Introduction

Judaism's literary sources are roughly divided into two main categories: Halakha and Aggadah. The Halakha consists of a system of practical rules and instructions, on two main levels: commandments between man and God, and between man and his fellow man. The Halakha, originating in biblical directives, was edited and formulated into a comprehensive codex around the year 200 CE, and called the Mishnah. The discussions on the Mishnah continued to branch out, and in 500 CE the Babylonian Talmud was compiled. The Halakhic body of literature continued to develop, and besides the Halakhic sources, one can mention - beyond the Talmudic commentative literature - also the codification literature of Jewish law, such as Maimonides' Mishne Torah (twelfth century) and Rabbi Yosef Karo's Shulchan Aruch (sixteenth century), as well as the responsa literature.

The Agaddah, which also originates in the study of biblical texts, is found within the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds and collections of Midrashim,1 and constitutes the primary basis for Jewish philosophy and theology. Books of diverse styles were written based on the Aggadah, to name a few: philosophical literature such as "Faiths and Beliefs" by Rabbi Saadia Gaon (ninth century), or Maimonides' "Guide of the Perplexed" (twelfth century); Mystical literature (Kabbalah) such as the "Zohar" attributed to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (discovered in the thirteenth century), or Rabbi Haim Vital's Etz Haim, "Tree of Life" (sixteenth century); Hassidic literature such as Toldot Yaakov Yosef, "The History of Yaakov Yosef," by Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Katz of Polnoye (eighteenth century), or the Tanya by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad (eighteenth to nineteenth century).

The issue of the attitude to nature and the environment is given wide expression in the above-mentioned sources. This survey will first bring a general description of the attitude toward the environment found in sources of Jewish thought, and

1 Midrashim - Rabbinical commentary on the scriptures and oral law.

will then focus on the practical sources of Halakha, Jewish law. The aim here is to illustrate the ways in which the religious scholars from the first centuries of the first millennia dealt with environmental hazards of their time, and, in so doing, laid the Halakhic-legal foundations for later-day Halakhic scholars, when they came to address the issue of more modern hazards.

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