Dear Rabbi Fried,
I have never seen such stunning fall colors in Dallas as this year! It reminds me of the Northeast, where I grew up and have so much missed until now! Does the Torah speak about the colors of the changing seasons?
I, too, have been reveling in the beautiful fall this year; it harks back to my native Indianapolis, where I couldn’t get enough of fall!
I don’t have a direct source, but I can just tell you my own feelings based on Torah sources.
Once a month Jews recite a special prayer to sanctify the appearance of the new moon, called Kiddush Levana. This joyous prayer must be recited under the sky in the presence of the new moon. Furthermore, says the Talmud, it must be recited standing, because it is “the once a month that we receive the Royal Countenance of the Al-mighty” (Talmud, Sanhedrin 42a). This is the once in a month we stand before the King.
Why is this prayer, more than others we recite, is considered to be “before the King”?
The explanation is that when we are accustomed to our surroundings, we get used to even the most amazing things. I am presently in Chile, and moments ago was picked up at the airport in Santiago by a friend, a local rabbi. He spoke on the way to the office about regular things, while I was astounded by the breathtaking mountain views surrounding us! I said to him, he must not notice the beautiful scenery, living in the midst of it, to which he concurred!
One of the early commentators (Rabbeinu Yona to Talmud, Tractate Berachos) explains the Kiddush Levana prayer with this idea. When the moon wanes and then begins to wax, its reappearance reminds us of the fact that there’s a Creator. A change in the creation reminds us that there’s Someone in charge! This reminder puts us before the King; therefore, we stand!
Similarly, when the seasons change it is a reminder that there is a Creator. Things are not the same.
I’ve always believed, based on this, that the creation itself dresses up in royal colors. The royal purples, reds and burgundies, punctuated by the yellows and browns, provide a royal pageant in honor of the appearance of the King!
In the spring, everything buds and flowers in honor of that appearance.
When we revel in the beauty of our surroundings, as Jews let us take it a step deeper and let it bring us closer to our Father in heaven!
Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried is dean of Dallas Area Torah Association.