Environmental Ethics

Volume 6, Issue 4, Winter 1984

Steven S. Schwarzschild
Pages 347-362

The Unnatural Jew

I argue that Judaism and Jewish culture have paradigmatically and throughout history operated with a fundamental dichotomy between nature (“what is”) and ethics (i.e., God and man-“what ought to be”). Pagan ontologism, on the other hand, and the Christian synthesis of biblical transcendentalism and Greek incamationism result in human and historical submission to what are acclaimed as “natural forces.” Although in the history of Jewish culture such a heretical, quasi-pantheistic tendency asserted itself, first in mediaeval kabbalism and then in modem Zionism, from a traditional Jewish standpoint nature remains subject to humanly enacted ends. Evidence for this general thesis can be found in biblical, Talmudic, medieval philosophic, and mystical literature, in modem religious, poetic, and Zionist literature, and in the history of general philosophy.