Saturday, April 28, 2007

Symbols of Nature

posted by Lisa


Oddly enough, my inspiration for this blog came form my Neta book. The book that I am learning in Ivrit class is discussing nature, water, and the heavens. One of the sections brings forth sources of meforshim that discuss how nature influences us to look on life and ourselves. For example, it says Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai states that the heavens are water and the stars are fire, and they cause peace and goodness (Rosh Hashana Chaf Gimmel). As it’s written “Oseh Shalom Bimromav”, in which bimromav means the heavens (Eyuv Chaf Hey 2). So, from the heavens, we learn the importance of peace. We see that the occurrences of nature are often times symbols or signs. Neta also brings the proof that Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi states “thunder comes to the world because of people: people hear the thunder, fear, and return to behaving the way they are supposed to” (Brachot Nun Tet).

This paragraph really intrigues me, and it makes me realize that we see from Tanach and Jewish life that so many aspects of nature were created or used by Hashem to send us messages or signs. Here are some examples, but I am sure people can come up with many more:
  • The Brit symbolized by a rainbow during the time of Yonah and the flood.
  • Three stars signify the end of Shabbat.
  • The Jewish calendar and cycle follows the Moon.
  • Thunder reminds us to return to the right path (as seen from Neta above).
    The heavens and fire (burning bush-Moshe) signify Hashem.
  • The sun and the moon stood still so that Joshua and Bnei Israel could defeat the Amorites in Givon/ Aijalon.
  • I also heard that about 10 years ago, a great Rabbi died in Israel, and that day it rained the most it ever had in Yerushalaim.

Can you think of other places where Hashem used nature to send us messages? Have you ever thought about aspects of nature that aren’t written in the Torah- Could they have been signs from Hashem that just weren’t recorded? Do you think nature still brings signs from Hashem?

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

God is in control of many things in this world, nature being one of them. Whether it be rain, snow, lightning or hurricanes, humans do not have power over the natural world. According to the Talmud, thunder was created in order to straighten out the crookedness of the heart. Because of the abilities we have nowadays, it is often easy to forget that God runs the world. Weather is one of the things that humans cannot control though. It is Hashem’s reminder to us that He is in charge. Thunder is scary. When we hear it, we should realize that we are not in control of our lives. (Though this may not and probably doesn’t happen, it’s something to think about.) Likewise Hashem controls the rain. We could not physically live without Him. Because God delivers the rain, we have to be thankful and realize that He is really the one in charge.

Naomi Z

April 28, 2007 11:24 PM  
Anonymous Shira M said...

I compltely agree wtih Naomi and believe that since god is in control, one of the signs he gives us is the nature and rain to show that he is the powerful one. I once heard that for the past many years it has always rained on Tisha B'av. It is like the raindrops are Hashem's tears. I think that every storm, every little thing has a meaning behind it. We pray for rain and we pray for dew because we know Hashem is the one who controls it all. There are always different kinds of signs and messages from Hashem and I think that nature is one of them. He sometimes gives us messages through Neviim, sometimes through dreams, and sometimes through nature. I believe Hashem tries to connect with us and give us his messages through many signs. I do believe nature still brings signs from Hashem. Hurricane Katrina definently had a sign, along with the tsunami and all types of bad weather. Hashem controls the world and I believe that he is telling us something when he gives us different types of weather and nature.

April 29, 2007 7:52 PM  
Blogger tamar said...

we have seen nature in Yosef's dreams (moon and stars and bundle of grains) anyway, i tihnk that the reason that nature is so prominent in Judaism, especially in Tanach, is because we were largely an agrarian society, and nature was soemtihng which everyone was affected by and was close to, and through that venue they could become closer to God. Each one of the tribes relied heavily on either crop, cattle/sheep, or the sea (boating and fishing and ports) for their income evne the Levviim/ Cohanim were dependant on agrarian society despite the fact that they didnt "Have ;and", for their food came from evyerone else's crops. Since we were such a nature focused soceity, people may hve feared God more, for if He was angry and didnt bring rain, they would all starve. nowadays, nature is not as big of a part in our lives, although we all admire the beauty of nature, and feel differently when its raining or snowing or sun-shining, it is not as imperitive for the weather to be "good for the season" for example, with the snow in April, despite the fact that it annoyecd us, it was not terrible for us, becuase we donnnot dpeend on our crops for livlihood. becasue of this, i think nowadays it may be harder to fear God for we seeminlgy have less of a direct connection bc the connection through nature has been limited. we onyl fear Him when there are big nature problems, such as hurricane katrina or the tsunamis, yet a coupl of years later we forget about those tragedies. i think that desptie our lack of identification and ned for nature in today age, we still need to fid Hashem through nature, because He does ultimatly contorl this world nad what occurs to us and He often uses nature as a emans of punishment and miracles

