Sunday, October 29, 2006

Nature Tuned In To Religion

Tonight we began to say VeTEn Tal Umattar here in Israel. Well, it's been raining all day! Considering the fact that we frequently pray [1]"טרם יקראו ואני אענה" God seems to have pre-empted our prayers this year. I guess we can thank Him with a resounding Baruch Hashem!

But what I would like to talk about is simply the manner in which the tempo of the seasons here in Israel so matches our Jewish sources and our religious rituals. The rain is a wonderful example. The day after we recited the Geshem prayers, it rained. Now, as we being VeTen Tal Umattar, we have floods of rain. Remember – in Israel there is NO RAIN over the summer. None at all. And yet, the rainy season fits perfectly where it is supposed to. (Yes! I know that sometimes we are not so fortunate. But that is precisely the point. When no rain appears for a few weeks after Sukkot, we add prayers, we fast.)

Likewise with Sukkot. In England I remember the freezing cold of the Sukka. Sitting shivering as we ate in our coats! Here in Israel, it is a pleasure to be in the Sukka. And yet, just like the Sources tell us, it is nice to sit in the Sukka, but you do feel the tinge of cold; you feel that you are at the threshold of the end of summer. The autumn is coming.
Here Chag HaAviv is truly the Springtime!

I sometimes ask my students why Pomegranates are Rosh Hashanna food, and they quote me the idea that it contains 613 seeds. And then I just take them into my garden and they realise that pomegranates and figs ripen in Eretz Yisrael at this time of year! The Jewish calendar fits here in Ertz Yisrael! This is the place that the "script" of Judaism was written for!

And this reminds me of a conversation that I had some years back with a friend of mine who is a tour guide. I had got stuck at an airport in Europe, and searched high and low for food with a hechsher but couldn't find anything. So I bought some fruit. An apple and an orange were quite fine. (even though they were astronomically priced!) So I commented that here in Israel one can almost automatically buy processed/packaged/manufatured food because it always has a hechsher. But that with fruits and vegetables, we have the biggest problems due to Teruma and Maaser, Shmitta etc.

And she responded; "Well, of course!"

"What is so obvious?" Is asked?

"Here in Israel, we are connected to the soil, the land," she explained, "and so, that which is closer to the land has greater issues. In Chutz Laaretz we are detached from the land – the fruits and vegetables prove no problem at all. The problem is in society – packaging and processing – and when the society is not Jewish, that is what you have to worry about."

That certainly is a thought-provoking perspective.

Maybe in this week of Lech Lecha, we can think about the idea that our religion has a primal connection with this land and that quite possibly this land is truly the place where one may "find" God!

[1] From Yishayahu 65:24 but we quote it in Anneynu.

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