For Torah Shall Go Forth From Zion (National Park)

The prophet Isaiah famously said “ki mitzion tatzei Torah,” For Torah shall go forth from Zion. Since I’m in Zion I felt I needed to share some Torah. The Zion in Israel isn’t the only one with Torah.

Norhtern Arizona and Southern Utah have some of the most spectacular scenery you’ll see anywhere. I’m on a 3-week journey to see and hike as much of it as I can.

Back in the mid-19th century, one of the early Orthodox rabbis, Samson Rafael Hirsch, went on a vacation to Switzerland. Someone from his community chastised the rabbi, saying (some paraphrasing here), “What are you doing going off on vacation, gallivanting around the Alps? Isn’t that bitul Torah (neglecting Torah studies)?” Hirsch replied, “I need to know what to say when I pass away and my Creator says, ‘nu, Sammy, did you see my Alps?'”

Not only do we need to be able to express our gratitude for God’s magnificent creations, for most people spending time in awe-inspiring nature is a path toward God. Herschel taught that the path to God is through awe, not through intellectual contemplation (sorry, Rambam). If we open our hearts to that awe, we can draw close to God, as a way to express appreciation for the wonders we are seeing.

God put a lot of effort into this part of the world. I feel blessed to be able to see it, and even more blessed that one of my kids is here with me, and we’re staying in my RV with all the comforts of home inside the national parks. Well, almost all the comforts of home. Our toilet crapped out so to speak. A bit backed up. “Stuff happens,” and it has not detracted from appreciation in the least.

May you find beauty in nature wherever you are.

Barry Leff

Rabbi Barry (Baruch) Leff is a dual Israeli-American business executive, teacher, speaker and writer who divides his time between Israel and the US.

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