Jewish tradition teaches us the importance of planting trees, protecting them, and using them responsibly. Jewish teachings help us understand lessons of long-term sustainability which apply not only to trees, but to the natural environment as a whole.
An oft-quoted Midrash teaches: “When G-d created the first man He took him and showed him all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him ‘See My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are. And everything that I created, I created it for you. Be careful not to spoil or destroy My world – for if you do, there will be nobody after you to repair it.'”
The Midrash singles out the trees of the Garden of Eden – rather than the Garden of Eden itself – to represent the natural world, the work of the Creator. Why should trees be singled out in G-d telling people not to destroy creation? An exploration of this topic will help us understand the deep importance of trees in our tradition, and the lessons they can offer us regarding the serious environmental challenges we face today.
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