Sources & Philosophy
Abraham Isaac Green
To Cultivate it and to Preserve it: Preservation of the World of the Holy One, Blessed be He
Seek my Face, Call my Name
The scope of a fourth commandment, which stems directly from the belief in creation, is to act out of concern for the survival and well-being of creation itself.
In our attempt to propose a version of Judaism, which is appropriate for a new era in Jewish history, we cannot ignore the fact that this period began at about a time when humanity recognized its ability to destroy the planet on which we live. Our rabbis have already taught:
"When the Holy One, blessed be He, created the first man, he took him to see all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to him, 'See my creations, how beautiful and wonderful they are, and all that I have made, I have created for you. Make sure to refrain from ruining and destroying my world, since if you damage it there is no one who can repair it"...
The significance of this legend is significantly intensified nowadays, being that it has risen to such a level of reality that it could not have been even imagined by the ancients.
The very story of the act of creation entails evidence of love of the world of nature. Therefore, it follows that the story be accompanied by acts stemming of this love - otherwise, it is as if we are witnessing a false testimony ...
This is a worldview in which the love of G-d and the love of the world, both on the natural level and in the human level, cannot be separated from each other. Faith, which declares the love of G-d without expressing it in love for the world, reflects an inner contradiction. The natural world is the intensification of and the clothing of divinity.
The story of creation achieves its destiny in the acts we undertake to express our respect for God's existence through our way of life. We do this both in our individual lives and as related to the needs of others.
The needs of the world are so numerous and urgent that they cannot be treated only by narrow, personal purification, creating a "holy group" of few of the elite but do nothing to help the survival of the world.
Here, too, it is difficult to determine all details involved, and every individual and every community must find ways of fulfilling these commandments. For instance, there is no doubt that it is right to reach a high level of consciousness and actions in relation to the way we live, the products we consume and the ways in which we get rid of their waste. We must stop the increased and merciless exploitation of natural resources. We must recognize and share with others the realization that a small minority of the human race annihilates far more than its share of the earth's treasures. We must ensure the continued existence of pure air, clean water, and good soil, which will bear unpolluted crops for future generations. As good Jewish parents, who always know how to care for the future of and prepare for the needs of our children, we must disallow ourselves to destroy the inheritance of future generations. This is not the platform for enumerating the many areas in which we can act to help the world exist. Each one of us must find significant means by which to take part in such concerns ...
Another series of commandments that derive from the reference to the story of creation is that of those included in the term "cruelty to animals". According to our creation story, man was created on the day the animals of the earth were created. This also comes to tell us that we do not differ from the animal world as we may conclude from other aspects of that story. The story of creation also gives us control over the animal world, but only as the viceroy of the Holy One, blessed be He, who must be accountable to the King. This role demands that he be sensitive to the suffering of other living beings, to prevent from causing them pain unnecessarily. The obligation to save the earth also means the preservation of the great and wondrous multiplicity of species, one of whom, man finds himself to be.