradition, God made a covenant with Abraham saying, "I am El-Shaddai. Walk in my ways and be blameless. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and I will make you exceedingly numerous. Your name shall be Abraham, for I shall make you the father of a multitude of nations... I assign the land you sojourn in to you and your offspring to come." Thus, Abraham accepted the berith, or covenant, whose sign was circumcision of the male children, and whose promise was land, children, and prosperity. In this way, the body of the male lineage carried a mark of the covenant, a sign of being the chosen people. The lineage of Abraham settled in Canaan and God continued his promise to those elders of the chosen people, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel. The children of Israel left Canaan for Egypt, driven by drought. There they fell into the slavery and oppression of authoritarian regimes. The Book of Exodus describes the central role of Moses, who, inspired by the numinous experience of the burning bush, led the Israelites from Egypt back to the promised land of Canaan. Most importantly, Moses mediated a new covenant, which he brought down from Mount Sinai and whose sign was the 10 Commandments. This exit, as experienced with Moses, unfolds as a powerful story of social justice, community wandering, and wilderness encounters with the divine mystery. Finally, the Israelites returned to the promised land of Canaan, and there they fight to establish a kingdom with Jerusalem as its sacred center. Eventually, the Israelites place the Ark of the Covenant, which we see here, which led the armies in battle, they placed the Ark in a newly constructed temple, which consolidated covenantal responsibility and established the sacred center of Israel in Jerusalem. This new religious ecology grounded the Israelites both within their wilderness experience as well as into a powerful symbolic urban setting around the temple. Out of years of wandering, then, a new connection was established with land, sacred city, and covenantal law. Thus, the chosen people are oriented into their sacred history through the revealed word of Torah situated in temple worship. Now, kings like David and Solomon, and the sacred setting of Jerusalem, with its cosmological centering in the temple, amplify the incredibly intense drama of this sacred history. The failure of Israel's governance in the kingdoms of Northern Israel and Southern Judah brought forth the powerful voices of the prophets, who draw on striking natural and social imagery to call the people back to their covenantal responsibility. Amos is the first of the named prophets, whose warnings to the people were collected in a text under his name. His stern rebuke of the luxurious excess of the Northern Israelite elite still echoes in his call to justice, as well as his powerful symbolic imagery of the divine blessing in the land. You can hear the voice of God speaking through Amos, "I loathe, I spurn your festivals. I am not appeased by your solemn assemblies. Spare me the sound of your hymns. But let justice well up like water, righteousness like an unfailing stream. Did you offer sacrifice and oblation to me those 40 years in the wilderness, o House of Israel?" Similar warnings from prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel continually highlight a new revealed message namely, The Day of the Lord. This phrase refers to a day of reckoning if there is no return to covenantal law. All of the hope and vitality transmitted in the promise to the Israelites of land, children, and prosperity is called into question. The Day of the Lord then marks both impending ecological and social crisis, resulting from the people's breaking of the Covenant. From this prophetic language of catastrophe looming over land and people comes the worldview of apocalypse, which brings visions of the end time into Jewish history.