By Rabbi Rick Sherwin
EXPLORING OR EXPLOITING – As our family enjoyed the natural aura of Bok Tower Gardens, located far away from Florida’s Interstates and tollways, I thought with sadness about America’s shrinking National Parks, our dismissing the significance of climate change and rampant profit-minded exploitation of natural resources.
A young man recently pointed to the text in Genesis and asked, “What does it mean when God charges Adam to subdue the earth? Does that mean we can do with the earth whatever we want?” I smiled and shared with him the text telling us that God placed Adam in the garden לעובדה ולשומרה, to work it and to safeguard it.
We work the land to provide food and shelter, and to benefit the basic needs of humanity; at the same time, we safeguard the natural beauty of the land without exploiting resources. Yes, we need more oil and materials to benefit companies who employ people. We also need the sense of appreciation that acknowledges our responsibility of stewardship and prevents us from taking the world’s natural wonders for granted.
Writing in 1951, Abraham Joshua Heschel offers us a very contemporary insight: As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind. We will not perish for want of information, but only for want of appreciation.
Rabbi Rick Sherwin, a graduate of UCLA, was ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York. Rabbi Rick’s passion is filling spiritual services and interfaith educational programs with creativity, relevance, dialogue, and humor.