Never ask a storyteller a question without expecting a story for an answer. Recently a ranger was talking about the Wilderness Pledge, and then I remembered a story about a thoughtless act by many….
It was summertime, a time for relaxation, and for restoring one’s strength. A holy rabbi was spending some time with his son in the fields and forest outside their village. The two used to take long walks through the countryside, marveling at the beauty of G-d’s world.
The fields were ripe with their golden harvest of wheat. The swollen sheaves swayed gently, promisingly, in the gentle breeze, swishing softly to and fro. It felt good to be alive!
They walked along in silence, enjoying the peace of the area, suddenly the father turned to his son, saying,
“Just look at the marvel of nature! See how G-d has a plan and a purpose for every single stalk of wheat, every puff of wind, the swaying of each blade of grass. Everything is included in G-d’s overall master plan of creation! Is it not marvelous that One so exalted and mighty should consider every tiny, minute speck on this world?”
They continued along the country road, breathing in the fresh air, each one silent with his own thoughts. Soon they came to a forest and continued walking leisurely among the trees. Engrossed in his thoughts, the boy absent-mindedly plucked a leaf off a branch. He held the leaf in his hand and from time to time would unconsciously tear off a bit and throw it away.
His father noticed what he was doing and commented:
“I don’t understand how you can do something destructive like that without thinking. Don’t you know that even a leaf is part of creation, that it has its purpose? Did I not just tell you how G-d guides the destiny of every tiny thing, even a leaf? Don’t you realize that a leaf is also a living thing; it breathes and grows. Why is the ‘I’ of a leaf any different than the ‘I’ of a human being? To be sure, you can think and speak while it is only a plant. Still, just as you, a human being, have a task to fill in this world, so does this leaf have a purpose to accomplish during its lifetime on this world.”
It is important to remember that “when G-d created the first human beings, He led them 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.
(Kohelles Rabbah on 7:13)