Our Gift for Earth’s Birthday
By: Rachel Neiman
There is a debate in the Gemara, (Rosh Hashana, 10b), as to whether the world was created in the month of Tishrei or the month of Nissan. Clearly, we have come to accept the opinion of Rabbi Eliezer that on the first of Tishrei, when we celebrate Rosh Hashana, we are not only commemorating a new year, but the birth of the earth. In the mussaf prayer on Rosh Hashana, after the various blowings of the shofar, we repeat the refrain, "Hayom Haras Olam," "Today is the birthday of the world."
However, in the Midrash Rabbah,(Vayikra 29:1), we discover that what Rabbi Eliezer meant by the beginning of the world was in fact the birth of mankind on the sixth day. Thus, the five previous days of creation occurred in the month of Elul, beginning on the twenty-fifth. Although the counting of time was dependent on the arrival of Adam, the creation of the world actually occurred in Elul.
For the Jewish people, the month of Elul represents a time of return to Hashem through prayer and action. We are heading towards the season of judgment, and it is not only through our prayers, but through the choices and changes that we make in our behavior, that we hope to earn a good decree for the upcoming year.
This multidimensional approach of prayer and action applies not only in our hopes for ourselves, but also in our hopes for the earth that Hashem created. In the second account of creation in the Torah, it says, (Breishit, 2:5), "And no plant in the field was yet in the earth, and no herb of the field had yet grown; for the L-rd G-d had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground." Rashi comments on this verse that the reason there was no rain was because there was no one to work the earth and to recognize the benefit of rain. Once Adam came and saw the need for the rains, he prayed for them and they came.
Thus, when Hashem created the earth and mankind, He also created a partnership. Without the physical and spiritual input of people, the earth will not thrive. And mankind relies on the earth for its own survival. It is the choices that people make that affect the health and growth of the land, though ultimately, of course, it is Hashem who brings about the success of both man and earth.
This Elul, as we pray and work for our personal futures as well as that of the Jewish nation, let us remember that the health and growth of the earth is also counting on us. Through a combination of prayer for G-d's help and individual actions to support our environment, we can celebrate the creation in the hopes that our efforts will sustain the earth that sustains us
Originally posted in "On Eagles' Wings" September 15th 2005
This content originated at Canfei Nesharim.org/.