May we, speedily and in our days, help to move towards such a reality of deep connection to ourselves, one another, our place in the world and knowing You.

Dear Y-H-V-H, Great Source of All, Everpresence that Was-Is-Will Be, a letter to you:

Memalei kol olmin, vesovev kol olmin, umibaladekha ein shum metzi’ut klal: “You fill all the worlds, and surround all the worlds. Without you there is no reality.” (Zohar 3:225a, plus final phrase by Rabbi Michael Shapiro)

Not only this, but uvetuvo mekhadesh bekhol yom tamid ma’aseh vereishit: “In goodness you renew the wondrous works of Creation each day.” (Morning Prayers)

What do we, as Jews, do with these truths and the system that Judaism offers us to connect to them, and ultimately, to ourselves, others, our place in the world and You?

We live in an era of climactic catastrophes, extinction of species and poisoning of the air, land and water that we depend upon for our lives. On the individual level, we also find ourselves living within an epidemic of loneliness and overwhelming demands on our attention. And yet, technologies supposedly keep us uber-connected to each other, with more access than ever before to one another via technology. When do these technologies help us remember such truths about You, and when do they add to the overwhelm?

And how else might we take advantage of technologies that truly connect and nourish us? For there also exist wonderful advances and programs that connect us to teachers and students across the continent and the world, so that we can learn or re-learn our inheritance—how to connect to You more deeply through the many gifts and signs that are particularly available to us through the natural world. Modim anakhnu lakh … al nisekha shebekhol yom imanu, ve’al nifla’otekha v’etovotekha shebekhol et, erev, v’vaoker vetzohorayim: “Let us offer thanks to You … for Your miracles that are with us every day, and for Your wonders and the good things that are with us every moment, evening, morning and afternoon.” (Daily Amidah)

Geography no longer limits us. Wherever we are, we now have access to teachers who can help us open our eyes (poke’akh ivrim, Morning Prayers) to the gifts You have given us through the wild and cultivated herbs—many of which are right under our feet!—that can heal us. And we can re-learn techniques we once knew to open our senses, so that we can be more fully alive in the present—open with a supersonic awareness of the sights, sounds and sensations with which You surround us. And as we look, listen and sense our place in this world, we can also open our senses to the other beings that share this dear Earth with us. We can listen to a nourishing “twitter feed” coming from the trees, bushes and ground, noticing how we—and other life forms—affect those little birds and seeing our interconnectedness in new ways with all the beings we open to.

What joy to slow down enough to notice when we’ve walked in the woods and torn a beautiful spider web, and then to watch as the spider begins to reweave its intricate web without frustration, anger or any of the “why me?!” emotions that humans might experience in such a situation. We leave such encounters with the natural world calmer, more at peace, filled with gratitude and free of many of the toxins that make it difficult for us to experience happiness, deep connection and Your presence.

Meanwhile, at this time of continued growth of the Jewish Outdoor, Food, Farming and Environmental Education (JOFEE) Movement, coupled with the presence of Jewish young adults who are connecting to Judaism through such avenues, what might our Jewish and secular world look like if we continued to spur on such growth and integrate it deeply into the congregational world?

A wave has already begun to grow in this direction, but how might further attention to these areas spiral outwards to help us be the spiders spinning our communities into deeply interconnected webs of relationships?

How might these connections offer us opportunities to show up in life, to be less stressed and more supported? How might we wake up and see how You truly fill our world, and surround us and the entire world? And how might this—in a “butterfly effect” kind of way—have an impact upon the other worlds that You fill and surround?

May we, speedily and in our days, help to move towards such a reality of deep connection to ourselves, one another, our place in the world and knowing You.

Amen.

***

Daria Jacobs-Velde is the co-rabbi of Oseh Shalom, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Laurel, Md. This vision is deeply influenced by her own experiences, as well as learning through 8Shields.org: a social permaculture approach to community repair, LearningHerbs.com, Richard Louv’s books: Last Child in the Woods, and Vitamin N, and this.