Besiyata diShemaya - with the help of Heaven

Judaism & Nature

The first lesson... to look up at the sky often.

For today's man-made environment of products, buildings, roads, cars, planes, shops, work, entertainment, media, flashing signs and messages can be so totally absorbing that we may become quite oblivious to the magnificent world of nature that serves as the grand setting for our self-obsessed civilization, providing us with everything needed to make the lives we lead possible.

So forgetful has mankind become that contemporary civilization is seriously out of harmony with the world of nature. Human greed and wastefulness are rapidly depleting natural resources and causing significant environmental deterioration -- to a degree that threatens our very survival.

Long-term human survival will only be possible if we develop a new respect for the natural environment and adopt ways that will preserve and enhance it.

THE HOUSE ON THE MOUNTAIN is a journey into wisdom about nature and how to relate to it as found in the world's oldest living spiritual teaching, the Torah.

With its very first words the Torah guides our eyes straight up to the skies and beyond: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" (Genesis 1:1).

For if we will have the courage to raise our eyes above and beyond the obsessive man-made cocoon in which we live, we will not fail to be amazed and stirred by the wonder of the universe. Contemplating this tiny speck of earth amidst the vastness of the universe, we crave to know where we have come from and where we are going.

"Lift up your eyes on high and know: Who created these?" (Isaiah 40:26).

Think of the sun in all its brilliance and glory -- vital source of all plant life and every other life-form on earth. Think of the haunting beauty of the moon, the mystery of its ever-changing phases. Think of the planets and stars... their evocative configurations... the endless expanses of the milky way...

Where did they come from? Why are they there?

"Who created these?"

In the original Hebrew, the words are: "MI (Who) BARA (created) ELEH (these)?"

The Hebrew letters of the two key words, MI ELeH, when rearranged, spell out ELoHIM.

ELOHIM could literally be translated as "the Powers".

But the Torah teaches that all of the various different powers manifested in the endless multiplicity of objects and beings in the heavens above and here on earth ultimately have only one Source. The nature of this Source is quite unknowable. We give the Source a name: God. But no-one can penetrate the mystery.

Still, something in us yearns to know more. "Who created these?" MI BARA ELEH?

The question itself contains the answer. MI ... ELeH? = ELoHIM.

ELOHIM is one of the principal Hebrew names of God. [To avoid profaning the name of God, this is traditionally pronounced as ELOKIM except when addressing God directly in prayer.]

Every Hebrew letter is also a number. The numerical value of the sum of all the letters that make up a word is integral to the power of the word. When two separate words have different letters but the same total numerical value, this often points to a profound connection between the two words.

Significantly, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters of the divine name ELoHIM (86) is the same as that of the letters of the word HaTeVA, which means "Nature". [In Hebrew, the vowels are not part of the alphabet and therefore only the consonants are counted.]

Aleph (1) + Lamed (30) + Heh (5) + Yud (10) + Mem (40) = 86.

Heh (5) + Tet (9) + Bet (2) + Ayin (70) = 86.

The root of the word HaTeVA is TaVA. This means to "sink". It can also mean to "stamp with".

Thus when minting coins, the form of the mold sinks into the molten metal poured into it, leaving its stamp on the coin (the Hebrew word for coin is maT'BeA).

And so various divinely-constructed forms are "sunken into", mold and give shape to the primordial substance of creation so as to produce the multiplicity and variety of nature, with its laws and regularities. HaTeVA.

Yet within -- and at the same time above and beyond the world of nature, HaTeVA, stamped as it is with its laws and processes -- stands ELOHIM, the Source, Creator of those laws and processes.

"Lift up your eyes on high and know: Who created these?" MI bara ELEH? MI...ELEH = ELOHIM!

Looking up often at the skies helps us to direct our thoughts and our yearnings to the One Who (MI) is the Source and Creator of "all these" (ELeH). This is ELOKIM -- God -- the mystery of Whose being we can seek out within and through Nature.