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It was the summer of 1896, and Father and I were strolling in the fields of Balivka, a hamlet near Lubavitch. The grain was near to ripening, and the wheat and grass swayed gently in the breeze.

Said Father to me: “See G‑dliness! Every movement of each stalk and grass was included in G‑d’s primordial thought of creation, in G‑d’s all-embracing vision of history, and is guided by divine providence toward a G‑dly purpose.”

Walking, we entered the forest. Engrossed in what I had heard, excited by the gentleness and seriousness of Father’s words, I absentmindedly tore a leaf off a passing tree. Holding it a while in my hands, I continued my thoughtful pacing, occasionally tearing small pieces of leaf and casting them to the winds.

“The Holy Ari,”1 said Father to me, “says that not only is every leaf on a tree a creation invested with divine life, created for a specific purpose within G‑d’s intent in creation, but also that within each and every leaf there is a spark of a soul that has descended to earth to find its correction and fulfillment.

“The Talmud,” Father continued, “rules that ‘a man is always responsible for his actions, whether awake or asleep.’ The difference between wakefulness and sleep is in the inner faculties of man, his intellect and emotions. The external faculties function equally well in sleep; only the inner faculties are confused. So, dreams present us with contradictory truths. A waking man sees the real world; a sleeping man does not. This is the deeper significance of wakefulness and sleep: when one is awake one sees divinity; when asleep, one does not.

“Nevertheless, our sages maintain that man is always responsible for his actions, whether awake or asleep. Only this moment we have spoken of divine providence, and unthinkingly you tore off a leaf, played with it in your hands, twisting and squashing and tearing it to pieces, throwing it in all directions.

“How can one be so callous towards a creation of G‑d? This leaf was created by the Almighty towards a specific purpose, and is imbued with a divine life-force. It has a body, and it has its life. In what way is the ‘I’ of this leaf inferior to yours?”

Master Kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria, 1534–1572.
From the writings of the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn; translation/adaptation by Yanki Tauber.
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Zali (Zelig) Lifshitz boise idaho February 10, 2017

amazing this was so inspiring! Reply

Aviva Jerusalem February 4, 2015

anonymous, Singapore 2011 YES! Reply

James McInnis Perth Amboy, NJ January 14, 2014

Wonder I believe the point is nothing should be done for nothing's sake, we trim and are trimmed, as a child I had to eventually put away childish, as a boy boyish things. This so until death claims this body, then, G-d trims this "old" life and I can soar, so "Overgrown" not only can you trim you should! Reply

Jerome Snyder Silver Spring, MD 20904 January 6, 2013

Water the Roots We can try at these times to join in spirit with secular (humanist) Jews who mainly see G-d ( the divine) in nature. As we recapture the holiness of the web of life and connect the joy of of nature to the larger terrain of Torah we will, if patient, rebuild a more vital and and balanced faith community more attractive and open to modernty. The tragedy is that Jews who have, in effect opted out, didn't see the connection of environment and Torah, because we forgot to water our roots. Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, ma February 7, 2012

Leaves of Grass I come to this article again, a year later. If you look at any leaf, you see the tree, within the leaf, in its venous branchings. If you look at a bonsai, and now we have bonsai stamps, you see in what is so miniature, an entire, blossoming tree, another form of what is marvel! If we think about, as so many have written, of the tree of life, and our lives, being about roots and branches, then this canopy, extends out over all Creation. If you think of leaves as in departures, the word itself, then in autumn where deciduous trees drop their leaves, and it is a time of going inwards, that too, as in death, we beat a kind of retreat, in those darkened early hours, and into a new, deep kind of meditative state . If you think of leaves in terms of the leaves of a book, about Chapter and Verse and about paper itself, you see how it all opens up, into an enormous connected story. And sometimes I see books, open books, as birds in flight.

We soar in this way! Have YOU hugged a tree today? Reply

Anonymous Singapore, Singapore September 7, 2011

Overgrown grass in my backyard If there is overgrown grass in my backyard, can I trim it? Reply

ruth housman marshfield hills, MA January 25, 2010

the way of the leaf In driving home from Newton to Marshfield today there were leaves blown about the highway, because it was storming. I almost braked so many times, as those leaves seemed like so many birds, fluttering on the ground, in that high wind.

And yes, it's all G_d and to recognize the sanctity in nature is to be in a holy place, to see that it's all wholly G_d's creation and a part of Divinity. The paradox of all life is that we are a part, and we are, apart. The opposites do fold inwards, together.

The sensitivity of the father in this commentary moves me to tears. It's a lesson, a profound lesson.

I wish everyone could learn this, imbibe it deeply, as this is the River that carries us all.

Every leaf, every blade of grass is known and must be accounted for. We are here to learn, to sanctify what is sacred in all things.

it's a joy to read about the environment, about such love, on a Jewish site! Reply

Eric S. Kingston North Hollywood, CA January 28, 2007

Veils "For the tzimtzumim and the “veils” are not things distinct from Him, heaven forfend, since nothing is separate from G‑d, but are “like the turtle (or: ’snail‘), whose garment i.e., its shell is part of its body”; so too, the very “shell” — the process of tzimtzum — that hides G‑dliness is itself G‑dly." Tanya 21 Reply