- Environmental laws: The Torah provided for sustainable farming by establishing regular Sabbath years where farmland could lie fallow and regain its fertility. (Leviticus 25:2-5)
- Welfare/workfare laws: striking a balance between responsibility and compassion, the poor and destitute were given the opportunity to work and provide for themselves by gleaning from another field, so that they could sustain themselves even without "employment" or land, and without losing the obligation to be responsible for themselves. (Leviticus 19:9-10, 23:22; Deuteronomy 24:21)
- Infection control: The Torah established ways to recognize and prevent the spread of infectious diseases. It had procedures for inspecting and evaluating infections, for quarantine of suspected infection, and washing / cleansing. It called for the destruction of contaminated cloth. (Leviticus 13; the other hygiene and washing provisions in the Torah could also be included here)
- A day of rest: On the bumper stickers, labor unions like to claim credit for weekends. But the Torah had regular weekly rest built into the laws thousands of years earlier. A day of rest is a humane and sensible provision, one that many people still see fit to observe today. It is one of the few provisions of the Biblical law that even many atheists willingly adopt. (Exodus 20:8)
- Humane treatment of animals: The law makes provision for an animal to enjoy plenty of food, and to share a day of rest just like the people. (Deuteronomy 25:4; Exodus 20:10)
Saturday, September 03, 2011
Torah: Ahead of its time?
The Torah has had its critics since ancient times. But there are still some provisions in the Torah that were ahead of its time. Sometimes it was only ahead of some other cultures of its day; in other places the Torah has laws that are arguably more practical and just than even those we have today. In the past I've mentioned laws on stealing and laws on economic sustainability. Here are some other areas where the Torah seems ahead of its time: