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October 16, 1987 - Image 141

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-10-16

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A Toast
To Jewish Living

Beauty Of Nature Is God's Advertisement

Rabbi Paul M. Yedwab serves
Temple Israel and is the author of
this month's L'Chayim theme — the
environment. For each edition of
L'Chayim, a rabbi, a Jewish
educator or other notable from the
community will present an overview.

At this time of year, when the
leaves are beginning to turn and the
pageantry of fall is before us, I am
always reminded of the little boy
who, having grown up in the big
city, was more accustomed to
concrete and asphalt than to the
marvels of nature. One summer, his
family took him for a vacation in the
country. As he came to the edge of

the lake, he suddenly lifted his eyes
and saw a grove of trees on a ridge.
Astounded, he gazed at the
gorgeous landscape and, after a
moment of thought, said: "Mother, it
is very beautiful, but what is it
supposed to advertise?"
Actually, the answer to this
child's question is simple. The
natural world advertises the fact that
there is a God — a God who gives
us all of the loveliness and beauty
of nature.
Very often in our pursuit of

away in our offices, and in our
homes, in front of our television sets
and behind the wheels of our cars.
At this season of the harvest,
however, we as Jews make the
commitment to get closer to nature
— to see the stars — to dwell in the
succah. Succot is a time for
renewing our appreciation for and
our commitment to, the wonder of
God's creation.
And quite appropriately, Succot
culminates in Simchat Torah, the
time at which we begin once again

canned beauty and contrived

the reading of Breishit, the story of

pleasures we overlook the
enormous satisfaction that nature
can give us. We lock ourselves

the creation of the world. "In the
beginning," the Torah recounts, God
created the heavens and the earth;

and God created human beings who
were given "dominion" over God's
This privilege of dominion,
however, carried with it great
responsibility. When God created
Adam, the Midrash tells us, God led
him around to all of the trees in the
Garden of Eden, and God said to
him: "See My works, how beautiful
and praiseworthy they are.
Everything I have created has been
created for your sake. Think of this,
and do not corrupt or destroy My
world; for if you corrupt it, there will
be no one to set it right after you."
Human "dominion" over nature
does not include a license to abuse
the environment.
Trees especially, have always
been highly valued by our tradition.
In Genesis Rabbah we are
reminded that trees were made for
our companionship. The great
Nachman of Bratslav boldly expands
this conception, asserting that "if a

"Everything I have
created has been
created for your sake..."

person kills a tree before its time it
is as if he has murdered a soul."
In the Book of Deuteronomy
God too shows a special concern
for trees and for the natural
environment. "When in your war
against a city you have to besiege it
a long time in order to capture it,"
God enjoins, "you must not destroy
its trees, wielding the ax against
them. You may eat of them, but you
must not cut them down." We see
then that even in the crisis of war,
the ecological system is to be
protected above all else.

Building upon this biblical
injunction protecting trees, the
rabbis established the general
concept of al tashchit, which
translated means, "you shall not

Continued on Page L-2

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