Parashat Haye Sarah

Praying in the Fields

For Isaac, praying in nature was a crucial element of worshipping the Divine.

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"It is interesting that in this week's parashah, when it is reported that Isaac davens (prays) Minhah, it says, 'Vayetze Yithak lasu'ah basadeh'--Isaac went out to supplicate in the field. He left behind all of his worries, and put everything aside so that he could focus on Hashem. And we must do the same--not only every day, to daven Minhah--but throughout our busy, busy lives. We must find the time to leave our worldly cares behind, and venture out into the fields where we will encounter Hashem."

The natural world is an excellent setting for praying to God. While the Sages call for daily prayer within the walls of the synagogue, Rebbe Nahman calls for daily conversations with God in nature, also leaving open the possibility of occasional prayers to God beyond the walls of the prayer hall. By both our going out and working with God's creation, and by praying within this creation, we seize the opportunity to grow closer to God.

Our ability to connect to our Creator in the world He created is an indication of our ability to live in balance with that natural world. A primarily urban, post-industrial Jewish people that is alienated from God's Oneness as manifested in the natural world will certainly misuse that which God has given us.

The litany of ecological problems in Israel--from air and water pollution to species extinction and urban sprawl--testify to the Jewish people's disconnect from the natural environment which God gave them. Reconnecting to the inspired outdoor prayers of our forefathers can help us regain a sense of the grandeur of God's world and of our responsibility to live in balance with it.

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Drew Kaplan

Drew Kaplan is a rabbinical student at Yeshivat Chovevei Torah in New York City.