Texts – January 29, 2017


Consider God’s work. For who can straighten that which He makes crooked?

Ecclesiastes 7:13


None to repair it

When God showed the first humans around Gan Eden, He said, ‘Behold my works, how beautiful and good they are! All this I have created for your sake. Pay heed you do not corrupt and destroy My universe; for if you corrupt it there is none after you to repair it.’

Midrash Rabbah Ecclesiastes 7:13


The land shall keep a Sabbath

Six years shall you sow your field, and six years shall you prune your vineyard, and gather in the produce thereof. But the seventh year shall be a Sabbath of solemn rest for the land…; you shall neither sow your field nor prune your vineyard. What grows of its own you shall not reap, nor gather the grapes of your undressed vine….

Leviticus 25:1–5


The land shall keep a Sabbath

Six years you shall sow the land, and gather in its increase; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow. What it produces only the poor may eat; what they do not eat only the beast of the field may eat.

Exodus 23:10-11

(Maimonides comments that not just people but also the animals, the birds, the field itself must be nourished – this is why we have a Sabbath year.)


All the earth is Mine.

Exodus 19:5

“…the Holy One commands us to declare all that the Earth produces ownerless during the Sabbatical year, so that man will remember: the earth does not yield its produce on its own strength – nor because of human strength. Rather there is a Master over the land and over man.”

Rav Kook on the Sabbath year:


Man is a tree of the field.

When you lay siege to a city you may not cut down its trees. You may eat from the trees but not cut them down.

Deuteronomy 20:19


Man is a tree of the field.

When man wreaks destruction in the material world, destruction is wreaked in the metaphysical world as well and that this is what was meant by ‘For man is a tree of the field.’

Commentary of Recanati, Shofetim



Certain voices resound from one end of the world to the other, yet they are inaudible: when people cut down a tree which yields fruit, its cry goes from one end of the world to the other, yet the voice cannot be heard…. When the soul departs from the body, its cry goes from one end of the world to the other, yet the voice cannot be heard.

Pirkei Rabbi Eliezer 34

(Thus a tree – a growing thing – is the soul of the world.)


For the earth is Mine

Leviticus 25:23

To love God one must love all His work: the inanimate, plants, animals, and man. All the world is the work of God.


For the earth is Mine

Leviticus 25:23

The world belongs to God: it is not ours to use it any way we please.


For the earth is Mine

Leviticus 25:23

We may not use the environment in ways likely to harm other people – whether now or in the future.


For the earth is Mine

Leviticus 25:23

We must not cause the extinction of any animal. All that is was created to a purpose: this denies us the choice to eliminate any species from the world – or to make any new one:


For the earth is Mine

Leviticus 25:23

You may not allow animals of two different kinds to mate. You may not sow a field with two different kinds of seeds.

Leviticus 19:19


For the earth is Mine

Leviticus 25:23

“God created all the species of the earth … and gave them the power to reproduce…. He created for each one the capacity to reproduce its own species and not change it, forever.”

Nahmanides on Leviticus 19: 19


The Measure With Which We Measure

The commandment against wasteful destruction, bal tash’hit, prohibits the destruction of anything useful…. And this is the way of the pious: They love peace and rejoice in the good fortune of others, … do not waste even a mustard seed, and they are pained by all destruction and waste that they see. And they save anything they can from destruction with all their might…, for “the measure with which we measure, with that measure we shall be measured.”

Mishnah Sotah 1:7


One should pray only in a house with windows.

Brahot 34b – Rabbi Yohanan

Rashi comments that looking outside one can see God’s handiwork – the natural landscape. In a house without windows, one would be surrounded by man’s handiwork only.


Shimon the Righteous… used to say: On three things the world is sustained: on Torah, on the (Temple) service, and on deeds of loving kindness.

Pirke Avot 1:2



Rabbi Tarfon said: The day is short, the task is great, the workers are lazy, the wage is abundant, and the master is urgent.

Pirke Avot 2:20



He (Rabbi Tarfon) used to say: It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task. Yet, you are not free to desist from it.

Pirke Avot 2:21



Rabbi Akiva said: All is foreseen, but freedom of choice is given. The world is judged in goodness, yet all is proportioned to one’s work.

Pirke Avot 3:19



Rabbi Akiva used to say: All is given against a pledge, and the net is cast over all living; the shop stands open, and the shopkeeper gives credit, and the account book lies open, and the hand writes.

Every one that wishes to borrow let him come and borrow; but the collectors go their daily rounds and exact payment from man with or without his consent; for the collectors have that on which they can rely; and the judgement is a judgement of truth; and all is made ready for the feast.

Pirke Avot 3:20



Ben Heh-Heh used to say: According to the effort is the reward.

Pirke Avot 5:26


What is the Task?

Be joyful on the day of prosperity; but on the day of adversity, think!

Ecclesiastes 7:14



“Master of the universe, may I go each day to pray among trees & grasses & growing things.

“Send their living power into my prayer to make my heart whole through the life & spirit of all that grows, for it is Your transcendent Source which makes their life & spirit whole.

“O that these growing things would enter into my prayer! Then would I open my heart fully in holy speech before Your Presence.”

Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav