Radical amazement at the world’s beauty is a God connection
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Radical amazement at the world’s beauty is a God connection

Elchanan Weinbach is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Israel in Montebello. He has been a pulpit rabbi for 13 years, a school head for 15 years, and a consultant, presenter, or scholar in residence in New York, Kansas City, and Florida, and at LimmudLA.

Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach
Rabbi Elchanan Weinbach

We all want to be spiritual, but it can be hard to stay connected to God.

With all of the challenges in life and the many distractions we bring upon ourselves, God can seem distant. Yet there is wisdom that can guide us to a more spiritual orientation that is folded into the pages of our prayer books.

In our morning and evening service each day, the Amidah is preceded by several blessings intended to heighten our awareness of God before we start the silent devotion. The first of these blessings praises God as the creator of nature. The beauty, organization, and power of nature is compared to the beauty, power, and organization of the heavenly hosts. Our sages understood the great power of connecting to God through nature.

Our modern society can make it very difficult to connect to nature.

Not only are we too busy and distracted at times, but the noise and light around us often denies us the sights and sounds that inspired all people before the modern era. Whether it’s the sound of birds chirping or the sight of the planets, the Milky Way, and the constellations, so many of the ways we could connect to God easily through nature are mostly shut off from us.

The beauty of nature is there for all of us to behold.

A recent trip to Northern California provided me with deep spiritual renewal. Whether I was hiking up Mount Shasta, following a trail through the redwoods, or walking along the Pacific coast and watching the sunset, the wonders of nature that cannot be expressed in words aroused in me a deep love and awe for our Creator.

Not all of us can go far away to find nature — nor do we have to. We live in an area with many beautiful and easily accessible natural settings, local parks, and other places where we can reconnect with our spirituality and come closer to God.

Living with God is a constant challenge, yet appreciating God through nature is our easiest and most relaxing opportunity for greater spirituality. While appreciating God through intellectual endeavors (the second blessing before the Amidah) or through our personal and national histories (the last blessing before the Amidah) also are important pathways to God, for me nothing compares to the radical amazement presented by the beauty, organization, and power of the natural world as created by God.

As we near the High Holy Days season, let us prepare to meet God on those holiest days by taking advantage of these beautiful early-autumn days. A walk or a seat in nature can lower our blood pressure, make us happier and, most importantly, connect us with God.

Before we meet our Maker on the High Holy Days, let us take a stroll in his gardens, look at his handiwork, and perhaps rejoice in a spontaneous praise of hallelujah. In this way, when we meet the King and Judge we can more easily remember him as Father and Creator. Hallelujah.

Elchanan Weinbach is the rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Israel in Montebello. He has been a pulpit rabbi for 13 years, a school head for 15 years, and a consultant, presenter, and scholar in residence in New York, Kansas City, and Florida, and at LimmudLA.

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