April 30, 2007 10:06 PM  
Anonymous tova said...

i think that hashem for sure bring symbols/messages through nature. hashem controls everything, meaning nature as well. the same way he "controls" humans/society/everything around....so to does he control nature. what came to mind when you asked for more examples was the midrash that it will rain for 3 consecutive days before mashiach comes. the fact that it will rain constantly for 3 days seems like a kind of odd symbolism to proceed such a great occurrence of mashiach. however the same idea of this theory is also in the midrash that there wil be a big war before mashiach comes. it seems weird that a bad/hard thing would proceed such a great thing like mashiach coming, however, maybe it is hashems last final way of seeeing that we are willing to fight. mashiach will only come at a time when we are ready, we have to build up to the occasiion and continuously prove to hashem that we are strong, faithful, and dedicated enough for the reutrn of mashiach/the beit hamikdash. therefore after profusly proving this to hashem, maybe for His sake, he has to give one final "test" for us to show that we are willing to fight till the end.
^that is what came to my mind when u said messages through nature becuase it always sseemed weird to me that bad would proceed good however after reading what you wrote about thunder being a rmeinder to retun to the right path, it clicked in my mind that a diffuctly right before a time of redemption would give us one final time t o prove ourselves

May 01, 2007 12:02 AM  
Anonymous LISA AMY said...

I think tamar's idea of josephs dream and tova's idea of mashiach and the rain are really great additions to the post. ok well it feels really weird to be commenting on my own blog post but our discussion in class today actually reminded me of the post so i wanted to add it in. We said (and i hope i understood correctly) that before galut the angels were serafim and gods relation to man was direct through nesim negalim, but once galut began the angels were chayot who acted through ofanim with nesim nestarim in a more natural way. So i know in a more natural way means that gods influence just wasn't as obvious, however the word natural got me thinking that this could connect to the blog about nature. i think that perhaps once galut began since His connection with us is now more natural, there were probably more nesim or messages that god has sent us through nature, however we just didn't realize because we unfortunatly arn't as close to Hashem anymore. And thinking about that fact is upsetting because as a result of galut we might be missing some of hashems awe-worthy deeds. So, i hope this makes sence on paper but it was just one of those odd mind connection things. Alright -SHALOM.

May 17, 2007 10:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with the idea that Hashem sends us messages through nature. The idea of the specific seasons in Israel, for there are certain periods during the year when we need to pray for rain( we say Mashiv Haruch in the amidah) and if it dosent rain, the Jewish nation knows that they are doing somehting wrong. In this case, Hashem is truley sending the message that if you do well and follow me, there will be rain and your crops will be good and if not, you and your whole livelyhood will suffer. But I think that Hashem uses nature for a very specific reason. Since we are all human, it is innate that we feel we are somehow superior to the animals that walk the earth and even the weather. However, there is osemthing interesting about animals that some of us may not know, but animals can sense wen there is a bad weather coming. When the tidelwaves happened in south America last yr, many survived because about 15 minutes before it happeneded, they all ran up to the hills for they could sense what was coming. And i think Hashem controls nature like this to let humans know that we arent the supreme being and even a creature that one could tihnk was the most disgusting creature, could in fact, save you from natural disastors! So rememerber that next time you make fun of dogs!!!!!
-Shira Z

May 20, 2007 6:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hashem conveys many messages through nature. For example, in shema we discuss Hashem's utilizing nature in order to punish or reward us (ie convey messages about morallity and Bnei israel's spirituality. Nature is what binds us with God, for the further we delve into advancement in technology and other man made creations we further ourselves from God's pure creations. Consequently, God conveys many indirect messages through nature, such as the Mabul with Noach, to signify the wrongness of immorality. Additionally, we have many rules with regard to treatment of animals and how to slaughter them. These Halachot guide us and steer us away from giving into our innate blood thirsty nature to slaughter animals (sorry sheez if u read this). Through Nature, Hashem conveys messages of morallity, guidance, and omnipresence (as we saw in Yonah's case with the whale)
Rabbi Krestt-i hope you appreciate this...:)
Arella

May 29, 2007 5:49 PM  
Blogger Amalia said...

Though I can't seem to think of any other places that weren't already mentioned in the comments or Lisa's post I still think the point is valid.We learned that Hashem doesn't like to disrupt the natural order of things and will only do so under the most of extreme circumstances. Nature is thus, the perfect way to communicate with us and get his message through. I don't think it's just Judaism either that believes that G-d is very prevalent in nature. The Romantic era believed in going into nature for there g-d is found. The theme is more common than originally thought.So as a sum up,nature and G-d must be interwoven for if the creator of the nature wished to communicate with us through is creation wouldn't he be able to do so?

May 29, 2007 8:47 PM  
Anonymous Raquelalalalaa said...

