We are in charge of and responsible for this earth. We must do a better job of caring for it.
In the late 80’s when then Tennessee Senator Albert Gore, Jr. began his campaign of environmental awareness (which led to his receiving the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2007), he asked me to prepare “a closing homily” for the first meeting of the initiative held in Nashville, the city where I then served as rabbi of the Reform temple. On that occasion, I told a venerable Hasidic story – told in many different ways – about a magnificent goat that lived long ago. The goat had horns so long and beautiful that when he lifted his head, he could touch the stars, and they would sing the most beautiful melody that anyone had ever heard.
One day a man was walking through the forest thinking of what he might give his wife for her birthday. He encountered the goat, and a brilliant idea jumped into his head. “I could make my wife a gorgeous jewelry box from a piece of one of the goat’s horns,” he thought.
The man approached the goat, which was very tame and friendly, and explained, “I want to make a jewelry box from just a small piece of one of your horns. It won’t hurt when I cut it off, and I’ll just take a small piece. You won’t even miss it!” The goat lowered his head to accommodate the man’s request.
The jewelry box that the man fashioned was indeed beautiful, and his wife adored it. Proudly, she showed it to all of her friends who soon wanted one just like it. You can see where this is going. Soon the goat was inundated with requests to “cut off just a small piece” of one of his horns. Of course, soon his horns were much shorter. The goat could no longer reach the stars, and that most beautiful melody was forever silenced.
This wonderful tale teaches one of the vital lessons of Genesis’ creation story. We, human beings – not the crocodile, the elephant nor the lion, though they are stronger, faster, and fiercer – are in charge of, and responsible for, this world. Ergo, if we are to pass-on a beautiful and healthful environment to our children and grandchildren, we must do a much better job than we are doing now of taking care of it!
From: What’s in It for Me? Finding Ourselves in Biblical Narratives, pp. 2-3.