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The Rabbis and Environmentalism

Jim Davila was wondering whether the following quotation from Anglican minister Martin Palmer was really Talmudic:

“The Talmud says that the angels went to God and said, ‘You just created this wonderful world and now you’ve created these human beings who will only go and mess it up. Are you start staring mad?’ And God says, ‘I know what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing.’ And then the earth spoke, and the earth was afraid. And the earth said, ‘These creatures, they will only rebel against me and harm me.’ And God answers, ‘I promise you that they will never be allowed to destroy you.'”

I think that Iyov is right that this is derived at some distance from Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 38b or its parallels:

אמר רב יהודה א”ר בשעה שבקש הקב”ה לבראות את האדם ברא כת אחת של מלאכי השרת אמר להם רצונכם נעשה אדם בצלמנו אמרו לפניו רבש”ע מה מעשיו אמר להן כך וכך מעשיו אמרו לפניו רבש”ע (תהילים ח) מה אנוש כי תזכרנו ובן אדם כי תפקדנו הושיט אצבעו קטנה ביניהן ושרפם וכן כת שניה כת שלישית אמרו לפניו רבש”ע ראשונים שאמרו לפניך מה הועילו כל העולם כולו שלך הוא כל מה שאתה רוצה לעשות בעולמך עשה כיון שהגיע לאנשי דור המבול ואנשי דור הפלגה שמעשיהן מקולקלין אמרו לפניו רבש”ע לא יפה אמרו ראשונים לפניך אמר להן (ישעיהו מו) ועד זקנה אני הוא ועד שיבה אני אסבול וגו’

Rab Judah said in Rab’s name: When the Holy One, blessed be He, wished to create man, He [first] created a company of ministering angels and said to them: "Is it your desire that we make a man in our image?"

They answered: "Sovereign of the Universe, what will be his deeds?"

"Such and such will be his deeds," He replied.

Thereupon they exclaimed: "Sovereign of the Universe, What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou thinkest of him?" [Psalm 8:5]

Thereupon He stretched out His little finger among them and consumed them with fire. The same thing happened with a second company.

The third company said to Him: "Sovereign of the Universe, what did it avail the former [angels] that they spoke to Thee [as they did]? The whole world is Thine, and whatsoever that Thou wishest to do therein, do it."

When He came to the men of the Age of the flood and of the division [of tongues] whose deeds were corrupt, they said to Him: "Lord of the Universe, did not the first [company of angels] speak aright?"

"Even to old age I am the same, and even to hoar hairs will I carry," [Isa. 46:4] He retorted.

However, the classic Rabbinic source for environmentalism is Ecclesiastes Rabbah on 7:13:

בשעה שברא הקב”ה את אדם הראשון נטלו והחזירו על כל אילני גן עדן ואמר לו ראה מעשי כמה נאים ומשובחין הן וכל מה שבראתי בשבילך בראתי, תן דעתך שלא תקלקל ותחריב את עולמי, שאם קלקלת אין מי שיתקן אחריך

When the Holy One, Blessed be He, made the first human, he led him past every tree in the Garden of Eden, saying, “Look at what I have made! See how beautiful and excellent they are! Everything that I created I created for you; take care not to damage or destroy my world, because if you damage it there is nobody else who can repair it after you.”

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Hebrew language and literature
Judaism and religion

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Ahem

This blog's reading level: Genius
…though frankly I think a more accurate rating would have been “Sad Geek”.

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Welcome to my new blog

A warm welcome to everyone redirected here from my old blog, and also to any new readers. Feel free to add comments and let me know who is reading and where you come from.

RSS feed is now at http://www.smontagu.org/blog/wp-rss2.php, and I will do my best to make sure it stays there.

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RSS Changes III

Holy crap, it is just as I feared. The RSS feed has changed its name yet again to http://mountainsmog.blogspot.com/rss/mountainsmog.xml. So anyone reading me by RSS will never know when the blog moves (which will be extremely soon — I’m fed up with this). Goodbye, dear readers, it was nice knowing you.

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Stopgap Post

I haven’t been getting to the blog lately. I’m gainfully employed again (contracting for the Hebrew Competence Group at IBM until the end of the year, with hopes for renewal of the contract for a longer period) and when I get home and finish checking email, reading other people’s blogs, and hacking here and there on Mozilla, I don’t seem to have time and energy left to write, not to mention work on the chapter of a book I’m supposed to be translating by the middle of October.

This means I have quite a backlog of things I wanted to blog about and haven’t. Watch this space for “Naming of Parts”, “Whumping Willows”, and “Zgodno u standardima“.

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Two Rebbetzins

Welcome Renegade Rebbetzin, a rising star in the blogosphere, and talking of rebbetzins, check out an article in Ha’aretz about an old friend of mine, Amichai Lau-Lavi.