Since about every example was already posted, i will just move on to my thoughts about nature and Hashems interference. This year we learned a lot about hashgacha, and even though that is not the nature that Lisa is talking about, our lives are a huge part of nature. Hashem's interference with us, his nation, and even other nations, is apparent throughout tanach, and is definitely apparent in all of our every day lives. I cannot think of a day that i dont feel Hashems presence, and i constantly realize that Hashem has brought me whatever good fortune has come to me, and in addition whatever bad fortune has come to me perhaps because i deserve it and Hashem wants to teach me a lesson. When thinking about how much Hashem interferes in our lives, and when appreciating and recognizing this, how can one not think that Hashem does not interfere in nature(the nature in which Lisa is talking about)as nature is Hashems creation as well as people. Although we don't always know the reason for Hashems interference with nature, it is always He who controls it for our benefits or non-benefits(i don't know if theres a word for that so i made it up.

June 04, 2007 8:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I deffinalty believe that Hashem uses nature to communicate with us, but in addition, i believe also that Hashem uses nature to convey his certain moods. Whenever it rains, Hashem is showing a sence of sadness since on days that it rains, the mood of the day becomes lazy and people aren't as active as they would be on a normal day without rain. Whenever it thunders/lightning, it is clear that Hashem isn't happy with us and is angry about something we've done. On a more happier note, whenever a rainbow appears, Hashem is happy, and since rainbows appear once in a blue moon, it must mean that Hashem is REALLY happy and content with everything going on. These certain things in nature effect ourselves as well. Whenever it rains, thunders/lightning, we know deep down that Hashem is either sad or irritated with us and we feel a sence of shame by letting our own ruler down, and it helps us strive in becoming a better nation as a whole. Whenever a rainbow appears, We have such an uplifting feeling because we know Hashem is happy, and it encourages us to daven and keep following the mitzvot. In addition, i'd like to add that there are certain blessings we recite when seeing a rainbow/lightning and hearing thunder. It says that the rainbow was given to be "l'ot brit" for a sign of the covenant between hashem and the earth to keep it from destruction (Genisis 9:12-17). When hearing thunder, we recite "Gevurato Malei Olam" meaning "his power fills the world, which by hearing thunder it reminds us of hashems strength and power of the world. Nature is crucial to the jewish people in the sence that Hashem uses it as a source of communitaction with us, and without it we wouldn't be reminded of the important things we need to do and the how important hashem is.

- Devora

June 04, 2007 9:32 PM  
Anonymous ally said...

To answer the first question, and I dont know if any one said this yet, the first thing that came to my mind was Yonah. Hashem commanded him to prophesize and instead Yonah just "runs away" from God. How does Hashem retaliate? He creates a ginourmous thunderstorm while Yonah was on the boat, and only stopped it when Yonah repented and decided to prophesize. That is a clear sign of Hashem using nature to send us a message. Since nowadays we don't have navi'im ,these types of direct messages don't happen anymore, and nature doesn't play a key part in understand how Hashem feels. No one can ever know how Hashem really feels about us, but sometimes small freak accidents give us a better understanding. Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami gave the nation a wake up call, but how long did the unity last? A few months? And again, no one has a clear understanding of why He did it. I don't think there were any other signs from God used with nature back in the time of neviim that weren't recorded. If it was that important for God to create, then it would of been written down.

June 05, 2007 12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do think that Hashem uses aspects of nature to communicate certain messages to us, but i dont know if it makes complete sense because we learnt that god doesnt ahve full intervention in nature and some of the the stuff that occurs in nature is becuae of something he did in the past that has forwarded to something that is happening now (if that makes sense). I think though, even if you dont look to a specific event in nature such as the tsunami, one can find some message from god. Everything we do from waking up in the morning to closing our eyes at night has to do with a natural occurance that god has made happen for centuries. It is important to look to the mundane natural things in everyday life in order to see Gods consistent message. Like ally said and like we learnt in the case of Yonah it is important to realize that only if something was imporatn for generations to come it would be recorded just like the flood in Noah and the water in yonah and the whales nature in Yonah. IRIS WERTHEIMER

June 05, 2007 7:36 PM  
Anonymous Shiloh said...

I addressed this at another blog, see if the Rav here can answer this.

Yaak, maybe you can answer this. If a person was asked by a Rav that when he arrived in Israel, upon stepping on the tarmack at Ben Gurion, he was to judge Esav. Just simple words of judgement. Then the next evening there would be a thundering which would sound like a base drum beating. It would then occur the next day (same day actually according to our system) twice, once on har Bental and once in the Galilee (not far from Rosh Pina), the same sound. It would occur on a perfectly clear day. Other Orthodox Jews would ask the person who uttered the judgement if the person could hear the strange thundering. Witnessed by Rabbanim from several Orthodox branches. Then the person would go to Safed, clouds would roll in, rain, and they would roll back out.

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