Thursday, July 19, 2012


Erev Shabbos Kodesh Parshios Matos-Masei Pirkei Avos, perek 2
Rosh Chodesh Av 5772/July 20, 2012

A friend of mine related that one summer night, he walked passed a few boys who were laying on the ground in an open field staring at the clear night sky, and he overheard one of them say, “Wow, it looks just like a planetarium!”
I remember as a child scouring our bungalow colony with my siblings for salamanders. We would gleefully amass impressive collections of the spotted critters and bring them home in buckets. [No matter how many we brought home, by morning they were always gone. I always suspected that my mother was an accomplice in their mass escape each night.] At times we would also stare at the clouds and imagine what they liked like.
Rambam (Yesodei HaTorah 2:2) writes that appreciating nature draws a person closer to loving and fearing Hashem.
In our generation we have a tremendous opportunity to utilize this approach due to the incredible scientific advancements of the previous century. It is therefore ironic and tragic that, despite the uncanny secrets of nature and the world that we are privy to, we spend far less time contemplating the august majesty and miracles of the natural world.
Here in Camp Dora Golding, we are fortunate to have an excellent instructor for our ‘Nature and Pioneering’ activity named R' Yossi Sirote.
R’ Yossi trained as a forager under the acknowledged ‘Wildman’ Steve Brill. R’ Yossi told me that he can be dropped off by helicopter anywhere along the east coast of the USA with absolutely no provisions and he can survive in the wilderness. 
Throughout the summer I often see R’ Yossi walking around the campus near the forests and bushes, touching and analyzing leaves. He often teaches the campers about the incredible secrets of smell, taste, texture, and benefits (including some natural remedies) that lie behind the leaves and trees that we pass numerous times each day without giving them a second thought.
At the beginning of this summer he mentioned to me that he was disappointed that a small bush had been chopped down in front of one of the recreation halls. He noted that there were small cherries on that bush and he had wanted to show it to the boys. I replied that I wish I had such an appreciation of nature to be bothered by a small bush being cut down.  
Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “When I brought my farm, I did not know what a bargain I had in the bluebirds, daffodils, and thrushes; as little did I know what sublime mornings and sunsets I was buying.”
Richard Louv wrote a bestseller whose title says it all “Last Child in the Woods: Saving our children from Nature-Deficit Disorder”.
But these days, who has time and patience to stare at trees or lizards? The leaves don’t change color every five seconds nor do they shoot anything. Why would a child shut off his DS, ipod, or wii to stare at some boring foliage? Why would he want to recognize the miracles of G-d’s world when he could just continue his attention-capturing electronic game?
And in the adult world who has time to shut off their cell phone or blackberry to appreciate a beautiful sunset or clouds above?
There is a great deal of inspiration we can glean from staring at a ‘blackberry’, albeit the type that grows on trees.

              Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,
                R’ Dani and Chani Staum

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