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RSS Changes II

I emailed Blogger support and they changed the RSS feed URI manually back to http://mountainsmog.blogspot.com/rss/MountainSmog.xml. The problem is that my <link> element, which uses a <$BlogSiteFeedURL$> tag (following their instructions) still points to http://mountainsmog.blogspot.com/rss/mountainsmog.xml, and I strongly suspect, without daring to make the experiment, that if I make any other changes to the feed settings it will go back to writing to that file. I explained this to them, and asked if they could solve the problem by making a symmlink, and they responded

I would suggest that you change the <$BlogSiteFeedURL$>
tag in your template to the actual link,
http://mountainsmog.blogspot.com/rss/MountainSmog.xml since we cannot
assign both of these filenames to your account.

I don’t get it: the status quo is that both files exist, they aren’t about to allocate one to another user, and changing one to be a symmlink to the other would actually save them disk space. Things like this make me want to install Moveable Type or WordPress or something so I can be in control of my own settings, and so does the fact that I am typing this whole post a second time after it vanished into limbo when I tried to publish it the first time. Do any of my six readers have any relevant experience or advice?

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RSS changes

For those using the RSS feed, I have been fiddling with the settings, and the most notable result seems to be that the URI has changed from http://mountainsmog.blogspot.com/rss/MountainSmog.xml to http://mountainsmog.blogspot.com/rss/mountainsmog.xml. Apologies if this has inconvenienced anybody.

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Aramaic Watch

Welcome Naomi Chana to my sidebar. Baraita is the first blog I’ve come across apart from this one with an Aramaic title, and it’s totally compulsive reading.

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Updates

I’ve added some more of my favourite blogs to the sidebar. Since I’ve been commenting on other people’s blogs recently, it seems only fair to enable comments here as well. Please feel free to say hello!

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Resolutions

From now on there will be no more hidden subtexts and secret messages in this blog (except for certain parts of this entry). I will say what I mean, and mean what I say.

I appreciate the sensitive reaction from my friend, but I don’t want to put friends in the same position in the future.

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And so to blog

I have been reading an interesting new web log. Either the author is using a different calendar or he has serious bandwidth issues, since his posts are showing up with a 343-year lag.

[I] went to my office, where there was nothing to do.” Is it just me, or does that sound exactly like Pav talking?

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RSS now available

This blog now has an RSS version

Update: see the sidebar for the new location

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It was good for me. Was it good for you?

How about that? Yesterday’s pathetic plea for attention was answered, and I lost my link virginity.

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Matras, anyone?

Life is so hard. How will I ever be famous if even people who acknowledge me don’t link to me?

That article was interesting to read. I always thought that it would be obvious to anyone that the Hebrew numbering system is so straightforward that a child can master it, but for someone looking at the rules from the outside, without knowing the language or the culture, it somehow starts to seem “insanely complicated”.

The whole issue of complexity and simplicity is full of oddities. Even bearing in mind what I said above about looking at things from the outside, it seems to me obvious and objectively true that the Roman alphabet is beautifully simple while the Roman numbering system is ludicrously unwieldy; and that the Hindi numbering system in all its variants has the simplicity of genius while Devanagari script (which I am just trying to learn) is a nightmare of complex rules and special cases.

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I have now completely redone the blog template and CSS, and although it frightened me at first after I republished by claiming to be unable to access the site, things now seem to be working OK, more or less. The layout problems I was experiencing were largely due to incompatible expectations by the template and my own entries, which I have managed to synchronize better now. I doubt if I will ever get the results to validate with all the stuff that gets added automatically, but at least it lays out as intended.

I’m sure I could do better if I took the trouble to read the instructions, and maybe I will even do that at some point.

Hmm…once again I am experiencing the problem that when the text box for entering the content starts to scroll, I can no longer see the Post and Publish buttons. Could this be another Mozilla bug?

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OK, what’s going on here? In my naïveté I understood that “blogging tools” were supposed to make web publishing easier. I have just spent far longer in a cycle of editing, publishing, re-editing and re-publishing the previous entry than it would have taken me to write the whole bloody thing out in HTML source in emacs and ftp it to a web site — and it still looks horrible.

My first attempt in MozBlog went to the trouble of translating my HTML tags into plain text by converting “<” to “&lt;” etc, and though moving to Blogger solved that problem, nothing I could do would straighten out the funky line wrapping. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk. And where do the buttons at Blogger disappear to after you write a few lines? Heaven knows how I will ever publish this rant.

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It was interesting to discover that Mozilla has
had a severe Bidi bug in print headers just about for ever. Print headers didn’t exist when we designed Bidi; we never noticed the bug when they sneaked in a few months before we started checking code in to the tree; and nobody has ever noticed it since. It just goes to show that people don’t
print much, or don’t look very hard at the results.

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Everyone else seems to be doing it, so why not me? The title, if you were wondering, is “על הא ודא”, which is Aramaic for “On This And That”.

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