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The Splendor of Creation: A Biblical Ecology [Paperback]

By Ellen Bernstein (Author)
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Item description for The Splendor of Creation: A Biblical Ecology by Ellen Bernstein...

Many people see the environmental crisis as a spiritual one, but author Ellen Bernstein sees the Book of Genesis as a guide to living peaceably with the Earth. The creation story, according to Bernstein, invites a deep appreciation of nature and may be the perfect muse for a world that is hungry for an integrated ecological vision. This message, however, is a hidden one. Thus the importance of The Splendor of Creation. Written from a Jewish perspective, this book is both accessible and compelling to a broad audience, as it explores Genesis 1, verse by verse, reflecting on the language that contributes to a wholistic ecological vision.

Publishers Description
Chapter topics:
- Day One - Light
- Day Two - Air
- Day Three - Earth, Water, Plants
- Day Four - Planets and Time
- Day Five - Water and Wind Creatures
- Day Six - Land Creatures
- Day Seven - Shabbat

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Pilgrim Press
Pages   145
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.8" Width: 5.76" Height: 0.39"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jul 13, 2005
Publisher   Pilgrim Press
Edition  New  
ISBN  082981664X  
ISBN13  9780829816648  

Availability  1 units.
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More About Ellen Bernstein

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ellen Bernstein is the founder of Shomrei Adamah, which is Hebrew for "Guardians of the Earth," the first national Jewish environmental organization. She is a graduate of UCLA, Berkeley in the area of conservation and natural resources and received her M.A. in biology and psychology from San Francisco State University. She is the author of several books, including Ecology and the Jewish Spirit: Where Nature and the Sacred Meet (2000) and Let the Earth Teach You Torah (1992).

Ellen Bernstein currently resides in the state of Pennsylvania. Ellen Bernstein was born in 1953.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament > Old Testament
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Old Testament
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Judaism > Sacred Writings > Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) > Study

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Reviews - What do customers think about Splendor of Creation: A Biblical Ecology?

inspirational  Mar 19, 2008
It was a month before Rosh Hashanah and I had not yet written a sermon for the 150 people coming on the Adventure Rabbi retreat. Then, one image in this extraordinary book, gave me all I needed. (I wont give it away but when you read it, look for the bit about the mother eagle hovering above her nest.) This is a beautiful and thought provoking book.
- Rabbi Jamie Korngold, the Adventure Rabbi, authorGod in the Wilderness: Rediscovering the Spirituality of the Great Outdoors with the Adventure Rabbi
Another Messenger for the Green Restoration  Jan 28, 2006
As a Green Christian who believes that the Bible is the inspired word of God, I found Ellen Bernstein's "Splendor of Creation" very inspirational. Like the author, my heart matured with a fervent love of nature, the land, farming and homesteading, in the the 1970's; before I found my faith in God. Written autobiographically, the author looks at the Genesis story of creation, using commentary from various rabbis, women, and environmentalists, down through the ages. Bernstein refutes the old sixties radical argument that the Bible endorses domination and exploitation of nature by western civilization. Like slavery in the American south, the excessive profiteering of corporate America, misuses the Bible to justify their own exploitation; be it human beings of color or this good earth that nourishes our living. Careful examination of the Scripture of Genesis by Bernstein neutralizes a flawed critique of non-believing environmentalists. In this way the forces for green restoration clarify their critique of that which is destroying the planet; not God at all, but rather deceptions and unethical greed in the human heart, from corporate and government behemoths, right down to the hearts of every consumer. But this book is personal, not abstract, so that all of us can arise and shine; inspired to do our little part from this day forth!
Bernstein writes of her own life, her love of nature's wilderness, her college age discovery of Judaism after becoming an ecologist, and how her growing spiritual awareness revealed the love of the Creator for the Creation as well as all its creatures, intricate flora and fauna, and peoples. Little of this book criticizes the environmental crisis coming faster and faster upon the whole world. Instead, finding wisdom in the Scripture to sensitize her heart to all of life, the author lives a green life, creating a garden in her city block, and taking on the challenge of bringing more ecological awareness to the Jewish community.
I found brilliant bits of encouraging wisdom that didn't let up through out the book! She added to my conviction that the time has come for Jews,Christians and others, to look again at their sacred Scriptures and learn how to number our days and live the life our Creator intends: generous, learning the limits of our planet, trusting God as the contradictions of consumer obsession and big business self-interest, rape and break more and more of what God created, ordered and called good. We may be part of the solution by simply determining to walk in compassion and wisdom.
But green restoration needs a growing artistic culture to overcome the distress that business as usual burdens most of us with. Although being green often is as challenging as a David facing one hundred Goliaths, "The Splendor of Creation" inspired me that in the Judaec Scripture is the wisdom and hope one can draw upon to meet the challenges of today and the ages to come. I highly recommend this book and believe that its style and content are prophetic of a new global genre that shall accompany humanity's movement to restore all of earth's splendor of creation. You might even say that the glory of the latter earth household shall be greater than that of the former!!!(See Haggai 2:9) Buy it, read it, give it away to a friend, and start your own garden; be it in New York City or rural anywhere! This book will show you that it's not too late for America to learn what the psalmist wrote in Psalm 49:20: "A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish."

