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Noseh: Appreciating Hashem through nature

Goal: To teach the chanichim that

1. Natural beauty is a way to appreciate God in the world

2. Succot is a time-out we take to reconnect to nature, in order to appreciate Hashems wondrous creation.

3. While appreciating nature, we also need to appreciate our dependence on Hashem.

Materials: Pictures of beaches, quote and poem from diver, pictures of animals


Show the chanichim the attached pictures of beaches. After they all have seen it, ask them where they think the pictures came from? Give them the following choices:

1) The Caribbean Islands

2) New York

3) Miami Beach

Most, or at least some, of the Chanichim will choose either the Caribbean Islands or Miami Beach. Why did they choose these instead of New York? The most likely answer is that the Caribbean Islands and Miami Beach are places which are known to have beautiful views of oceans and beaches. On the other hand, New York is known for its tall buildings and busy streets. However, in fact, these pictures were taken at Jones Beach, Long Island, less than an hour outside of New York City. It is known for its relaxing beaches and beautiful sunsets. Has anyone ever heard of Jones Beach? If you were to go touring in New York City what would you go see? If you were to go touring in Miami, what would you see? Most likely, the chanichim will say that they go to Miami to go to the beach and the amusement parks, while they go to New York to see the Empire State building and other famous places. New York is a great example of a place where the man-made beauty overshadows the natural beauty of the place.

Good. So now everyone knows where the pretty pictures came from. So, next time you visit New York, will you be skipping the shopping and heading straight for the beaches? Probably your chanichim will not. Why not? Shopping is more fun who needs nature anyway? Whats it good for? Technology is much cooler

Its time to read and think about the following statement:

Even after one-half dozen trips to the island, I am still surprised by the diving. Actually, I would only be surprised if it didnt jump out and grab me in a new and different way each and every day. To explore the island properly is not the work of a single week (or two or three). After perhaps 150 dives off Dominicas coast, Im still finding new and exciting discoveries virtually every time I get into the water. Topside, each afternoon of exploration has taken me to another pristine corner of this gorgeous oceanic rain forest; to waterfalls, steaming natural hot springs, down serene rivers, up steep mountains and through some of the most beautiful territory I have experienced anywhere. I felt a sudden urge to recite the following poem:

A simple gift G-d gave to man
All beauty found within the land
The birds and flowers, sand and sea
All of these things he gave to thee.

So- whats nature good for? What did this diver appreciate? More importantly- why did he feel moved to recite the poem he did? What is the most beautiful natural sight youve ever seen? Did it make you think of God? Why or why not?

How often do you go out to enjoy and appreciate nature? In the world we live in, were surrounded on every side by technology. Were less and less connected to nature, which means we have fewer opportunities to take the time to appreciate Gods incredible handiwork in our world.

How can we respond to this problem? You can think of this- what do your parents do if they feel like youre not putting enough time into doing your homework? Theyll set aside a specific time for you to do it (as soon as you get home, before the TV goes on, etc).

What kind of time would be a good time for this? The time when nature is at its most magnificent, when your crops are coming in and its harvest time, and you have all this produce that youre so happy about are you seeing where this is leading?

Part of the message of Succot, of going out to live in booths, is this nature get-away. We go outside, and we realize what beautiful surroundings we have. In Eretz Yisrael, at a time when the Jewish people were more in tune with the land, this was more obvious- their succot overlooked fields ripe with produce, not parking lots or small backyards. One of the Halachot of building a Succah is that we must be able to see the stars through the roof. Why must this be so? The reason is because the stars are one of the most beautiful parts of nature- just think of a time in camp, on an overnight, or a chutz, or a camping trip, when you lay down and looked up at the stars. Besides living in the Succah, are there any other examples of nature within Succot? (Possible answers Arba Minim, the water libations on Succot, hanging up fruit in the Succah, the other name for Succot Chag HaAsif holiday of gathering in the grain). The purpose of this is not just to look at pretty stuff- like the diver we read about above, its about appreciating the beauty and wonder of Gods creation.

OK, thats all very nice, but heres a stumper-- why do we need a flimsy little booth to do this?? Why cant we just have a tiyul day when we go out and experience nature, when we go and appreciate all of the crops we grew?

Lets answer the question by looking at more pretty pictures. These are two nature pictures- but with a very different personality. You might call one scary nature and one pretty nature. If you did a Google images search of nature, what kind of picture do you think youd get- pretty nature or scary nature? Probably a toss-up right? Its hard to say. Interestingly enough- it takes a full 9 pages of images to get anything remotely scary! Everything until then is beautiful or cuddly! When we think of nature, we might first think of beauty and wonder, but, as you well know, theres a whole different side to nature than the beautiful wondrous side- for every pretty rainbow, theres a ferocious hurricane, for every cuddly critter, theres a cunning crocodile or a terrifying tarantula. Nature can be pretty scary and threatening to humans. When were in our homes, we know that weve got everything under control, were in charge. When were out in nature, were made to feel more dependent on Hashem. Just like the Jews in the desert- the reason given in the Torah for Succot is So that your generations will know that I settled the Children of Israel in huts when I took them out of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. (Lev. 23:43). Bnei Yisrael knew that they were totally dependent on God in the desert- they didnt have solidly built homes, cars, fancy locks, credit cards, or insurance policies to fool themselves into thinking they could take care of themselves.

So, Succot has it all- the best and worst of any chutz/overnight/camping trip. We take a little nature getaway to appreciate nature, and its Creator. At the same time, we realize how vulnerable we are in this world, and how dependent we therefore are on that Creator. And, of course, these arent only important things for succot. The most important thing is that we bring these messages back into our house from the succah for the rest of the year

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