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A Jewish Environment

The Color of HeavenArtscroll
Topic: Conserving Energy Vs. Shabbat

Bill Clark wrote:

I have a question for the Rabbi!

I have been writing a column on energy conservation for a local Jewish magazine, The Jewish Outlook, in Austin Texas. I have been proud to cite many Biblical and Rabbinic references to encourage people to "repair the world" and to practice energy conservation.

Then I read about an organization in Israel that makes gadgets that let people follow the Sabbath rules, but still live in the modern world. One is a light that stays on all the time, but has a cover that can be taken off when light is needed. Mostly they get around the injunction against using an electrical switch that way - by keeping things on all the time. Wasting energy, in other words.

Which is more important - to conserve energy and help renew the world in a sincere effort - or to adhere to the Sabbath in an almost comical circumvention of the rules? I think it is clearly the former.


Dear Bill Clark,

The gadget you mention is used mainly in hospitals. When the light is covered, the patient can sleep, and it can be uncovered whenever the patient needs care. At home most people use timers, programmed before Shabbat to turn lights off and on. These timers save energy.

But I'm in the dark about something: What is it about this gadget that "comically circumvents the rules?" Is blocking the light a "circumvention of the rules?" If so, we shouldn't shut our bedroom door Friday night if it blocks the hall light. We shouldn't shut our eyes, because then our eyelids block the light! We should stay awake the whole night staring straight into the light!

But to answer the question "which is more important, observing the Torah or conserving energy" - observing the Torah is more important. G-d, as Creator, owns the world and has the right to direct the use of its resources.

Remember the movie "Bambi vs. Godzilla?" (It was a very short film.) Your portrayal of "Environment vs. Shabbat" reminds me of it: Shabbat, the giant monster, "squishes" the tender Environment with one stomp of its foot. The End.

But imagine - what would happen if everyone in the world kept Shabbat? Imagine one day a week when no cars, planes or boats guzzled gas, no factories coughed out polluted stench, no TVs, stereos, or computers leeched electricity?

Just imagine the health benefits if everyone rested once a week! And how many road deaths (the majority of which occur on weekends) would be avoided. Most of all, imagine the positive environmental impact if we all took one day a week to recognize the beauty of G-d's world. If one day in seven were spent thinking: "This is G-d's world, not mine!"

No, I don't think Shabbat observance is going to eat a hole in the ozone layer. It might even mend one.


 
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