Guest Author - Lisa Pinkus
Conversations around the topics of environmental concerns, health and sustainability, and the ecological future of our world often lead me to a deeper contemplation of our purpose here on Earth.
It is time – no matter who you are or what you believe in – to begin to consider the bigger picture. In a world focused on immediate gratification, accumulation and thinking of only the present moment, we are neglecting the far greater responsibility to the future survival of our world and all those in it. It is time we become accountable for the actions we take and how our actions make their impact on the world around us.
The more you learn, the more frightening it can become. However, increasing our knowledge is critical from this point forward. The field of ecological sustainability is not something new. The Torah is rampant with mandates on how to care for the Earth, our bodies and the animals in it.
Recently, I had the opportunity to view a documentary called A Sacred Duty. The documentary is an hour long and can be viewed on the website of The Jewish Vegetarians of North America. Whether you are an environmentalist, a vegetarian, or neither – this documentary is a worthwhile view that will educate, inform and raise questions in your mind.
Ethics, morality, and Torah Law. These are three of the explanations given for the imperative to take better care of our world and ourselves as demonstrated by A Sacred Duty.
A Sacred Duty begins in Israel, a tiny piece of land, which is – amazingly – a reflection of ecosystems found throughout the world. Pairing scientific evidence with Judaism’s ancient law, this documentary reveals how we are failing our G-d given responsibility to protect the Earth and all that is in it.
The concrete facts tell us that 18% of greenhouse gases come from livestock agriculture. Less land is needed to feed millions on a soy/vegetarian- based diet than is used to raise the cattle that feed far fewer people. With a world population where 15% of people are undernourished, one begins to wonder how we ended up here in the first place.
A Sacred Duty makes the insinuation that we are disregarding essential Jewish tenets to satisfy our own selfish desires. And, from what I gathered while watching this movie, there are several reasons to at least explore the concept of vegetarianism, the notion of ecological sustainability and the Torah Laws connected to caring for ourselves, for animals, and for the world.
The first being that these principles are mandates from G-d. They are just as important as any other mitzvvot we are asked to observe. The documentary covers several of them such as Baal Taschit, a prohibition against waste; Tzaar Ba’alei Hayyim, a prohibition against causing animals unnecessary pain; and, of course, implied throughout, is tikun olam, protecting and repairing our world.
Further, the future of our world is at stake if we do not contemplate the consequences of our current way of life – each and every one of us. No matter your level of religious observance, future generations cannot exist if we destroy and use up all that we have.
If we are able to take somewhat simple steps to ensure that most people in this world receive the proper nutrition and that our actions are significantly reducing greenhouse gases and other “bad effects” that are destroying our planet, why wouldn’t we do it?
A Sacred Duty is a great – and frightening – place to start. This film is filled with hard facts and religious principles to convince the viewer of his or her responsible stewardship required as a caretaker in this world. From Israel to a global view of the world, you will be provoked, concerned and motivated to make some change – even if it is a small one.
The end of the documentary is a bit horrific with repulsive images that may just convince some of you to contemplate vegetarianism. While it is difficult to watch the inhumane treatment of some of these animals, I understand the need to show it. What we don’t ask, we don’t know. If we don’t know – how are we able to make informed decisions?
I was asked to watch and review this film but did not receive any monetary compensation.