Health & Nutrition

Spiritual Wellness – Rule D: Exposure to Nature

Rule D: Sufficient exposure to nature

Naturally speaking, humans were never meant to live inside cubes of cement, or travel inside mobile metal boxes on winding roads of tar. Man is composed of both material and spiritual components that are supposed to coexist in the natural environment in which he is placed after his inception. However, had Adam HaRishon not committed the sin, the world would have reached its ultimate, spiritual perfection. 

The Original State of the World

According to the mystics, the purpose of creation is: To benefit man who was created for the purpose of delighting in G-d and enjoying the radiance of His Divine Presence. And in order for this benefit to be perfect, the world was created with a spiritual blemish so that man – the crown jewel of creation, will withstand the test of the Tree of Knowledge, and thus, correct the blemish. The purpose of the blemish and its correction through Adam HaRishon (whose soul was comprised of all the souls of all the generations), was to allow mankind to delight in G-d as payment for withstanding the test. This reward was given to them in the form of payment for their work and not in the form of a handout, like the kind typically given to a pauper collecting charity. This arrangement allows man to somewhat resemble his Creator, Whose goodness is self-induced, and not inspired by others.

However, when a person fails to withstand a challenge, not only is the blemish not eliminated, it is also enlarged. The mystical sages refer to this as: “the filth of the original sin”. At this point, the pure, upper Heavens, being the spiritual dimension of the world, are separated, and a certain measure of physical matter becomes dull and lacking in spirituality. This is why death was decreed upon man, so that his body will reassemble during the resurrection – once the redemption takes place and the soul has been purified. If he is righteous, then his soul enters the appropriate division in the upper Heaven and delights in G-d until the time of the resurrection comes and the world reaches its ultimate perfection. If he is wicked, then at first, he must correct his soul by going through a cleansing process in a place designated for that purpose, or he may be reincarnated into this world until he purifies himself and becomes worthy of receiving the reward for his good deeds. This has been our duty from the time of Adam HaRishon’s sin and will continue to be our duty until the time of the redemption; to restore the world to its original state by performing the mitzvoth of the Torah and ultimately, completing its correction.[1]

However, even before the sin and before the drastic decline in the spiritual dimension that existed in the world, man had always maintained a connection with the natural world in which he was created. He has always felt calmer and more peaceful in that environment. However, due to various urges and constraints, man chose to engineer a housing system that is used until today. But from time to time, we must remember to enjoy a green environment, in which the natural waters, blue skies, colorful flowers, and beautiful expanses resemble as closely as possible the original landscape of the time of creation. This should be a place where you can breathe fresh air without the pollution of the big cities, and think pure thoughts while connecting to the Creator through meditation and prayer.

Therefore, when we go out to these places, it would be a grave mistake on our part to carry with us our daily worries and take care of business by means of phones and laptops, or listen to the news of the world. The cell phone should be with us only for emergencies. The time should be used for relaxation and tranquility, for listening to our inner selves and marveling at creation. During these hours, while the person’s spirit is free of the shackles of world troubles and connected to its Creator, he should use this special time to read the book of Psalms from the depths of his soul, with preference given to the chapters discussing the beauty of creation[2], or G-d’s salvation.[3] When we are finished, we shall turn to G-d with a feeling of love and closeness, express our pain, and request everything we wish for. These were the ways of the great sages of our people:  the Patriarchs, the tribes, King David and more. While herding their sheep in nature, they’d marvel at the wonders and beauty of creation. They’d adhere to their Creator through songs of longing and by studying the secrets of His Torah.

Any person who accustoms himself to do this from time to time, and stays away from the hustle and bustle of the city, from the world of tar, cement and metal, and takes a break from his busy daily life, will sense that it is easier for him to connect to G-d. He will return to his home feeling calm and content after being released from the pressures of life. In addition, he will be recharged with a new energy and the ability to deal with the fluctuations of life’s challenges.

If one sees that a friend or a family member is going through an emotional crisis, he should help him by taking him on a nature trip once or twice a week. He should show him sympathy as they walk together for an hour or two, or as long as he is able to walk. The sufferer should be the main speaker while the companion should express interest and compassion, urging him to talk when necessary.

Even though this topic was discussed with regard to adults, it is advisable for parents to expose their kids to nature as well. They should take them on nature related trips instead of amusement parks, shows, or other entertaining attractions when they are off from school – as it is our duty as parents to educate our children by showing them the proper and healthy path. As it says:[4] “Train the youth according to his way, even when he grows old, he will not swerve from it.”

Notes and Sources

[1] See Daat Tvunot by the Ramchal siman 18; Derech Hashem Part A; Maggid Meisharim by R’ Yosef Karo, Parshat Bereishit, starting at: Ohr L’Yom Shabbat

14 of Tevet. See also Yerushalmi Orla 1:3

[2] For example: Chapters 19, 29, 66, 104 and more.

[3] For example: Chapters 3, 4, 11, 20, 121, and more.

[4] Mishlei 22:6

Adapted from “The Keys to Life” by Rabbi Zamir Cohen

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