For the past two weeks, I have been experiencing beauty beyond description during a family vacation with Karen’s parents and our extended family. A cruise along Alaska’s inside passage, followed by several days in the interior including time at Denali National Park have resulted in moments of awe that are too numerous to count.
In Judaism we say a blessing for seeing big, beautiful and awe inspiring wonders of our natural world, such as calving glaciers in Glacier Bay, or a crystal clear view of North America’s highest peak, Denali Mountain. “Praised are You, Eternal One our God, Sovereign of the universe who makes the works of creation.”
This prayer is inspired from a verse in our morning prayer, Yotzier Or, that declares, “[God] renew for good, every day, the works of creation.” I am accustomed to offering this verse as part of a regular prayer practice; however, during these past two weeks new truths and insights were revealed to me as I absorbed with all of my senses the extraordinary beauty that this part of our country offers.
It has been challenging, however, to say the words of the evening prayer in which we acknowledge our creator who rolls brings on the evening. After all, I’m writing these words close to midnight on Thursday from Fairbanks, looking out at a bright blue sky.
I have spent these last two weeks savoring the beauty of the great land, and the rest and rejuvenation that a well-planned vacation can bring. By choice and by circumstance I’ve limited checking in at work, responding to emails and being absorbed by the news of the day. There’s very little that can’t wait until I am home. I’ve posted a bit on Facebook, but haven’t browsed much. I’ve seen enough headlines of events in the States and Israel that deeply disturb me; however, I have been doing everything I can to keep myself in the savoring mode. As the author and essayist E.B. White once said, “I wake up every day trying to decide whether to save the world or savor the world; it makes it hard to plan the day.”
I return home this weekend. I’ll have lots of time to save the world in my own small ways next week and the weeks ahead. I hope to retain a valuable lesson I’ve learned from this once in a lifetime trip: God’s works of creation change every day, but very slowly. Events of our world move at a very fast pace. Most often I have little control over either. However, noticing, responding, and acknowledging, are important in both creation and events. I will continue to “save” and try to change the course just a bit but I hope to readjust my practice to include a greater sense of “savoring” and choosing well how to plan my days.
I wish you a Shabbat of peace and wholeness. I also wish our TBE group heading off to Israel this weekend with Cantor Davidson a nissiyah tovah, a wonderful and safe trip. Be sure to savor all that Israel has to offer. I look forward to hearing about your experiences upon your return.
Rabbi Charles K. Briskin