“Look, I just saw a dead cardboard box”.
I don’t know when that joke started. Maybe it was one day, when while driving to school, my children noticed too many dead deers on the road.
Maybe I was trying to distract them so I told them about the “dead cardboard box”. Or maybe it was just a case of a typical dad’s humor. Either way, since then I hear a lot of “Tatty, look – a dead cardboard box”! My children notice “dead plastic bags” and “dead couches” as well. I am sure you get the point.
Even if you don’t find this joke funny, there is some truth hiding in it.
This week, we celebrated the 15th of Shevat, the “Rosh Hashanah to the trees”. Naturally, the day spurred conversations about the environment, our responsibility to sustainability, recycling, etc. etc.
Important topics indeed. But there is a little problem with that attitude: it puts us in a reactionary position. It’s a mindset of “We are on this planet, and OMG let’s not to ruin it!”
But there is a higher, deeper way to look at it.
Judaism teaches us that G-d created the planet and put us at the center of it because we can act as “elevators” – our goal is to elevate the entire creation.
There is a Chassidic saying brought by the Rebbe that sums it up:
“At present, inert creations are mute; though trodden upon, they remain silent. But there will come a time when the revelation of the Future becomes a reality, that the inert will begin to speak, relate and demand: “If a man was walking along without thinking or speaking words of Torah, why did he trample upon me?””
While this sounds quite demanding, it’s also empowering. It helps us realize how we have the ability to transform and elevate everything we come in contact with.
Imagine – when you prepare a hot meal for a sick friend, you elevate your pots, your food and the car that you drive. When you light Shabbat candles, you elevate the candles and the candlesticks. And when you give charity from your hard-earned money, you elevate the money, the coffee you drank at work and even the subway that got you there.
So can cardboard boxes die? I don’t think so.
But you can give it life? You bet.
Rabbi Mendy Kaminker