Earth Etude for Elul 13 –Spiritual Lessons from God’s “Art Museum”
by Rabbi Dorit Edut
“Ma rabu ma’asecha, Adonai; kulam b’hochma aseeta; malu ha-aretz kinyanecha— How numerous are Your works, O Lord; with wisdom You fashioned them all; the earth abounds with Your creations!”
These words from the weekday morning blessings before the Shema prayer, were on my lips constantly as I traveled through “God’s Art Museum” in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon this summer. At every turn was another gasp at an amazing sight – truly photographers’ and artists’ paradise! Using only wind, water, red sandstone, white limestone, and the shifting plates under the surface of our earth, God molded canyons, mountains, rivers, and rock formations that are among the most breath-taking on our planet. Trails take you so close you can touch these gorgeous masterpieces without a guard telling you not to do so- and yet you are awed by their other-worldliness. No wonder other people gave them Biblical and spiritual names – such as “The Patriarchs”, the “The Virgin River”, “Angels Landing”, and the “West Temple”. It is here that the Anasazi Indians and their descendants worshipped the Earth, Sun, Sky, and Water some fifteen hundred years ago. And here it was that in this ancient place of beauty, I was inspired to think of what was meant by praising God’s “wisdom” for creating such places.
First, it seems like a great idea to bring all this beauty to one place where many different people over the centuries could admire it and think about the One Creator of this Universe.
Second, people might begin to really comprehend that God also created great beauty and power in all living beings formed by God, and that this great variety of life is to be admired while our common origins are to be recognized, revered, and regenerated.
Third, in the presence of these magnificent sites, we experience our own humility, our gratefulness for these gifts, and our mission to preserve and protect the environments of our entire planet for all of them are interrelated.
Finally, the paths and roads leading into these parks had us all gazing and turning in every direction and, as we left, turning back for one last glance. We shall certainly look much more carefully at the pathways we have trod this past year and contemplate where we can apply what we have learned from the Divine Wisdom we perceived in the preciousness of this place and in all such places, and in all the different people we encounter in this place we call our earthly home.
Rabbi Dorit Edut ( AJR ‘06) is the head of the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network which is there to build a community that supports the families, children and individuals who live in the city of Detroit through strengthening their access to education, safety, health, culture and job opportunities.