Green Spaces: A World Not Of Our Making
The Levites' city dwellings remind us of the importance of green, agricultural spaces for encountering God's creation.
But it is not only the poor that benefit from green space. The spaces in which plants can grow freely, without our being able to make a profit from it, give us a sense of nature and its holiness.
I often wonder whether, if the heads of polluting corporations had a space to which they went, that they did not own, and could not pay a gardener to landscape, would they understand what they are destroying by their own carelessness?
We read in the midrashic work Ecclesiastes Rabbah: "In the beginning, the Holy One created the first person, and caused the adam (which we might translate as "earthling") to pass before all the trees of the garden. God said to the adam, "See My works, how fine and excellent they are. Now all that I created was created for you. Think about this, and lo taschit--do not harm or desolate the world; for if you do, there will be none to fix it after you."
The world that God created is not like that which humans create for ourselves. We build houses and cities, and make the land do our bidding, but we need to also experience the wildness and richness of the earth. It should not only be those who can pay to travel to Yosemite, or Denali, who experience the spark in all of God's creation, but all of us.
The sparks of holiness in wildness must join to all the other divine sparks, for us to undo the damage done during the cracking of the vessels of creation (according to the Lurianic Kabbalah creation myth). If we destroy these sparks, we can never complete the tikkun, or repair, that we were created to do. And if we do not know these sparks in nature, then we ourselves remain incomplete--never experiencing a world that we ourselves did not build.
For all our modern knowledge, we are just beginning to recognize the importance of green spaces. It is imperative that we work to create green spaces for everyone, to make cities livable places, to have a place where everyone can walk and experience the things God wrought, which are unlike the things we ourselves can create.
If Shabbat is the time in which we experience God's order of time, rather than our own, then the open spaces are where we experience God's place, rather than our own.
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