There is a common story of our tradition found in the Taanit 23a of the Babylonian Talmud:
Honi was journeying on the road one day and saw a man planting a Carob Tree. He asked him “how long does it take for this tree to bear fruit?” “Seventy years” the man replied. Shocked, Honi asked: “How do you know that you’ll live another seventy years so that you can enjoy the fruit?” “I don’t, and I probably won’t,” said the man. “I have eaten the fruit of these trees around me, trees that were already grown, and just as my ancestors planted these trees forme, so too I plant these for my children.”
We may not see the day-to-day harm we cause to the environment. And the truth is, that earth will still be around long after we are here. But do we want to be the ones to destroy this planet? Do we want to be the ones who ruin this planet for our children? Or are we the ones to save the planet, to stem the tide, and to plant trees for future generations?
In Deut. 20:19 we learn that when we enter a land or a city, and settle in it:”lo tashkhit et-etzah,” You shall not destroy its trees, and thus we learn that we shall not destroy this land. From this we are taught the important mitzvah of Bal Tashkhit, not to be wasteful. Right now, we waste way too much! North America only has eight percent of the world’s population but consumes one-third of the world’s resources and produces one half of the world’s garbage! We waste way too much! And we are all to blame. This may regrettably be the “American Way,” but it is certainly not the “Jewish Way.”
Our world – GOD’S World – is in crisis. It is up to us to do something.
The Jacksonville Jewish Center is one of just a few select Houses of Worship in this country that is a part of the GreenFaith Program. As a GreenFaith member congregation we are committed, over a two-year period, to showing that as a faith-based organization, we don’t just honor God through ritual, but we honor God by protecting the world that God gave us. We do this by more and more, using Compact Fluorescent Bulbs, limiting air conditioning and heating, limiting waste, limiting paper usage, expanding what we recycle here, and being an advocate – as an institution – for environmental concerns. As a GreenFaith congregation, we can do our part, and we are slowly, but surely dedicated to doing so, but we – as an institution – can only do so much. We all need to lessen our carbon footprint. We all need to unplug. The world is in our hands. We can continue to destroy it, or we can save it, we can repair it. We can recycle. We can replant. Just as our ancestors did for us, so too we must do for our children.
-Rabbi Jesse Olitzky