Spiritual view: Let us protect this world for the future

Rabbi David Mason said the EHRC report backed up the Jewish community and the Jewish Labour Movement

Rabbi David Mason said the EHRC report backed up the Jewish community and the Jewish Labour Movement. Picture: Muswell Hill Synagogue - Credit: Archant

In synagogues the world over, Jewish communities are beginning another cycle of reading the Torah, or five books of Moses, starting from the story of the creation of the world.

Now one thing I learned while studying Jewish texts - we need to be sensitive to the words that God communicated through the Torah. In fact this sensitivity will often throw up ideas that can resonate with us in 2020. Here is one such reflection.

When God creates the first person, he places this person in a place called the Garden of Eden in order to work the garden. This is what we are told in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis.

But in the second chapter, we are then told that Adam was placed there “to work it and to protect it”. This adds a whole new dimension to the relationship of humanity to the world of nature.

Yes, God is giving over the natural world to serve us. But not so that we can destroy it. In other words, there is no equality here between humanity and the rest of nature. The idea of the Bible is that humanity is in essence a summit or pinnacle of creation. But, we must be careful not to let that position “get to our head” so to speak.

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Anyone who has seen recently David Attenborough’s witness statement, A Life On Our Planet, will see succinctly and clearly put the effects of our using and drawing on nature for our purposes, on nature itself.

Yes, we are working the land as God wanted us to. But are we allowing it to replenish? Are we over-fishing? Are we destroying rainforests? Are we getting too close to nature itself, destroying a myriad of species in the process and allowing spill over of dangerous viruses as well?

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We read in synagogues last week that humanity’s role is to “subdue” or “conquer” the world. But we also read that God breathed into this first human, His own breath, creating a soul. Let’s all ensure that the values we hold dear about the beauty of our world, are heard by those who can influence and ask for greater balance between working the world for our benefit; and protecting it for the future.