Earth Day: It’s a Jewish Thing

By Joan D. Plisko, PH.D, Pearlstone’s Community Sustainability Director and Rabbi Petahya Lichtenstein, Pearlstone’s Director of Education.  
This Earth Day, we invite you to explore your relationship with Earth and take appropriate steps to make it healthier. A healthy relationship includes mutual respect, communication, honesty, connection and so much more.  

As David Abram puts it “The Hebrew word for human – Adam – is intimately related to the term Adamah, which in Hebrew means “ground” or “earth.” For the ancient Hebrews, to be human was to be an earthling (as in Genesis, where the first human – Adam – is a creature fashioned from the soil who will ultimately return to the soil). 

In a similar fashion, the English word human is cognate with the English humus (or soil). Both are derived from the proto-Indo-European root that signifies “earth” or “ground,” which suggests that in English, as in Hebrew, that which most deeply defines the human is our own derivation from (and kinship with) the ground underfoot.” 

Earth provides us with life-supporting resources – trees for shelter, cooling, and oxygen; plants for food, habitat, and medicine; water for drinking, bathing, and fishing; air to breathe; and animals that complete the web of life. Spending time in nature is just what the doctor ordered. It reduces stress, lowers heart rate and blood pressure, improves mood and memory and increases the likelihood of social interactions. 

How do you complete your relationship with Earth? Is there balance, mutuality and respect? Can you identify opportunities to enhance that relationship? Do you need to spend more time together? Communicate more? Honor each other’s boundaries? 

This Earth Day, ponder Earth’s life-giving force that provides so much for all earthlings. Develop a plan to be more respectful, communicative, and honest. Here are some ideas: 

  • Pay attention to Earth more. Slow down, sit down, and listen to the wisdom of mother nature. Just five minutes a day in the natural world has measurable positive health benefits. 
  • Reduce your impact on Earth. Drive less and bike, walk, carpool, or use public transit more. It’s good for the environment as well as your physical and emotional wellbeing. 
  • Be honest about what you really need. Rethink your purchasing and choose with intention, eliminating plastic and toxic chemicals when you can. This change honors the finite resources of our finite planet. 
  • Give back to Earth. Beautify your community. Plant trees, food and flowers; pick up trash; create earth art. Plants and trees provide food, oxygen, habitat, help save energy, clean the air and help fight climate change. As the Talmud writes “I found a fruitful world, because my ancestors planted it for me. Likewise, I am planting for my children.”  
How much are you willing to give to find balance in your relationship and protect our beloved Earth? 
Pearlstone | 5425 Mt. Gilead Rd, Reisterstown, MD 21136
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