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Appreciating the environment is not merely another Cause; it reflects awareness of the Divine in all.

Integration of Man and Environment

Integration of Man and Environment

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Integration of Man and Environment
Appreciating the environment is not merely another Cause; it reflects awareness of the Divine in all.

Man is a tree of the field. The New Year of Trees makes us aware of our intimate dependence and integral connection with the "field" (world) in which we live. And thus, the profound sensitivity to all that grows and all that breathes around us.

...we have the responsibility and privilege to refine, elevate and perfect the environment.

The only reason, the Torah teaches, we may consume or use elements of nature for our personal needs, is not because we have a right to them, but because we have the responsibility and privilege to refine, elevate and perfect the environment. We have this right only when we use nature for positive and constructive ends, to civilize and enhance the world, morally and ethically, for good and holy purposes. If we don't, we do not have the right to even touch any part of the environment.

Man is a tree of the field. The New Year of Trees teaches us that life consists of two elements: Man and the field (universe). Man is the subject. The universe is the object. A human being takes an object of the universe, say an apple off a tree, and eats it. He can use the energy from this food for destructive purposes; he can use it neutrally, for optional acts; or—and this is its purpose—use it towards constructive ends. We have the power and dominance over nature; we have the ability to destroy it, maintain its neutral state, or elevate it.

Our Sages state two reasons why the human, the crown jewel of creation, was created last, after all other creatures. One reason is because you first set the table and then invite your special guest to dine. The second reason, which seems to contradict the first, is that if the human being misbehaves and transgresses, he is told that even the lowly insect preceded his creation. How do we reconcile the two? Depending on our own behavior, we determine which one we are: the special guest or inferior to the insect. The human race was given free choice. As the universe's crown jewel, we can either elevate the universe by lifting our environment to a greater place; or if we are destructive, and act not in synch with the Engineer’s plans, then, as the Chassidic saying goes, the "cobblestones cry out: what right do you have to walk on me?" We have become inferior even to an insect, which has not digressed from its purpose.

We are all responsible for the environment around us. We have no right to hurt or damage any object in this universe, from the largest animal to the smallest insect, from the mammoth to the microscopic components of nature. Everything was created for a purpose and we are responsible to care for and protect every part of existence, whether it is human, animal, vegetable or mineral. Moreover, we are responsible to help it reach its fullest potential in realizing the purpose of its creation.

Responsibility for our universe is a great gift.

Responsibility for our universe is a great gift. It is the gift of being active participants in the dynamic unfolding of the world’s destiny.

So we have one day in the year when we are asked to think not about ourselves but about the trees and vegetation around us. This requires humility and discipline. With all our preoccupations, it may seem trivial to "stop and smell the roses," but in return we develop a deeper sensitivity to every thing, every one and every moment – even to ourselves.

Man is a tree of the field. Appreciating the environment is not merely a crusade and another cause; it reflects awareness of the Divine in all. In makes us more cognizant of every detail in life. How one virtuous deed affects the delicate balance on which the fate of the world hangs. You can have a positive impact on every person you meet and on every space you travel through. One act can save a life, and a life is an entire universe.

In our complicated and troubling world – a spiraling economy, leaderless leaders, global anxiety, a nervous sense of inevitability – it’s good to step back and remember our symbiotic relationship with nature; our roots embedded in the fields of earth. We must take responsibility for each other. We are all that we have. And G‑d.

It can be very healing to lift our eyes to heaven, look at the trees around us, peer inside the tree that is man, and bid them a Happy New Year.

© The Meaningful Life Center. Rabbi Simon Jacobson is the author of the best-selling Toward a Meaningful Life: The Wisdom of the Rebbe (William Morrow, 1995), and the founder and director of the Meaningful Life Center.
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