Conference article

An Ethics of Sustainability and Jewish Law?

Jann Reinhardt
Berlin Studies of Jewish Law, Humboldt University Berlin, Gemany

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Published in: Proceedings from the 50th Societas Ethica Annual Conference 2013. Climate Change; Sustainability; and an Ethics of an Open Future. August 22-25; 2013; Soesterberg; The Netherlands

Linköping Electronic Conference Proceedings 98:13, p. 179-194

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Published: 2014-08-21

ISBN: 978-91-7519-289-5

ISSN: 1650-3686 (print), 1650-3740 (online)


This article titled “An Ethics of Sustainability and Jewish Law?” at first addresses the issue why it is important to ask for ethical responses to questions of sustainability and an ethics of an open future; and why the technocratic approach as practiced in most Western countries is not ‘sustainable’ enough; meaning not sufficient in the long term.

Secondly it is examined what a religious perspective has to offer for the discourse. In particular this is the perspective of Jewish Law (Halakhah); today a mere niche subject; a law system without territory and primarily based on the tradition of a religious group that makes up for less than 0.2% of the world population. It is argued why despite these facts it is worth to take a closer look at the Jewish legal system; as it offers a rich and unique tradition of more than 3;000 years of discussion and thought that still gives revealing insights. Two Jewish legal principles; Bal Tashchit and Migrash; are to exemplify this claim; before an outlook on possible future contributions is given.


Jewish law; sustainability; theological ethics; Halakhah; Bal Tashchit; Migrash


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