Reb Aryeh Levine (1885-1969), known as the ‘Tzaddik of Jerusalem,’ recorded the following incident in his memoirs:
I recall the early days, after 1905, when God granted me the privilege to ascend to the Holy Land; and I arrived at Jaffa. There I first merited meeting our great master, Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (of blessed memory), who greeted me with good cheer, as was his sacred custom to receive all people.
We chatted together on various Torah topics. After an early Minchah (the afternoon prayer-service), he went out, as was his custom, to stroll a bit in the fields and collect his thoughts. I accompanied him.
During the walk, I plucked a twig or a flower. Our great master was taken aback when he saw this. He told me gently:
“Believe me — in all my days, I have been careful never to pluck a blade of grass or flower needlessly, when it had the ability to grow or blossom. You know the teaching of the Sages, that there is not a single blade of grass below, here on earth, which does not have a heavenly force above telling it, Grow!
“Every sprout and leaf of grass says something, conveys some meaning. Every stone whispers its inner message in its silence. Every creature utters its song [of praise for the Creator].”
Those words, spoken from a pure and holy heart, engraved themselves deeply on my heart. From then on, I began to feel a strong sense of compassion for all things.
(Adapted from A Tzaddik in Our Time by R. Simcha Raz, pp. 108-109. See also Tomer Devorah, chap. 3)