The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 


 
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The Torah's Only "Inalienable Right": for the Land

Reb Duvid's article on ecology and human rights appears in the July-Aug 2008 issue of Tikkun.

Read "Human Rights and Ecology" on the Tikkun website.

The question it answers: how can our understanding of human rights and the "rights" of the earth fit together? Since human rights is generally thought to trump moral obligations to other species and to the land, this is no simple question. Generally speaking, the proposition that "All men are created equal," or "All people are created in the image of God," has implied that all other creatures, species and realms are unequal and insignificant by comparison.

"Human Rights and Ecology" shows that all the human rights described in the Torah are grounded in the one right that belongs not to human beings but to the land: the right to rest every seventh year. The sabbath that honors human labor and human freedom, the Jubilee that honors the human right to be connected to the earth and to sustain oneself on the land, all flow from the land's inalienable right to be free from human machines and human fences. So we cannot disconnect human rights from the greater good of the earth.

"Human Rights and Ecology" also breaks new theological ground, showing how one can justify the value and divine image of humanity alongside the value of the other beings who share this planet, using one consistent framework. Kabbalistic and midrashic texts are used to unfold the idea of the divine image as a kind of intensification of the divinity in the whole of creation. I hope the issues this article raises will enliven and open our discourse, and our vision of Torah, to a greater appreciation for the earth and for the presence of the more-than-human world in our lives and spirits.

There is also has a section of political analysis dealing with the American Jewish community, as well as with the Bedouin and human rights/land rights in Israel. (Read more about Bedouin issues here.)


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You can download a PDF of the first (theological) half of the article right here. You can also listen to Reb Duvid's workshop on the same subject from the 2006 Rabbis for Human Rights Conference here. The first and second parts are now available. The workshop deals in depth with several areas that the article just touches on, while the article deals far more in depth with applying these ideas to contemporary issues and activism.


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