A Wild Faith
Rabbi Alan Secher, Bozeman, Montana, June 2007
Many years ago, I stood on a bluff just south of Masada and watched the sun rise over the Dead Sea. It was a clear experience of what Heschel terms radical amazement. God was not just present in the sunrise but present in me. I reconnected with that moment as I submerged myself in the pages of Rabbi Michael Comin's wonderful new book- Wild Faith: Jewish Ways into Wilderness,Wilderness Ways into Judaism. Published by Jewish Lights. Mike writes "Judaism matters because it offers a vocabulary and a practice to translate the sublime experience of wilderness into a life of purpose and meaning, a life of beauty, integrity, and moral action." He further adds, "Torah was given in the wilderness!" So then "do we find God only in the printed words and praying the inherited words of the prayer book? Or do we find God at the original site of revelation, in the natural world, without words at all?" Nigel Savage in the preface adds, "The beauty and rhythm and wisdom of Jewish tradition arises in an encounter with the majesty and awe of the physical world around us. Something about being outdoors, being exposed, being physically challenged, being bereft of electrical toys and the protection of metal and brick and glass, being in contact with the wind and the trees and the animals- all this has a profound impact."
Comins offers insights from Jewish sources and philosophers and presents forty-four spiritual practices as pathways that include meditations, mindfulness, journal-writing, reciting and writing psalms and blessings to bolster his case. We who are so very fortunate to live in "The Garden of Eden," can well appreciate the sense of wonder while experiencing the magnificence of the light of the setting sun on the Bridgers, the flow of the Yellowstone while casting, the serenade of the birds while hiking Paradise Valley as we are continually offered a chance to requote Genesis "How awesome is this place." We have the boundless opportunity for Spirituality 24/7 in the here, the now and the ever.
A Wild Faith places a particular emphasis on wordless spiritual exercises that focus on the present through mindfulness and sensual awareness. And at the same time it is balanced with practices that direct our minds to poetry and music. Both create a meaningful world of prayer.
As I prepared this review, I kept on marking paragraph after paragraph to quote. No. I think I now prefer to say, read the book. You will be engaged, touched and enlightened