Ellen Bernstein, "Rereading Genesis: Human Stewardship of the Earth," in Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice. eds. Rabbi Or N. Rose, Jo Ellen Kaiser, and Margie Klein (Vermont: Jewish Lights Publishing, 2008) p. 58.
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Humanity's role is to tend the garden, not to possess it; to "guard it and keep it" (Genesis 2), not to exploit it; to pass it on as sacred trust, as it was given. Even though we are given the authority to have dominion over the earth and its creatures, we are never allowed to own it, just like we can't own the waters or the air. "The land cannot be sold in perpetuity" (Lev. 25:23). The land is the commons,and it belongs to everyone equally and jointly. In the biblical system, private property does not even exist because God owns the land and everything in it...The blessing of mastery over the earth calls us to exercise compassion and wisdom in our relationship with nature so that the creation will keep on creating for future generations. We use nature everyday in everything we do; nature provides our food, shelter, clothing, energy, electricity, coal, gas. "Mastering" nature involves determining how much land to us, which animals should be designated for human use, how to manage the development of civilization, and what should remain untouched.
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. How can we balance our right to own property and use our own land, with the imperative to benefit the world?

2. What are some Jewish laws regarding land that help us not to forget that we do not have complete control over our land?

3. How is the definition of "mastering" the earth in this text different than how we normally think of the term? If we were to fully commit to this vision of "mastering" the earth and understanding that we do not truly own it, how would we need to change our actions and lifestyles?

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Time Period: Contemporary (The Yom Kippur War until the present-day)