The first human misstep in the Garden of Eden was environmental overreach. God told the humans they could eat from any number of fine-looking trees bearing delicious fruit. Except one. And the humans couldn’t handle the restriction. Their eyes saw, they reached out their hands to take. That is the impulse we have continued to struggle with ever since.
In Jewish mysticism there is a concept of “tzim-tzum”, which translates as “contraction.” It is used to describe God’s own action: contracting intentionally in order to create space for creation as we know it. Now the challenge is for us: we human creatures must contract, in order to give the rest of creation space to thrive.
We can all commit to doing this in our daily lives. The next time you find yourself reaching for a single-use plastic bottle, or some material good that you can probably get along without, stop and ask, “What would happen if I restricted myself, withdrew my hand?” Indeed, rather than reaching for more, let’s focus on God’s challenge, to till and to tend, to appreciate and protect this precious garden.
You are all invited to celebrate this beautiful creation of ours on Friday Jan. 21, Jewish Arbor and Earth Day / Tu B’Shvat. We will celebrate and enjoy all the fruits of trees that are permitted to us, indeed that God instructs us to enjoy. AND we will grapple with discerning the boundaries we must observe; celebrate our God-given ability to choose to restrict ourselves so that others, and the very planet, can breathe.
Happy Winter Term!
Associate Chaplain Rabbi Shosh Dworsky