Rabbi Moshe Rubin (Giffnock and Newlands Hebrew Congregation)
I wish everyone Shanah Tovah. It’s a brilliant way to start the year: Shanah Tovah includes the whole world, the people and the planet. Thank you for inviting me to say a few words on this forum. It’s highly appropriate at this time of the year, a time of judgement and reflection. We must pause for one moment and reflect on how God is judging us in relation to our responsibilities towards the planet. My father has shared with me many times about the time when he was a young adult, when he would have the privilege of accompanying the Rabbi of Bobov in America on his daily walk through the local park. On one of these walks, my father absent-mindedly plucked a leaf from a bush. His Rabbi and mentor affectionately hit his fingers, and reprimanded him, and said: "Who gave you the right and permission to pluck that leaf?"
We all know the story of Cain and Abel, how after Cain killed his brother Abel, G-d’s harsh response to Cain is: ‘The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to me from the earth.’ Besides its literal meaning, there’s a deeper rebuke taking place where G-d shouts at Cain, “Don’t you know that my earth and planet I created to give life and sustain life, how dare you do the opposite and kill, and use my earth to bury the crime?”
Ever since G-d’s words of rebuke to Cain, he has been calling to us to ensure that the planet and everything in it is healthy, so that it can continue to give life, and sustain life.
So our reflection at this time of the year, when we focus our attention on how strong our relationship is with G-d, it’s important to realise that part of that relationship is how we look after and respect G-d’s planet.