By Laura Seymour
The opening of the J Naturescape has been so exciting for everyone at the J. We have been exploring and enjoying the beauty and secrets of nature. I could go on and on giving research details on the importance of nature for children and adults, but if you want to know all about it, read Richard Louv’s two books “Last Child in the Woods” and “The Nature Principle” or check out what is happening at www.childrenandnature.org.
Today, I want to connect Judaism and nature by sharing from “What’s Jewish About Butterflies?” by Handelman and Schein. There is a whole chapter on rocks — what could be more natural? We know that kids love rocks (and even adults find them comforting to hold!) So what does Judaism tell us? At times, the Torah refers to God as “Tzur — the Rock” and we are reminded of God’s strength.
There are many Jewish values that help us explore rocks, but let us focus on “Ma’aseh B’reishit — the Miracle of Creation.” We can go on a rock hunt and discover the varieties — each of us may pick a favorite based on different qualities and just as we are all different but created in God’s image — Btzelem Elohim, rocks are also part of the God’s creation. We can also talk about derech eretz — proper behavior when we are careful not to throw rocks or hurt others with them.
Any rock can be a special, but there are some more special. Israel is well known for Jerusalem Stone and Eilat Stone. Jerusalem Stone comes from the hills near Jerusalem and must be on the face of every building. Eilat Stone is also known as King Solomon’s Stone and it is the national stone of Israel. From King Solomon’s copper mines in the Timna Valley, Eilat Stone is blue in color and some believe that it has healing properties.
Whether you have a rock from Israel or a rock that comes from somewhere else but you love it, that rock can give you strength. It reminds us of God and all of creation. When we find our special rock, we can say this blessing:
Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech HaOlam Oseh Maaseh V’reisheet. Blessed are You, O Lord, Creator of the universe, Who makes all of creation.
Laura Seymour is director of youth and camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.