GrowTorah Core Value: Stewarding the Earth

Lesson Title: Domination or Conservation?

In Parshat Bereishit God creates the world in 6 days, culminating in Shabbat, the seventh day and day of rest. Adam and Eve are the first humans and live in the garden of Eden until they eat from the Tree of Life, per the snake's suggestion. They are banished from Eden.

(כח) וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֹתָם֮ אֱלֹהִים֒ וַיֹּ֨אמֶר לָהֶ֜ם אֱלֹהִ֗ים פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֛וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְכִבְשֻׁ֑הָ

(28) God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it;


What does it mean to "fill the earth and master it"? Is there more than one way to read this verse?

  • master of something vs mastering a skill
  • having responsibility towards the earth

What does this verse seem to imply about our God-given role in the world?

  • taking care/responsibility for the earth

How are we fulfilling this blessing in our own gardens?

  • planting, nurturing, weeding...

הרב אברהם יצחק הכהן קוק

אין ספק לכל איש משכיל, כי התורה שאמרה לאדם "ורדו בדגת הים ובעוף השמים ובכל החיה הרמשת על הארץ" לא כונה לרדיה של מושל עריץ שמתעמר בעמו רק להפיק חפצו הפרטי. חלילה לחק עבדות מכוער כזה שיהיה מדרכו של האל הטוב, אשר אמר ״עולם חסד יבנה״,

Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook

There’s no doubt to any intelligent person that when the Torah that says to Adam, (Genesis 1:28) “dominate the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and any creature that crawls on the ground”, it does not mean a domination of a cruel dictator who treats his people harshly in order to bring about his own personal desires. God forbid that a law of servitude as disgusting as that should be of the ways of the good God, about whom it is said (Psalms 89:3) “the world is built with kindness”, and we see that all His ways are filled with kindness and compassion.

(טו) וַיִּקַּ֛ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהִ֖ים אֶת־הָֽאָדָ֑ם וַיַּנִּחֵ֣הוּ בְגַן־עֵ֔דֶן לְעָבְדָ֖הּ וּלְשָׁמְרָֽהּ׃

(15) The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it.


How is the language used in the description of Adam in the context of the Garden of Eden different from God's blessing to Man in the earlier verse?

  • till and tend as opposed to master and fill, what connotations does each verb have?

Which of these verses from Genesis more closely relates to our own activities in the garden and why?

  • what is our ideal relationship with the garden?

רב שמשון רפאל הירש

אם הכל, כקטן כגדול, כח ה' שלוח ממעל, חמוש באמצעים הדרושים, במקום הראוי ובחוג קבוע לפעול ולעשות על פי חוקי ה', - לקחת רק למען תת — האם יוכל האדם לבדו להיות נבדל ויוצא מחוג החיים הזה? האם נולד האדם רק לקחת.... הכל, התבל ועבדי ה' אשר בה, והאדם יעבוד רק את עצמו? את עצמו? לא! .... הכל, כל אשר לך: רוח, גוף, אנשים, נכסים, ברואים וכל כשרון וכל כח, המה האמצעים לפעול ולעבוד "לעבדה ולשמרה!" אך אהבה אך צדק! לא לך נתנה הארץ למנה, רק הנך נתון אל האדמה לעבדה ולהוקירה כאדמת קדש, תבל ה', וכל אחד מיצוריה כיציר שדי, כאחיך, לאהוב ולכבד אותו ולהביאו לתכליתו ומטרתו לפי רצון ה', — לזאת, תשמח בציץ ופרח ותאבל עם שושנה נובלת.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch

Since all things, the smallest and the greatest, are God's chosen messengers, to work, each in its place, and with its measure of power, according to the law of the Most High, taking only that it may give again, should man alone be excluded from this circle of blessed activity? Can he be born only to take?.... The world and all which is therein serves God; is it conceivable that man alone should only serve himself? No! ....All which thou possessest, spirit, body, human beings, wealth, every ability and every power, they are means of activity; לעבדה ולשמרה to promote and preserve the world were they given — love and righteousness. Not thine is the earth, but thou belongest to the earth, to respect it as Divine soil and to deem every one of its creatures a creature of God, thy fellow-being; to respect and love it as such, and as such to endeavor to bring it nearer to its goal, according to the will of God.... therefore thou rejoicest when the flower blooms and sorrowest when it fades.


"When the flower blooms" in our own gardens, how are we emulating Adam's experience in the Garden of Eden?

  • pride in creating, becoming part of the process...

Living the Lesson: From the Garden to the Globe

בְּשָׁעָה שֶׁבָּרָא הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֶת אָדָם הָרִאשׁוֹן, נְטָלוֹ וְהֶחֱזִירוֹ עַל כָּל אִילָנֵי גַּן עֵדֶן, וְאָמַר לוֹ, רְאֵה מַעֲשַׂי כַּמָּה נָאִים וּמְשֻׁבָּחִין הֵן, וְכָל מַה שֶּׁבָּרָאתִי בִּשְׁבִילְךָ בָּרָאתִי, תֵּן דַּעְתְּךָ שֶׁלֹא תְקַלְקֵל וְתַחֲרִיב אֶת עוֹלָמִי, שֶׁאִם קִלְקַלְתָּ אֵין מִי שֶׁיְתַקֵּן אַחֲרֶיךָ

When the Blessed Holy One created the first human, He took him and led him round all the trees of the Garden of Eden and said to him: “Look at My works, how beautiful and praiseworthy they are! And all that I have created, it was for you that I created it. Pay attention that you do not corrupt and destroy My world: if you corrupt it, there is no one to repair it after you.


How can our garden lessons and activities be applied to better care for the plants and creatures outside our gardens, in order to fulfill God's command to Adam in the Garden of Eden?

  • how to be a responsible master/caretaker of plants/animals
  • what is our responsibility as tillers/tenders of the natural world?