Are You a Nature Jew?

My husband doesn’t like sitting in synagogue.  Often, on the high holidays, he announces that he’s going to pray on the water (i.e., go fishing).

While that’s said tongue-in-cheek, I’ve been reading more about the nature-Judaism connection lately.

The feeling is very strong for me.  Is it for you?  Maybe it came from summers spent outdoors at Jewish camps or from picking pears on kibbutz in Israel.  Or maybe from camping trips with my family or feeling the hush in Muir Woods in California.

Until recently, I didn’t know specific prayers to honor these moments of discovery and awe.  But I’ve learned that there is a prayer for when we see lightning, shooting stars, vast deserts, magnificent mountains, or extraordinary sunrises and sunsets.  And other prayers for when we see a rainbow or the ocean or trees in bloom.

Rabbi Vicki Tuckman captures the essence of this spirit in a recent blog where she describes how she learned that worship of creation “comes in all forms and behaviors.”

“When I reach out and stroke the bark of a tree, take a picture of a picturesque mountain, breathe in the smell of pine needles on a forest floor, I am praising the very acts of Creation.”

One response to her blog is from a woman on the path to conversion.  When she read Rabbi Tuckman make the clear connection between Judaism and nature, it resonated strongly for her.

And I think it does for many of us, which is why I was delighted to learn about these two organizations that focus on the interweaving of Judaism and nature:

Wilderness Torah “awakens and celebrates the earth-based traditions of Judaism to nourish the connections between self, community, earth, and Spirit.”   (Follow them on Facebook or sign up on their mailing list.)

Adamah “connects people to their roots: to the land, to community, to Judaism, and to themselves by providing educational programs and products in order to build a more sustainable world.” (Follow them on Facebook and Twitter.)

Inspired by this concept of nature Judaism, I share Rabbi Tuckman’s wish with you:

“May you spend this summer – whether at the beach, in the mountains, in the desert, in your garden, even in a city admiring a tree outside your window – exploring how these natural places enhance your Jewish life and cause you to utter the oft repeated sentence from the Book of Genesis ‘And it was good!’”


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