10 stars -- Excellent, thoughtful combination of ecology and Jewish theology  Nov 22, 2005
For too long has the ecology movement blamed the Bible (and indirectly the Jews) for Western civilization's negative attitudes about "subduing" or "dominating" the earth. This book will go a long way toward correcting that misperception. Both Jews and Christians will be pleasantly surprised at what Judaism REALLY teaches regarding respect for God's creation.

Author Ellen Bernstein, founder of Shomrei Adamah ("Guardians of the Earth," a Jewish ecology org), did not start out as a "religious" Jew per se. As she explains in this book, she was an outdoors-type person who got involved in the secular ecology movement, then began exploring her Judaism through the back door, so to speak. There came a point when she realized that politics and activism were not enough. But the ecologists often ignored the religious dimension -- or were openly hostile to it. The movement lacked a connection to the God-as-Creator. Bridging religion and ecology became her personal quest. The result is this excellent little book with a very big message: That religion and science can be reconciled in the Book of Genesis.

Bernstein goes verse-by-verse through the first chapter of Genesis, focusing on each step of the Creation process. She quotes both the original Hebrew and a modern English translation, highlighting specific words in both texts. Then she weaves together material from traditional and contemporary Jewish commentaries, scientific research and nature observations, writers in the ecology movement, and her own personal experiences as an outdoorswoman. The result is a very readable yet profound midrash (Jewish commentary).

This is not Creationism -- she clearly accepts the theory of evolution and notes that the Genesis story pretty much follows the order of the scientific evidence. However, it could be considered a form of "intelligent design," because Bernstein also sees the Hand of God behind it all. She writes with a deep, living faith that shines on every page. Bernstein is not Orthodox (she belongs to a Jewish Renewal-type community in Philadelphia) but Jews of all backgrounds -- including my fellow Orthodox brethren -- can learn a lot from her insights.

On the technical end, the book is divided into chapters according to each day of the Creation story, then into sub-sections focusing on specific words and/or ideas. You can either read the whole thing through in one sitting (as I did the first time) or use excerpts as jumping-off points for discussion. Each sub-section is relatively complete in itself, so that it can be read at a study session or around the Sabbath table. In fact, one could stucture an entire Torah/Bible course around the lessons in this book.

In short, this is an important commentary that should be included in every study of Genesis. I would give it ten stars if I could. And as for the REAL origin(s) of those "dominating nature" attitudes, start with Descartes, a NON-JEWISH European, materialistic philospher who saw everything in very mechanical terms. See Roberta Kalechofsky's book, "Vegetarian Judaism," for a whole chapter on how Descarte's ideas permeated Western thought about the treatment of animals and nature. Cartesianism is most definitely NOT Judaism!

