(I’m re-running this piece, with some additional notes, because I particularly love the picture we get of Rav Kook through Rabbi Aryeh Levin’s eyes. I’ve also added the above portrait of Rav Kook.)

The holiday of Tu b’Sh’vat has come to have increasing environmental and ecological connotations for us, because of its association with trees, fruit, growing, nature, etc. We also live in a time when the natural environment around us is suffering as a result of human disregard and abuse of it.

As an alternative view, Rav Kuk, in the anecdote below, sets an example for us  of recognizing the innate holiness of the natural world, and of treating even the smallest part of it with utter respect.

“Rabbi Shimon said: ‘Every single blade of grass has a corresponding ‘mazal’ [angel]…which hits it and tells it to grow.” [1]

“After an early Shabbat Minchah [afternoon prayer], Rav Kuk went out, as was his holy custom, to stroll a bit in the fields and gather his thoughts; and I [Reb Aryeh Levin] went along. On the way I plucked some branch or flower. Our great master was taken aback; and then he told me gently, ‘Believe me: In all my days I have taken care never to pluck a blade of grass or flower needless-ly, when it had the ability to grow or blossom. You know the teaching of the Sages that there is not a single blade of grass below, here on earth, which does not have an angel above telling it, Grow! Every sprout and leaf of grass says something, conveys some meaning. Every stone whispers some inner, hidden message in the silence. Every creation utters its song in praise of the Creator’.” [2]

And if we’re to treat growing things with such tenderness, kal v’homer — how should we treat other people?

Does this effect your own views, and/or your commitment to environmental improvement?

(for another post about Rav Kuk or Kook, see: https://rabbielimallon.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/7-11-11-rav-kook-and-rembrandt/



[1] Midrash; Bereishith Rabbah 10:6
[2] Raz, Simchah; A Tzaddik in Our Time: The Life of Rabbi Aryeh Levin; p. 108