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So this one is a little personal.

I love nature. I love the outdoors. Not just in a casual way. In a deep and breathtaking kind of way. Leaves and branches and insects. Birds and grass. Mountains and snow and air and sky. Creeks and even the smallest of waterfalls. I empty my lungs and inhale it. I drink it in with all of my senses. It makes make me smile and cry all at once. I'm in love.

So whoever it was who composed Tehillim 148 (the "third Halleluyah") always feels to me like a kindred soul, someone I'd have loved to have taken a long hike with, someplace beautiful. And while we were climbing among the stones and trees, my companion, true to the sublime poetry of 148, would with just a few thoughtfully chosen words, weave the ethereal web that connects all that we see with that which we can never see...

Snow and mist, majestic mountains and rolling hills, fragrant, blossoming trees and giant cedars, woodchucks and toads, butterflies and songbirds... all of them praise the name of God, for God alone is sublime and wondrous [translation with a little poetic license]. The dazzling electricity that flows between the poles of world and Maker, as nature vibrates with joyous acknowledgement of the artist Who spoke, and all came into being. It's alive. Biologically. And spiritually.

Better than any halakhic text about "not wantonly destroying", better than any Midrashic text about taking care to not despoil the earth "for there is none who will come and fix it after you", 148 captures why we are inspired to preserve the natural world, to tread as lightly as we can upon it. For the natural world is, in its arrestingly unselfconscious self, the most sublime and magical manifestation of God's presence. Every religious person, of every kind, can hear it singing.

Most mornings, we need to close our eyes and invoke memories of the outdoors to accompany our recitation of 148. Which is actually OK, as these are important memories to be having. Every now and then, we actually have the opportunity - the precious opportunity - to daven in nature. But why wait? 148 is portable. It fits neatly right between your water bottle and your sunscreen.

God's glory is upon the earth and in the sky.


~Rav Yosef

Mon, July 13 2020 21 Tammuz 5780