Monday, August 20, 2012

Parshat Shoftim
Dvarim 16:18-21:9
7 Elul 5772 / August 24-25, 2012

Precious Human, Precious Tree, Precious Planet
by Laura W, MH London Alumnus
Somewhere in the lush green English country side is a Hindu temple donated by the late Beatle George Harrison in 1973.  On the far wall of the eco garden on their 70 acre estate lies a verse from this week’s Parsha "ki ha'adam etz hasadeh" (כי האדם עץ השדה),‘ Every person is a tree in the field’. Amongst the solar panels and wild life there are quotes from a variety of the world’s holy books. This was the one chosen to represent the Jewish view on environmental non-violence.

There have been several interpretations of this verse which refers to the forbidden destruction of fruit trees in a Jewish military siege.

The Jewish legal tradition focuses on the practical reading of the verse which strongly condemns the uprooting of fruit producing trees. The rabbis extended the prohibition of the meaningless destruction of the trees to a generalized prohibition against waste, known as ba’al tashchit, "Do not destroy." According to Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Kings 6:10):

"This is the law not only for trees, but anyone who breaks containers, tears clothes, destroys a building, stops up a well, or wastes food violates the prohibition of 'do not destroy.' "

As master kabbalist Rabbi Moshe Cordovero of Safed ("RaMaK," 1522-1570) teaches in the Holy text Tomar Devorah: "One's compassion should extend to all creatures, and one should neither despise nor destroy them; for the Supernal Wisdom extends to all of creation -- the "silent" or mineral level, plants, animals, and humans. This is why our sages have warned us against treating food disrespectfully. Just as the Supernal Wisdom despises nothing, since everything is produced there -- as it is written, 'You have formed them all with wisdom' (Psalms 104:24) -- a person should show compassion to all of the works of the Holy One, blessed be He."

My blessing to the Moishe House community is higher awareness of the beauty of our Torah and it’s teachings of how to consume with a social and ecological conscience in light that we are all creations. 

Shabbat Shalom!


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