The Stewardship Paradigm
Humanity's dominion over the earth must be for the sake of the Divine.
The Midrash says that God showed Adam around the Garden of Eden and said, "Look at my works! See how beautiful they are--how excellent! For your sake I created them all. See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it."
Creation has its own dignity as God's masterpiece, and though we have the mandate to use it, we have none to destroy or despoil it. Rabbi Hirsch says that Shabbat was given to humanity "in order that he should not grow overweening in his dominion" of God's creation. On the Day of Rest, "he must, as it were, return the borrowed world to its Divine Owner in order to realize that it is but lent to him."
Ingrained in the process of creation and central to the life of every Jew is a weekly reminder that our dominion of earth must be l'shem shamayim--in the name of Heaven.
The choice is ours. If we continue to live as though God had only commanded us to subdue the earth, we must be prepared for our children to inherit a seriously degraded planet, with the future of human civilization put into question. If we see our role as masters of the earth as a unique opportunity to truly serve and care for the planet, its creatures, and its resources, then we can reclaim our status as stewards of the world, and raise our new generations in an environment much closer to that of Eden.
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