by Barbara Gardner
Although this book has been written to ‘revitalize Judaism and apply Jewish values to help heal our imperiled planet,” the references used from the Old Testament, apply as much to Christians as they do to Jews. Therefore, I felt it useful to review this book for The Ark.
Schwartz takes a good look at the world today including it politics, economic systems and foreign policies, as well as the environment and our treatment of animals. Actually, only two out of sixteen chapters deal with animal rights, but Schwartz demonstrates that this is part of a larger, interconnected problem which has to be examined as a whole. He says that the book is meant to be a wakeup call as the world is heading towards a ‘perfect storm’ that includes climate change, environmental degradation, world hunger, water shortages, climate wars, Islamic terrorism and other threats. He argues that the only solution is to apply real Jewish values to deal with the problem. Unfortunately, according to Schwartz, most Jews just aren’t doing enough and are failing to see the dangers ahead.
Schwartz identifies a shifting to the political right amongst orthodox Jews, particularly in America, which he demonstrates is inconsistent with the teachings of the Torah and other Jewish texts. This is why he feels that his religion, Judaism, has been stolen. The book seeks to identify who has stolen Judaism and how, and aims to bring us back to the true, original religion which is one based on love and compassion, not rules and rituals, particularly ones which have been misinterpreted.
Simply focusing on the animal rights issues, Schwartz’s arguments for the compassionate treatment of animals, supported by many references from the Torah, leaves one wondering how any Jew (and indeed any Christian) can claim to be genuine to their faith and not be vegan, let alone support any other form of animal cruelty. In particular, he highlights the Torah’s mandate not to cause pain to living creatures – tsa’ar ba’alei chayim and demonstrates how so many Jews are breaking this mandate in the modern world.
Schwartz’s main criticism of such people is their apathy, their failure to challenge current practices, and their preference for ritual over meaning. It is hard to see that this book could be anything less than a wakeup call and, as such, I strongly recommend it.
THis review originall appeared in The Ark.