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Here, You Do It

04/20/2023 01:33:17 PM


This Shabbat is Earth Day, so here is a lesson from my twenties spent exploring earth.

When I led cycling trips around the globe we had a number of pre-trip tasks to do that I did not particularly like: calling the posh French hotels to confirm our particular American reservations; adjusting and cleaning all the derailleurs so the bikes shifted just right; filling mysterious fluids in the huge boxy Fiat’s engine.

Like most, dare I say all, humans I felt compelled to avoid those tasks. You see, I had coworkers. They could do them. Now let’s be clear, I did do them, but once the trip started, it got harder to find that time. We were all pressed, doing a million tasks a minute — chatting with curious teens about Pointe du Hoc while slicing oranges and directing traffic in a busy roundabout. Passing a flat bike tire on a wheel we’d swapped off a guest’s bike and tossed in the van, we might have each thought to ourselves, “Oh, yeah... I’ll do that later I’m busy now. Or maybe by the time I’m done prepping this picnic lunch my co-leader will have done it!” That would be understandable.

But this was nipped in the bud in our training. Our training leader looked at us and said, “Every task you skip, who do you think will do it? It’s just the two of you out there. Skipping that task is like looking your co-leader in the eye, handing them the flat tire and saying, 'Here. You do it.'"

That stuck with me. Leaving your dirty dishes in the sink for just one more day with housemates? Here, you wash these. Never collapsing those darned Amazon cardboard boxes? Here, you do this. Leaving garbage on the floor? Yeah, that task is for you darling. And it’s even easier to pass tasks to an invisible “other” than someone you know and love. Maybe someone else will pick up that garbage on the trail.

Now you might have some established deals with your loved ones — who is the garbage taker outer and who is the one who makes sure you write down appointments — but with no bargain struck, we just wait for someone else to come and do those things for us.

There’s a beautiful teaching based off Ecclesiastes, from Midrash Kohelet Rabbah, that God took the first human to the Garden and said, “Admire my creation! It is beautiful. All that I have created I have made for you. But be careful that you do not ruin my world, for if you do, there is no one else to put right what you have destroyed.” When it comes to the task we were assigned in Genesis, "לעבדה ולשמרה" to work the land and to protect it, there is no one else coming by to fix it.

We are very lucky to rely on each other; I believe our interdependence and our adaptability are our greatest human strengths. You don't need to do every thing. It is probably a good idea to let the garbageman collect garbage and the arborist trim the trees. But if we all work together to harm nature, there is no other coworker who will sweep in and fix it after us. When there is work to be done and you say "Oh I can't do it" or "I cannot do it today", understand you're looking someone in the eye and saying, “Here, you do this.”

This Shabbat is not only Shabbat but also Rosh Chodesh Iyar. Iyar is also called “the Month of Radiance” (Chodesh Ziv) in the book of Kings because it is when the trees are radiant with blossoms. May we all take a moment to delight in that radiance this Shabbat and then pick up the tasks required to preserve them on Sunday.

Shabbat shalom!


Fri, June 14 2024 8 Sivan 5784