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Saturday, 18 February 2017

Does the Environment matter?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 26

Choni Hamagel was once walking along the road when he noticed an elderly man planting a carob tree.  
“Tell me, my good man,” asked Choni, “how long does it take for this tree to bear fruit?”
“It takes seventy years to produce fruit,” answered the old man.
“Do you really believe that you will live seventy more years to enjoy the fruit of this tree?” asked Choni.
“Of course not,” replied the man, “ but just as my ancestors planted for my sake, so do I plant this tree for the sake of those who will follow me.” 

Choni then sat down to eat. After he finished his meal, a deep sleep fell over him.  Hashem then caused a rock to take shape around him, protecting him from the elements and wild animals.

Seventy years later, the rock unfolded and Choni awoke.  He got up and noticed a young man picking carob from the tree.
Amazed, he asked the man, “Are you the man who planted this tree?”
“No, I am not,” was the reply. “This tree was planted by my grandfather, seventy years ago!”

Rava bar Rav Chanan had palm trees adjacent to his neighbor, Rav Yosef’s, vineyard.  Birds would come and perch on the palm trees and descend onto the vineyard and damage it. 
Rav Yosef said to him, “Go and chop down your trees.”
Rava said to him, “But I distanced them from your property!”
Rav Yosef replied, “That distance you created applies only to trees, but a greater space is required for vines.”
Rava responded, “But didn’t we learn in the Mishnah that the same is true whether one is planting grapevines or any kind of tree?”
Rav Yosef said to him, “The law is so only between one tree and another tree, or between one vine and another vine. But the space between a tree and vines necessitates a greater distance.”
Rava replied, “I will not cut them down, for Rav said: A palm tree that produces one kav of fruit, it is prohibited to cut down.  And Rabbi Chanina said: My son Shikcḥas died only because he cut down a fig tree before its time.  If you wish to chop it down, you go right ahead!”

When Hashem created Adam and Eve, He took them for a tour of the planet.  Once they had enjoyed all the beautiful sights, He turned to them and said, “See my works, how lovely and how excellent they are.  Everything I created, for you I created.  Pay attention that you do not corrupt it, for there is no one to fix it after you!” (Koheles Rabbah 7

We are stewards of planet Earth.  We were placed into this world with the instruction “to work it and to protect it,” meaning that we must work to make this world a better place.  But at the same time, we have an obligation to protect the physical environment for ourselves and for generations to come.  Just like our parents bequeathed a relatively clean planet to us, we must leave the same – or better – to our children.

That’s not just a pipedream.  As we all know, just a century ago, the Land of Israel was swampland.  And our grandparents tilled the soil and made the desert bloom.  What that means is despite all the reports of doom and gloom we hear, we have the ability to improve the planet for the future.  But just like our grandparents who weren’t afraid to get down and dirty, care for Hashem’s creation takes serious effort.

We can all make a difference, as long we are consciously aware of the consequences of our actions.  A little thought goes a long way to protecting this planet.  If we would all just pay attention to our personal consumption and unnecessary waste, this world would be pure and clean for generations to come!

What extra effort are you making to fulfill the Divine command “to protect it?”  Are we thinking about the kind of paper we purchase?  How long we leave the tap running?  If we really need to leave our car idling?  How many JNF trees we’ve invested in this year?  To many of us, concern for the environment might not sound like a religious imperative, but our Sages were clearly very environmentally-conscious.   And way before it was a hip cause!

One of the tenets of our faith is the resurrection of the dead.  That means we are destined to be on this planet for a very long time!  Let’s make sure we make the experience as comfortable as possible!  

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