Dominionism with Rabbi Matt Rosenberg
Rabbi Matt Rosenberg, community rabbi, geography professor, and more, gives a masterclass on Dominionism from a Jewish, scriptural perspective.
From AllCreation's Spring 2022 edition, "Dominionism: Exploring religious relationships with other life." Guest editor, Rev. Dr. Dan De Leon, interviews Rabbi Matt Rosenberg on the Jewish, religious meaning of "dominion" and "dominionism," which appear in the Jewish and Christian Bibles.
"And God said, 'Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.'" (Genesis 1:26)
Rabbi Matt Rosenberg began his tenure as the executive director of the Albert Einstein Residence Center, Sacramento’s senior Jewish housing community, in January 2021. A California native, Matt earned his undergraduate degree in geography from UC Davis, earned his masters degree in rabbinic studies from the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, and a masters degree in geography from CSU Northridge. He spent 18 years operating the ThoughtCo.com website, is author of two books on geography, and currently lectures in geography at Sacramento State University.
- 00:00 Welcome
- 01:25 Self intro
- 02:45 Is there an environmental ethic in Judaism & what does that look like?
- 05:15 Expansions on: "Helping the Earth be all that God dreams of it to be.” Anthropocentrism means humans can take whatever we want. Is there an anti-Anthropocentricism? Is there an interpretation of Dominionism that is not so narcissistic as today’s?
- 08:00 Are you a vegetarian? To what extent is that rooted in your faith?
- 08:45 Did you grow up looking at the environment through the lease of the Creation stories, as “God made this?”, or as something that could be compartmentalized?
- 10:22 Being reminded of our “creaturely identity” comes from being in Nature.
- 14:40 In Deuteronomy 20:19. I can hear, “Trees are better than you”, how does this ethic expand?
- 16:30 Would an understanding of Tu-B’shivat now look at the Earth and feel that we’re doing enough?
- 19:00 In the last 5% of human history, fundamentally, what changed? Why did we go from such a long history of belonging and relationship with the Creation to this?
- 22:00 “Metanoia” means a change of heart, a change or direction based on a change of perspective. How we see the world is directly going to effect how we treat it. Has your environmental view always been a part of your Judaism or more of a metanoia over time where you’ve been able to incorporate it as a piece of your Judaism?
- 25:00 What gives you hope?
God created the universe and therefore has complete ownership over all creation, and humans are God’s partners in bettering Creation.
Religious traditions are human-focused—they’re not for the whales and the dolphins, but it’s our job, according to my understanding, to maintain the basic balance to this order of Creation.
Yes, the mitzvah (the commandment) to not destroy, comes from Deuteronomy 20, which says you can eat of the fruit trees but you cannot cut them down. Trees are people, too, and we should prevent all unnecessary destruction.
We have this concept of “All the more so” … If you cannot cut down trees in wartime, all the more so should you not cut down trees when it’s not war.
We can absolutely do better. There’s no greater crisis right now, and we should be observing Tu BiShvat everyday; we’re on this path of destruction of humanity. The Earth will survive for billions more years and I think God has put us on this Earth to find this balance, to find a role where we can use the Earth’s resources and not abuse the Earth’s resources. There’ve been humans on Earth for 200,000 years. We’ve only recently disrupted the balance.
We have but a few years to figure out where we’re going to go from here and how we’re going to protect our planet for our children and our children’s children, truly.
My hope comes from that fact that humans are creative and we can come up with solutions, and there are answers to climate change and the problems we see on our planet, and I have faith that my children’s generation and their children’s generation will do better. I see this long arc towards the betterment of the world.