I had breakfast this morning with the man I call my rabbi (though I am not Jewish), the amazing Rabbi Steve Greenberg. He brought me a copy of a new booklet "Food for Thought," published by the New York City non-profit Hazon, which "works to create a healthier and more sustainable Jewish community, as a step towards a healthier and more sustainable world for all."
Anyway, Rabbi Greenberg showed me a great story in "Food for Thought," taken from the Talmud. By way of explanation, the Rabbi told me, there is a mishnah, or prohibition, against moving stones from your own property onto the common property.
This can be more widely interpreted as a prohibition against putting our own pollution in the public space.
As the story goes:
Our sages taught:
A man should not move stones from his ground to public ground.
A certain man was moving stones from his ground onto public ground when a pious man found him doing so and said to him,
“Fool, why do you move stones from ground which is not yours to ground which is yours?"
The man laughed at him.
[You get this, right? The man is moving his trash into the commons but the holy man said why are you moving trash from the commons onto your own ground. So the man laughed that he didn't understand.]
Some days later, the man had to sell his field, and when he was walking on that public ground he stumbled over those stones.
He then said, “How well did that pious man say to me, ‘Why do you move stones from ground which is not yours to ground which is yours?’”
--Talmud Bavli, Masekhet Bava Kama 50b
The man thought he was getting away with something, but later, he tripped over the very stones he'd moved to the common ground. We think we're getting way with it when we treat our planet badly, but that's because we've forgotten that we're all interconnected.
Colin Beavan (that's me!) is now leading a conversation about finding a happy, helpful life at Colinbeavan.com. If you want to know how people are breaking out and and finding authentic, meaningful lives that help our world, check it out the blog here and sign up to join the conversation here.