Blogger: Eric Kauffman
This morning began with a welcome 3 mile ride back down the hill we climbed Friday night. That 3 miles ended at Temple Beth El of Newark, DE, where we paused for several hours as Rabbi Jacob Lieberman and the Beth El community graciously invited us into their Shabbat service and subsequent meal. Our own trip leader, Rabbi Nathan Martin, helped with the Torah reading and short reflection. Today it appropriately centered around a passage in Leviticus, which speaks of Creation Care. (Leviticus 19:23-32, full Torah portion here.)
The Torah lays out a way of life for Jews, Christians (my own faith tradition), and other faiths that leads to more life. According to today’s passage this includes: a Sabbath (a weekly day of rest and renewal), not taking extra measures to reap everything out of our vineyards or fields, and not picking fruit from a tree for the first 3 years it is planted. In a culture where hard work, efficiency and production are measures of success and status, these call us to pause and take a wider look at a “successful way of life.”
Resting one day out of 7 reminds us our human value does not come from hard work and productivity alone. Not harvesting immediately reminds us that the tree does not actually belong to us, but to God and to the wider community; it also establishes a healthier tree with longevity to feed people beyond ourselves. And leaving some fruits of our labor for others reminds us that creation care includes being mindful of our fellow humans.
Purposefully taking time to rest and renew also gives us a needed time to reflect on our relationships and priorities, and helps us make wiser choices. Too often we get trapped in always ‘doing’ (even when we stop for a minute to wait in line we tap our phones to intake more information); we lose sight of the larger picture of where our present actions are leading us.
Today we biked 39 miles, which included a two mile ride across the Susquehanna River with a police escort (for which we were grateful) and a steep climb out of the River valley on roads with very narrow shoulders. One rider, Bill Cozzens stepped out for a day due to dizziness (please keep him in your thoughts and prayers). These were stark reminders of our need to step back and rest. Our presence as cyclists on the road caused others to pause and consider their response. Their consideration in giving us space and sometimes encouraging beeps or smiles made our day brighter.
Every action we take or do not take affects people around us. We need to stop and listen to our body (individually, but as larger humanity as well)- we can’t just keep going, and think we will get better. We need to take time to stop and listen to each other. Even if it seems others don’t listen – our stopping will cause them to pause. Enough positive pauses can cause a change.
A pause is what we are asking for when we get to D.C.: a pause to build relationship, a pause to remember that we are all seeking a better life for humanity, a pause to find commonalities on which to take action for a sustainable future. Thank you for your support to make that pause and this ride possible. We encourage you to take a pause of your own (a personal Sabbath) to reflect and renew Creation nearest you —yourself, your environment, your relationships; and perhaps invite others into that pause.
Tree planting and caring for community-owned or community-used lands can be a wonderful spiritual practice. Mark Smith leads Tree Tenders connections in Philadelphia, Greg Williams leads “workparties” for invasive removal and diverse native plantings in State College, Huntingdon, and Williamsburg (including Saturday, with the other group of riders). He often works with collections of volunteers of all faiths and none, and also has created inter-congregation intra-denomination events. Either Mark or Greg could connect you with some resources. Reach out to get connected.
Want to think more about healing that which is within reach? Have a look at this approach, and think about whether it might be a good fit for you.