There is a teaching that says that when the redemption comes all will be restored to the state things were in when Adam and Eve were in the garden. This teaching has deeply affected me and how I view things. I wanted to try to share a bit of that here, as it helps to explain the perspective this blog is coming from. Tikkun Olam means “restoring the world” and below I’ll share some thoughts about one aspect of this concept.
In the beginning when HaShem was busy creating all that is, He brought things forth in a particular order and He was pleased with how they turned out. At the end of the sixth day we read, “And G-d saw everything that He had made, and behold, it was very good.” Very good! Meod tov! We also read: “HaShem took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Very good. He was satisfied with His creation and He rested.
What I want to look at with you is the duty to which Adam and Eve were fulfill: to work and to keep the garden. This sounds delightful to those of us who are gardeners and nature lovers. But what are we to make of it?
To work: This word is avad which means the following: to labor, work, work for another, serve another by labor, serve as subjects, and to serve (G-d or with Levitical service). The idea here is the service that we do. He placed them in the garden to serve Him through their work. This is a divine service and it is to be done with joy.
Some translators opted to translate this into English as the word “till” as in “there was no man to till the ground, and that gives a different idea than “and there was not a man to work/serve the ground”. I believe that modern tilling of the earth has been vastly more destructive than we can imagine and I believe that it is possible to work the soil without tilling it in the modern sense of the word.
The bottom line here is that I have come to understand this service of nature as stewardship. I believe that we are called to serve HaShem through our stewardship of His creation, tending to it with care to keep it alive and prosperous. Have you ever noticed how often the Scriptures call upon the earth as if it is a person, make promises to the earth, and that the earth stands as a witness of eternal promises? There is something here that I think we have forgotten over the ages, something worth reviving.
The take away here is that man was placed in the garden to serve G-d through our tending to the land with joy, this is our work.
To keep: This word is shamar which means the following: to keep – have charge of, to guard – keep watch and guard over, protect, and save life (as in a watchman), to watch and wait for, to observe, to retain and treasure (as in remember), to keep (within bounds) or restrain, to be on one’s guard, take heed, take care, beware. The idea here is to pay attention to preserve life and keep within the prescribed boundaries. One place this word is used is in the instruction to “keep/guard Shabbat” and that Israel is to keep/guard the Torah. Man was expected to keep the garden in this same way, to preserve it, to ensure that it thrives and lives on for future generations.
Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to serve HaShem by their tending to His creation and safeguarding the life within. With this in mind, how are we to serve HaShem today? Is it any different from Adam and Eve? Whether it is producing less waste, thoughtfully using the products you choose to ensure that no damage is being done by them, or tending to nature in various ways to ensure its benefit – however you apply this in your life – it’s a calling on mankind. All of us.
As small farmers we have a larger piece of land to tend to than some, smaller than others, but our awareness has been opened to understand that we are tending to more than just the humans and livestock that dwell within our borders. We bear a certain responsibility for all of the life on our property – both above and below the surface of the land.
Another perspective shift came for us about a decade ago when we began to understand that prophecy is something to be pursued. If HaShem says a thing will happen, rather than sitting around waiting for it to fall out of the sky we are supposed to prepare the way for it to happen. From Jews returning to their ancestral homeland in droves to Israelis planting vineyards on the mountains of Samaria to the knowledge of HaShem going out to all peoples of the earth – these are things we are supposed to participate in by making preparations for them to happen when they do and by participating in them when they do come about. It is expected that G-d’s people be participants in prophecy, not outside observers.
Back to the redemption. When the redemption comes, will things suddenly be restored to their original state, or will we have to have made preparations? We will prepare for this wonderful time by learning and putting into action the things we learn. We can participate in prophecy like this every day when we are attentive to what we purchase, how we use those items, how we mange the resources we’ve been entrusted with, and what of these things we pass on to the next generation.
As a side note for further reflection, I’ve learned that to a certain extent our memories are somehow embedded in our DNA. By this I mean that at the resurrection each of us will have our own bodies once again (just like our Holy Master did, like Elizar/Lazarus and the others who were restored to life) and we will know what we had learned prior to our death. What we learn in this life will not be wasted in the World to Come because it will come with us and it will be expanded even more then. Can you imagine?
So as we pursue restoration/regenerative agricultural practices on our small farm, as we learn the ways of our ancestors that brought health and healing, as we learn about new techniques and discoveries that help us be better stewards, we are preparing for the coming of Moshiach and the age when He reigns from the throne of King David in Jerusalem. More will come beyond that time, but this is the nearest next move in the grand scheme of things. Let’s prepare together, let’s live today as if we are already dwelling in that time.