Ecosophy and Religion in the Old Testament  Nov 1, 2005
The Splendor of Creation is one of those charmingly rare books that can be read in one afternoon-then reread again and again. Each fresh reading of Ellen Bernstein's book provides a novel soul-enriching experience. Bernstein examines Genesis I from a passionate perspective-relevant to her deep love for the environment. Her faith is evident in each paragraph. Revealing rabbinic interpretation and an enlightened translation of Judaic prose and poetry, the book educates and inspires readers of any religion. The reader is drawn into the eloquence of her ecology-and is returned to the modern world with renewed spirit. The Splendor of Creation includes sacred commentaries on sublime mysteries of the Kabbalah-and Jewish mystics of the seventeenth century. Following the example of R. Bahya ibn Pakuda, Bernstein writes about her own spiritual experience hoping to benefit others. As a scientist and a person of faith, Bernstein guides the reader on her intimate path towards deep ecology. Bernstein reveals order and pattern in the seven days of creation-as well as the mystery of creation. On the first day of creation, the universe is characterized by chaos and confusion-the catalyst for transformation is God. God's breath. Bernstein shows that spiritual interpretation of God's breath is compatible with current scientific theory of creation. When God said, "Let there be light," (1.3) an original light, brighter and more powerful than sunlight, came into being, according to ancient rabbinical text. Bernstein says this is the soul's light-as the midrash teaches that all souls are created on day one. It is the creative skill of "seeing with soul," that connects us to the earth and to God. "God saw that the light was good." (1.4) Pattern is revealed in the primary rhythm of darkness and light. Day one reveals a cycle of order and morning clarity-the blurring of boundaries between chaos and order. "And there was evening and there was morning, one day." (1.5) On day two of creation, God said, "Let there be an expanse"-a rakia. (1.6) Rakia is so mysterious that Nachmanides suggests it should never be mentioned. Bernstein says "air" is a fitting translation of the term-allowing all creatures and humans to breath. Air is separated from the waters. Patterns of boundaries are sacred to creation. Such patterns and boundaries are evident in ecology. The rakia division sets boundaries and limits. According to Bernstein, boundary-crossings are never innocent-honoring the boundaries is integral to a creation ethic. God does not proclaim "goodness" on the second day. On day three of creation, God said, "Let the water under the sky be gathered together unto one place and let the dry land appear." (1.9) Habitats are created. The circulatory system of the earth is established-water. Water can absorb contaminants-cleansing and purifying the earth. In Jewish mysticism, water symbolizes human feelings and emotions. Human spirit is connected to the elements of our planet. Dry land, the opposite of water, emerges. "Where water is the element of fluidity and transformation, earth is the element of stability and permanence" (p. 31). More boundaries are established. "And God saw that it was good." (1.10) Also on day three of creation, God said, "Let the earth sprout spouts, grass seed seeds, and fruit make fruit after its kind." (1.11) The earth participates in creation. The earth is prolific-it is alive. Plants sustain life and procreate. Life is established to feed further creation of life. Cycles and patterns are evident. When the earth brings forth these events, the earth obeys God-it creates. "And God saw that it was good." (1.12) On day four of creation, God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heaven to divide the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and for years." (1.14) Bernstein calls this the ecology of time. Ecological niches can share space-but be separated by diurnal cycles. Cycles, order, pattern, boundaries, and limits. God is evident in ecology. "And God saw that is was good." (1.18) Bernstein reminds us that the first three days are coupled with the corresponding creation in the next three days. The creation of the soul-light in day one is the foundation for the creation of diurnal and seasonal cycles in day four. The creation of rakia in day two divides the sea from the sky-the habitats for the creation of fish of the sea and birds of the sky in day five. The separation of dry land from the waters on day three provides the habitat for the creation of animals and humans on day six. There is order in creation. On day five of creation, God said, "Let the water swarm with living swarming souls, and let flyers fly above the earth in the expanse of the sky." (1.20) Creatures in motion appear. Each creature created is increasingly mobile-moving about to find food. God blesses the creatures in motion and orders them to multiply-sustaining creation. God does not proclaim goodness on day five of creation. On day six of creation, God said, "Let the earth bring forth a living soul after its kind: cattle and creeper and wild beast of the earth after its kind." (1.24) Bernstein shares her personal experience and discovery that God is the spontaneous energy that sparks life in all beings-the tame and the wild creatures alike. By finding our way back to nature we welcome the wild back into our lives and our environments. Conquering our fear of the wild enables us to conquer the fear of our own wild nature. According to Bernstein, we need to let our wild nature heal us-as we allow nature to heal. We should see the goodness in nature. "God saw that it was good." (1.25) God said, "Let us make adam in our image, after our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the flyer of the heaven and the cattle and all the earth and every creeper that creeps on the earth." (1.26) God explicitly requests others to participate in the creation of humanity. According to various rabbis, "us" may refer to the angels, the four winds, the earth, or the birds and the beasts. In which case, the creatures choose humans to rule over them-as a God-serving purpose. And God blesses humans, ordering them to be fruitful and multiply. God orders humans to "replenish the earth and master it, and have dominion over the fish of the seas and the flyers of the heaven, and every live creature that creeps on the earth" (1.28). Bernstein warns against extracting the verse out of context in an anti-ecological sense. According to her, the "context of `dominion' in this verse is a blessing/bracha, a divine act of love" (p. 111). The adam is God's representative-overseeing all the animals and plants. It is an honor and a responsibility.
An Inspirational Read  Jul 20, 2005
I highly recommend Ellen Burnstein's new book called, The Splendor of Creation. It is the biblical story of the seven days of creation as viewed from an environmental perspective. Ellen offers her own insight and personal experiences as well as those of other Jewish philosophers and naturalists. She makes the case for why religious communities have become more active in the environmental movement in recent years. Ellen writes, "The Bible and ecology both teach humility, modesty, kindness to all beings, a reverence for life, and concern for future generations." Ellen is the founder of the first Jewish environmental group, Shomrei Adamah, Keepers of the Earth. She writes in her new book, "If churches and synagogues could teach people to read the Bible with ecological eyes and see spirituality in ecological terms, then we'd have a built-in infrastructure for expanding environmental awareness and practice". Her book is an inspiration to me and an affirmation of the connections that I feel between my own faith and that of environmental stewardship.

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