Parashat Balak

The Nature of Balaam's Prophecy

How to learn from biblical nature imagery.

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But the Torah is relevant for all time and every place, and thus the nature imagery in it becomes a cry to us to reconnect with the world in which God placed us. On both a poetic and philosophical level, the Torah teaches us to appreciate nature--and to react with praise of its Creator.

God did not create such a spectacular world merely to provide food and industry. If one truly sees all Nature in its complexity, beauty, and harmony, one's reaction should be the same spontaneous outburst of the Psalmist (Psalms 104:24): "How diverse are Your works, O Lord! You make them all with wisdom, the world is full of Your possessions."

Suggestion Action Items:

1) Take a walk in a park, or instead of taking time out of your routine, take the scenic route home once a week--past a pretty garden or tall, venerable tree. Visit a National Park or Reserve – even today most towns have a nature reserve within 2 or 3 hours' drive.

2) If you have a small patch of land, plant vegetables or herbs; eating something you have watched grow from a seed can reconnect you to the land (this is especially amazing to do with children). Enjoy the rain, remembering that while you may not grow from it, the flowers and grasses will.

3) Learn the blessings to say after thunder and lightning, and those to say on all natural phenomena.

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Ilana Stein has a BA in English, a degree in Nature Conservation, and is a registered Field Guide. She works as a writer for the ecotourism company and conservation organization Wilderness Safaris and lectures in Tanach at the Emunah Women's Beit Midrash in Johannesburg, South Africa.