As we began our Torah again, following Simchat Torah, I was struck by a particular theme found in the first two portions of the New Year, B’reishit and Noach. In B’reishit, following the story of Creation, Adam and Eve are given the command to “tend the earth and till it” to watch over it and all that God had made. Following the story of the Flood, in Noach, Noah and his family are given a similar command to care for the world God created.
Right here, at the very beginning of our most sacred of texts we are commanded to care for the Earth and all that’s in it. The rabbis of old like to connect these texts to our goal of Tikkun Olam; Repairing the World. According to a midrash on the creation story, God first has to make room for the universe in order to create it. Before creation, God’s presence filled all space and time, so there was no room for the world. So God contracted part of God’s Essence, in order to create a space for the physical world. Then said, “Let there be light, and there was light.” This light was placed in special vessels for safe keeping, but it was too powerful for physical vessels so they shattered and formed the world we know. Most of the light immediately returned to God, but some of it stuck to the fragments of the vessels and became enmeshed in the physical world. When Adam and Eve are later told to “tend the earth and till it,” to care for it and all the creatures in it, they are, in essence, being charged with finishing the work of creation by maintaining and repairing the physical world. Only then can the remaining light be returned to God and the world achieve its intended form.
The Noah story puts this task even more fully in our hands. And in the end, God puts a rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant, declaring, “Never again will I doom the earth because of humanity, … destroying every living thing as I have done.” In other words, I’m not bailing you out again, this earth and this world are yours to protect and cherish.
This year, like most years, there is ample evidence that our planet is screaming for help. Climate change has led to devastating wildfire and hurricanes all over the U.S. and a derecho storm here at home unlike anything we’d ever seen.
At this moment, the best thing we can all do to effect global change is exercising our right to vote. We have until November 3rd to cast our ballots, either by mail or in person. Nothing could influence our world more than all our voices at the ballot box.
Be healthy and safe everyone, and may the New Year bring us many blessings.