One of my most memorable experiences as a Boy Scout was having the opportunity to hike and camp out in the Santa Cruz mountains on my own. I distinctly remember reaching the summit and being filled with wonder while looking out at the sea of trees during sunset.
Rabbi Kevin Kleinman shares a story about a boy who left the synagogue each morning during his daily prayers to go into the woods. One day, his grandfather followed him and watched as his grandson prayed amid animals and trees.
"Why do you go outside to pray?" he asked.
"When I am in nature I feel closer to God," the boy replied.
"Don't you know that God is the same everywhere?"
"I know," said the boy, "but I'm not."
Rabbi Kleinman writes that in nature, people often realize they are part of something much larger than themselves in this entire web of life.
Close encounters with nature are foundational to our history. Jews began as a desert people, wandering alone in the wilderness, depending on one another to survive. Relying on our community in this way also allowed our people to learn and become inspired by others.
This year, our congregation's education theme is “Judaism and Nature” – a topic that will be highlighted at our annual Asilomar adult study weekend. And in June, Beth Am kicked off its annual tradition of giving congregants the opportunity to welcome Shabbat outdoors during the summer months. Sitting under the majestic trees, surrounded by our community, and learning from our congregant speakers has certainly been another awe-inspiring experience for me. I hope you’ll have the opportunity to experience this for yourself.