Quotables: Wild Judaism
One generation goes, another comes,
but the earth abides forever (Ecclesiastes 1:4)
Rabbi Judah ben Korchah said:
One could argue that the verse should have read,
“The earth goes and the earth comes,
and the generation abides forever”--
because which was created for the sake of which?
The earth was created for the sake of a generation!*
But a generation doesn’t abide by God’s commands--
hence it decays;
whereas the earth abides by God’s commands--
hence it does not decay.
*i.e., for the sake of human beings
Quoted from: A Garden of Choice Fruit, ed. by Rabbi David Stein (Wyncote, PA: Shomrei Adamah, 1991), p. 53, source #106
This is another in the long series of biblical and midrashic texts wherein the earth is attributed limited but real moral agency.
The author of Ecclesiastes laments the human condition. This midrash takes a different perspective. It plays on the obvious for those who believe that all of creation was made for the “crown of creation,” human beings. While this view is not explicitly refuted, it is brought into question. If humans are the crown of creation, why are their lives so short when compared to the lifespan of the earth? In typical, biblical fashion, the answer is not found in history or science, but in covenantal ethics. Unlike humans, the natural world always remains true to its covenantal relationship (cf. Genesis 9:10-11) with its Creator.
Rabbi Mike Comins
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