Two Jewish groups launched a joint initiative promoting environmentally friendly living on Tu B'Shevat, Jewish arbor day.
Every winter, hundreds of millions of tourists (some of them no larger than a finger) defy travel warnings to visit the Holy Land. They don’t spend much money in Israel, and some stay for only a few hours. They visit the country’s “pubs” before flying off again.
In countless cartoons, there’s a guy in a robe and long beard who’s walking around carrying a sign saying The End Is Nigh. The joke is that he’s ridiculous – some loony who takes the Book of Revelation literally. But what if the joke’s on us?
Two rabbis are helping Jews find a path to Judaism off the beaten track. Each has written a new guidebook to take along on that hike
No doubt because I once worked at a Jewish newspaper and have written a novel about a woman rabbi -- not to mention a work of nonfiction called "The Talmud and the Internet" -- I am sometimes asked if my new book about bird-watching, "The Life of the Skies," is a Jewish book.
These are the times for which Tu B'Shevat was created. The rabbis who envisioned this holiday were prophetic: They knew we would need to be reminded on a regular basis about howimportant trees are to our lives. And trees have never been more important to our survival than they are today.
Yet Rabbi Mike Comins, author of "A Wild Faith," wants us to know that Judaism and nature have long been entwined, and that there is nothing paganistic about a Jew, let alone a rabbi, talking to trees.
Many rabbinic texts detail our long tradition of ecotheology, explicitly supporting the idea that caring for the Earth is a distinctly religious imperative.
The thing about reaching "I'll try it" is that you are daring to imagine that things can work out for the best, and that you can add another activity to the list of common likes.
Mysticism, for my family, and I think for most people as well, usually shows itself through nature.
There is one program in particular that embodies all of the emotionalism and meaning of machon summer: Tza'adah. Tza'adah is a five-day, four-night overnight trip that takes campers far from the boundaries of camp and into the nature of Northern California, where we bond with friends, while experiencing the outdoors.
Our ancestors understood that when we make a vow, promising to give something to God, or take an oath regarding our own actions, this was the highest and most serious endeavor, as the power of speech is what separates us most critically from the animal world. "Baruch She'amar V'hayah Ha'olam, God spoke and the world came into being."
Jewish adventure enthusiasts not only make an effort to do the hobbies they love with other Jews, but they do so looking for religious or spiritual meaning. By combining their dual interests, this growing cadre of adrenaline seekers is building a new definition of what it means to do -- or be -- Jewish.
The fog/smog lies heavy over the San Bernardino mountain range, but with a little imagination, it's still possible to make out Los Angeles -- and Catalina -- in the distance. Likewise, at an elevation of more than 6,000 feet in Running Springs, it's possible to envision the great promise of Camp Gan Israel, Chabad's new sleep-away camp and retreat center, even though the site is still undergoing heavy remodeling.
I've joined 14 adults on a daylong excursion in Malibu Creek State Park led by Rabbi Mike Comins, who runs Torah Trek, Spiritual Wilderness Adventures. Whether it's a one-day exercise for first-timers -- like ours is -- or a multiday meditative adventure, the idea is to spend time studying Torah, reading, thinking, meditating and seeking a "God experience," as Comins calls it. We are now at the ultimate moment of the day, the portion called "hitbodedut," which translates from the Hebrew as "to be alone."
Major Jewish organizations have raised more than $30 million to house, feed, educate and relocate thousands of victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana and Mississippi.
Late in the summer of 1987, my parents shipped me off to the Cleveland Jewish Community Center's cleverly named Camp Wise. It was August, the weather was hot, and the little village of wooden cabins with tent flaps for walls was a welcome change from the air-conditioned houses of the city.
Ziplining with the Orthodox. Digging for Maccabean relics with archaeologists. Off-roading on the Golan. We planned our family trip to Israel on the theory that our kids would learn more if they were happy and engaged than if they were bored and bedraggled.
As a city woman whose family is unaccustomed to "roughing it," I planned our family vacation to involve a lot of nature but no sleeping on hard ground. That's what made El Capitan Canyon in Santa Barbara the perfect place for us: It's camping for people who like staying in Hiltons.
A two-hour drive north of Los Angeles, El Capitan Canyon is a former private campground that was transformed five years ago into a plush nature resort on 65 acres heavily populated with oak and sycamore trees. It allows guests to savor a rustic environment, but with down duvets and gourmet coffee for the coffeemaker.
Weather has always been an important determinant in Los Angeles' history. The twin effects of floods and drought from 1861-1864 completely finished off whatever remained of the rancho way of life, where dons reigned over thousands of acres of land and huge herds of cattle.
Fine-print dealers from across the country convene at LACMA this weekend for Los Angeles Print Fair 2005.
Tu b'Shevat, the 15th day of the month of Shevat, marks the birthday of the trees.
Majestic fig trees bear their succulent fruit amid enormous leaves. Boughs of olives suggest the impending harvest as their color changes from green to black. Massive citrons emit their magnificent scent.
Nestled deep within a Malibu canyon off the Pacific Coast Highway, the Shalom Institute, a Jewish summer camp and nature center, has planted an extensive organic garden on its grounds this year and plans to incorporate the age-old tradition of farming into its summer programs.
At the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, there are a host of trails -- including a three-quarters of a mile loop through picturesque Long Valley, just behind the Mountain Station that introduces visitors to regional plants and animals.
Last week, we learned not to cut down the fruit trees of our enemies in times of war because, as the Torah says, the trees are "not our enemy."
At Ramirez Canyon Park in Malibu, Happy Trails offers an opportunity for city-dwelling kids to interact with nature.
Rabbi Mike Comins had just completed his rabbinic thesis, was preparing to start his doctorate and, even though he was writing about God, "I felt like my soul had been choked off," he recalled.
Judaism's moral imagination describes that King Ahashuerus was not able to sleep because of all that was going on around him: Esther was involved with planning and preparing her next feast; Haman was busy building gallows; Mordecai was upset, praying and wearing sackcloth.
Living in the asphalt-and-glass tangle of Los Angeles, it is sometimes easy to forget that we live in an area blessed with abundant natural beauty, from our gently folded green-and-gold mountains to our powdery sand, glittering sea and everywhere, the regal trees.
Sculptress Harriet Zeitlin and painter Pat Berger share a lot in common. Friends for many decades, both artists have worked for more than 50 years, have had extensive teaching experience, were active in organizations championing artists' rights in the 1970s, lost their husbands in the 1990s. They even own terriers (Pilot and Dori, respectively).
As we watched that dark Australian night, the words of this week's Torah portion came into my head. "Yesh adonai bamakom hazeh, veanohi lo yadati," said Jacob. "God was in this place, and until this vision, I had no idea."