Giving thanks and Moses’ staff

By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,

Being in nature is the perfect opportunity to give thanks to G-d for the world. In the Amidah prayer, the text says: We thank You, G-d…for our lives, which depend upon your hand…and for your miracles and your goodness, which are with us in every moment: evening, morning and noon.” Giving thanks after each day is like a religious way of “debriefing” after an experience. The first step is to think quietly about all the things that you are thankful for and then begin with this prayer:

“Modim anahnu lach, sha’atah hu Adonai Eloheinu v’elohei avoteinu v’imoteinu…”

“We thank you, Adonai, our G-d, and G-d of our fathers and our mothers…”

Now add up all of the things you have thought of to be thankful for. Remember, you don’t have to have really big things — there are so many little things that we forget to be happy about and thankful for. Let each family member add to the list each day.

Now we end with the traditional prayer:

“…al hayeinu ha’m’surim b’yadecha v’al nishmoteinu ha’p’kudot lach v’al misecha sheb’chol-yom imanu v’al niflotecha v’tovotecha sheb’chol-et, erev vavoker v’tzohorayim.”

“…and for our lives, which depend upon your hand, and for your miracles and your goodness, which are with us at every moment: evening, morning and noon.”

When families get together, everyone has something important to say and all should listen. It helps to follow the ground rules of “Moses’ staff.” To convince the Israelites that Moses was the leader to follow, G-d gave Moses a magical staff. Create your own staff and follow this procedure for talking and sharing — it is a great activity for the dinner table each night:

Only the person holding “Moses’ staff” (stick, ball, pillow, whatever) may talk.

All others must listen.

Everyone has the right to pass and not talk.

All must show respect to the one speaking.

What is said in the family (group) is confidential.

This idea was taken from the book “Spirit in Nature: Teaching Judaism and Ecology on the Trail” by Matt Biers-Ariel, Deborah Newbrun and Michal Fox Smart. Try new experiences each week this summer.

Laura Seymour is Jewish experiential learning director and camp  irector emeritus at the Aaron Family JCC.

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