Eco Rabbi: Parshat Vayetzei – Working Together

mountain, israel, sunset, vayetzei, eco rabbi picture

In this week’s segment Jacob leaves his parent’s home. Jacob just out-maneuvered Esau, his brother, for the birthright and now Esau wants revenge. Jacob hopes to stay with family in Haran. On his way there Jacob sets up camp in a special “place.” Sources explain that that place is holy and is either the Temple Mount in Jerusalem or Hevron. In order to protect himself from dangerous animals Jacob surrounds his head with stones from the area. That night he has a paradigm-shifting dream where God promises Jacob that he will be with him wherever he goes.

There is an interesting grammatical inconsistency in this text. When Jacob lies down to rest he takes stones from the area and places them around his head, but when he wakes up the text only mentions one stone. Genesis Rabba, a sixth century commentary, picks up on this and explain that the stones understood that Jacob was holy and a very special person. All of the stones wanted to support the head of this great man so they joined together into one stone.

I think that this is a very powerful lesson that we can all learn from. The very nature of separate is that things are separate, there are boundaries separating between the objects. When a man and wife get married the bible says that they “become one flesh.”In Kabbalistic terms things are separate when they are different from each other in spirit. This is why man strives to be God-like, in order to reunite with his Maker. Interestingly, until modern atomic theory filtered into the realm of thought, philosophers explained differences similarly as well, from Aristotle to Spinoza.

There are so many organizations out there working hard to heal our planet. They are right, if we do not change our ways fast we may run out of time and not have anything to give to the future generations. This is one of those issues that are too important to fight over. It’s wonderful to see so many of organizations working together. This post is in tribute to this great effort to work together.

Working together towards a goal can be extremely powerful and it’s good to see so many working to heal our planet. I suggest that we take a page out of the stones book. One tenet of “greening” is not wasting, time nor energy.

While masses working together can be less than bright, as in the flocking nature of herds (people or animals following and not even sure what they are following), when people work together they can also reach wonderful and powerful solutions, more effective than they could have reached individually. There are several examples of this power: Open Source software is more than a thorn in the giant software behemoth’s side. Wikipedia is becoming more and more an accepted source for information. Not many people know this but the original Oxford English Dictionary relied on quotes submitted by the masses, the original wiktionary.

Unlike the stones, though, I believe that it is important to retain an individuality. It is this independence that allows for groups to working together to reach great heights instead of becoming a flock. By thinking independently people can come up with independent ideas, but by then working together they can achieve much more than on their own.

Image Source: Beny Shlevich

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