I want to tell you about the greatest discovery of the millennium. It wasn't the printing press. It wasn't America. It wasn't even vaccination. The greatest discovery of the millennium happened near its very end.
It was the discovery of Planet Earth.
We were trying to get away from Planet Earth -- ever since we had to leave the garden. We built temples reaching to the heavens, to transcend our earthly bounds. Cities to lock out the earth's wildness, as though we were not a part of it. We told her she was a dark and lowly place, that we needed to escape her to reach our destiny. We ravaged her, raped her, paved her. Our dreams were dreams of overcoming Earth.
Until finally, in the ultimate of all dreams, we escaped her. We told her, "Earth, we don't need you anymore! After all, you are just one little planet in an awesome universe! We are going out there to conquer planets bigger and better than you. We shall become masters of the stars, of the galaxies!"
We got to the moon. The moon was barren. We sent probes to Mars. Mars was dead. To the icon of beauty, to Venus. She was dressed in poisonous, burning clouds. And then the pockets of the United States Congress were also barren to fund our useless dreams.
It was then that we looked back from outer space and discovered something we had never imagined. A shining jewel in the vast darkness. Never before had we known her beauty. The most beautiful planet a mind could dream of.
It was then that we realized everything our spirits ever wanted was here. That we need her and she needs us. Our destiny is hers and hers is ours. For we are one.
We discovered Planet Earth.
We need to save our Planet Earth. There was one other time she was in peril, and then there was only one man who could save her. Not that he was the only righteous man. There were others. There was Methuselah and his disciples.
But Noah was not just a spiritual man. He was, as the Torah says, "a man of the Earth." According to our tradition, Noah invented the plow.
So, G‑d looked down at the world He had made and how its soul had been ripped out of it, and He saw these people who prayed and meditated and transcended the bounds of body and earth, and He said, "You people are not the solution. You are part of the problem. Only Noah, who knows to bond body and spirit, heaven and earth, he alone can save My world."
In our century, during the most horrible crimes of humanity, we have seen how spiritual people were quiet. The ravaging of humanity and of the earth has happened with their permission.
But now we have discovered Planet Earth. We have discovered spiritual fulfillment and G‑dliness within her. And we know that if we cannot make peace with her and with each other, we will not survive much longer.
The Creed of Noah
At the dawn of creation, G‑d gave the first human being six rules to follow in order that His world be sustained. Later, after the Great Flood, he charged Noah with one more. So it is recounted in the Book of Genesis as interpreted by our tradition in the Talmud. There will come a time, our sages told us, that the children of Noah will be prepared to return to this path. That will be the beginning of a new world, a world of wisdom and peace.
For most of Jewish history, circumstance did not permit our people to spread these principles, other than by indirect means. When the Lubavitcher Rebbe began speaking about publicizing them as a preparation for a new era, he was reviving an almost lost tradition.
What fascinates me is the breathing room they provide. They resonate equally in a hut in Africa or a palace in India, in a school in Moscow or a suburban home in America. They are like the guidelines of a great master of music or art: firm, reliable and comprehensive--but only a base, and upon this base each people and every person may build.
According to the sages of the Talmud, there are 70 families with 70 paths within the great Family of Man. And each individual has his or her path within a path. Yet, there is one universal basis for us all.
Anyone who lives by these rules, acknowledging that they are what G‑d wants of us, is considered by our tradition to be righteous. That person is a builder with a share in the world as it is meant to be.
The creed of Noah is a sacred inheritance of all the children of Noah, one that every person on the face of the earth can recite every day. And if enough of us will begin to say these same words every day, we will see a different world very soon. Sooner than we can imagine.
Here is a phrasing of the Creed of Noah, according to ancient tradition, with a touch of elaboration:
I, child of Noah,
caretaker of our precious Planet Earth,
accept upon myself the responsibility for peace and oneness in our world,
as accepted by Adam and by Noah,
transmitted by Moses and his people over the ages:
- I will not worship anyone or anything other than the One Creator, who cares for the creatures of our world, renewing the Act of Creation at every moment in infinite wisdom, being life for each thing.
In this is included prayer, study and meditation.
- I will not show disrespect for the Creator in any way.
This may be seen to include respect for the beauty and life of the Creation.
- I will not murder.
Each human being, just as Adam and Eve, comprises an entire world. To save a life is to save that entire world. To destroy a life is to destroy an entire world. To help others live is a corollary of this principle. Every human being that G‑d has created is obliged to provide for others in need.
- I will respect the institution of marriage.
Marriage is a most divine act. The marriage of a man and a woman is a reflection of the Oneness of G‑d and His creation. Dishonesty in marriage is an assault on that Oneness.
- I will not take that which does not rightfully belong to me.
Deal honestly in all your business. By relying on G‑d, rather than on our own conniving, we express our trust in Him as the Provider of Life.
- I will not cause needless harm to any living thing.
At the outset of his creation, Man was the gardener in the Garden of Eden to "take care of it and protect it." At first, Man was forbidden to take the life of any animal. After the Great Flood, he was permitted to consume meat--but with a warning: Do not cause unnecessary suffering to any creature.
- I will uphold courts of truth and justice in my land.
Justice is G‑d's business, but we are given the charge to lay down necessary laws and enforce them whenever we can. When we right the wrongs of society, we are acting as partners in the act of sustaining the creation.
May the nations beat their swords into plowshares. May the wolf lie down with the lamb. May the earth fill with wisdom as waters cover the ocean floor. And may it be very soon in all of our lifetimes, sooner than we imagine.
Excerpted from a speech delivered before the 18th International Peace Conference, held in Munich in Fall of 1999