18 Jewish quotes, blessings and readings for Earth Day

Here are a collection of quotes, blessings, and readings to help you ponder the question of how we can sanctify our planet.
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In the story of Exodus, we learn that when Moses encounters the burning bush, a voice tells him to take off his shoes. “Hamakom asher ata omed, admat kodesh hi — the place on which you are standing, she is holy ground,” the voice says.

As Rabbi Jill Hammer explains, this story raises the question: Are we to treat the earth on which we stand as holy? And if so, how?

Here are a collection of quotes, blessings, and readings to help you ponder the question of how we can sanctify our planet this Earth Day.

Blessing over the Sun

The Birkat Hachamah is perhaps the rarest blessing in all of Judaism. It is recited only once every 28 years, when the sun is at a precise spot in the sky that replicates the spot some Jewish people believe it was in when created. The blessing is the same as said upon seeing other natural wonders.

We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who makes the works of creation.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, עוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, oseh maasei v’reishit.

The Two Ways to Live

“There are two ways to live. You can live as if nothing is a miracle. Or you can live as if everything is a miracle.”

– Albert Einstein

In God’s Image

“Nature is not the final word, for nature itself was created by a being who stands outside it and who, by making us in His image, gave us the power to stand outside it.”

– Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks z”l

Blessing over Rain

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the cosmos, who is good and does good.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם הַטּוֹב וְהַמֵּטִיב

Baruch ata adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam hatov vehameitiv.

Spending time outdoors

“Master of the Universe, grant me the ability to be alone; May it be my custom to go outdoors each day among the trees and the grasses, among all growing things and there may I be alone and enter into prayer to talk with the one that I belong to. Know that every shepherd and shepherdess has a unique nigun (melody) for each of the grasses and for each place where they herd. For each and every grass has its own song and from these songs of the grasses the shepherds compose their songs.”

– Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Lekutai Moharan Tanina 63

On spoiling the earth

“See to it that you do not spoil and destroy My world; for if you do, there will be no one else to repair it.”

– Midrash Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7:13

Blessing over the Sea

Blessed are You, Adonai our God, ruler of the cosmos, who has made the great sea.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁעָשָׂה אֶת הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל

Baruch ata Adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam she’asa et hayam hagadol.

Blessing over natural phenomena such as a volcano, earthquake, thunder, or a shooting star

Blessed are You, G‑d our L‑rd, King of the universe Whose power and might fill the world

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁכֹּחוֹ וּגְבוּרָתוֹ מָלֵא עוֹלָם

Baruch ara Adonai, Eloheinu melech ha’olam, shehkoh-kho oo-geh-voo-rah-toh mah-lay oh-lahm

On being surprised

“An individual dies when they cease to be surprised. I am surprised every morning when I see the sun shine again. When I see an act of evil I don’t accommodate, I don’t accommodate myself to the violence that goes on everywhere. I am still so surprised! That is why I am against it. We must learn to be surprised.”

― Abraham Joshua Heschel

On individual responsibility

“It is not your duty to finish the work of the world, but neither are you at liberty to desist from it”

לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמֹר וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לְהִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה.

Lo alecha ham’lacha ligmor. V’lo ata ben chorim l’hibatil mimena

– Pirkei Avot (Ethics of Fathers) 2:16

Blessing over seeing wonders of nature such as mountains, deserts, lightning, and the sky

We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, who makes the works of creation.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, עוֹשֶׂה מַעֲשֵׂה בְרֵאשִׁית

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, oseh maasei v’reishit.

On Tikkun Olam (repairing the world)

“When you gain wisdom by studying Torah, develop character by doing acts of kindness, and when you observe the mitzvot (commandments) you bring tikkun olam.”

– Maimonides

Blessing over the first blossoming fruit tree seen in the spring

Yes, Judaism truly does have a blessing for everything. When a person sees a blossoming fruit tree for the first time during the month of Nissan, one should say:

Blessed are you, our God, who left nothing out of this world, and created in it good creatures and good trees, so humankind could benefit from them.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱ-לֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁלֹּא חִסַּר בְּעוֹלָמוֹ כְּלוּם וּבָרָא בוֹ בְּרִיּוֹת טוֹבוֹת וְאִילָנוֹת טוֹבוֹת לֵהָנוֹת בָּהֶם בְּנֵי אָדָם.

Baruch atta Adonai Elohainu melech ha’olam, she’lo chisar ba’olamo davar, u’vara vo b’riyot tovot v’ilanot tovim, l’hanot bahem benei adam.

Blessing over a Rainbow

After the flood, God promised Noah that He would never again bring a flood that would destroy the world. A rainbow is a reminder of this covenant that God made with Noah, his descendants, and all living creatures.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who remembers the covenant, and is faithful to His covenant, and keeps His promise.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֶלוֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם זוֹכֵר הַבְּרִית וְנֶאֱמָן בִּבְרִיתוֹ וְקַיָם בְּמַאֲמָרוֹ

Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha’olam zocher ha’brit v’ne’eman bivrito v’kayam b’ma’amaro.

God’s light is everywhere

“There is no life without a task; no person without a talent; no place without a fragment of God’s light waiting to be discovered and redeemed; no situation without its possibility of sanctification; no moment without its call.”

― Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Blessing over beauty

This can apply to beauty in all its forms and interpretations. Beautiful trees, animals or people alike.

We praise You, Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, that such as these are in Your world.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יהוה אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶך הָעולָם שככה לו בעולמו

Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu melech haolam, shekacha lo beolamo.

A Prayer for the Planet (Renewal of Creation)

Master of the universe, in whose hand is the breath of all life
and the soul of every person, grant us the gift of Shabbat, a day
of rest from all our labors. With all of our senses may we perceive the glory of Your works. Fill us with Your goodness, that we may attest to Your great deeds. Strengthen us to become
Your faithful partners, preserving the world for the sake of
future generations. Adonai our God and God of our ancestors, may it be Your will to renew Your blessing of the world in our day, as You have done from the beginning of time.

By Rabbi Daniel S. Nevins (Full text in English and Hebrew can be found here)

L’Dor V’Dor (from generation to generation)

This is a story traditionally told on Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish New Year of Trees.

Honi the Wise One was also known as Honi the Circle Maker. By drawing a circle and stepping inside of it, he would recite special prayers for rain, sometimes even argue with God during a drought, and the rains would come. He was, indeed, a miracle maker. As wise as he was, Honi sometimes saw something that puzzled him. Then he would ask questions so he could unravel the mystery.

One day, Honi the Circle Maker was walking on the road and saw a man planting a carob tree. Honi asked the man, “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?”

The man replied, “Seventy years.”

Honi then asked the man, “And do you think you will live another seventy years and eat the fruit of this tree?”

The man answered, “Perhaps not. However, when I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.”

– Babylonian Talmud, Ta’anit 23a

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