Thousands of years ago our ancestors lived with a keen awareness of their dependence on the natural systems that support life. Through their daily interactions with soil, water, and air, they developed a great respect for the Earth and sensed the presence of the Divine within all of Creation. Although many Jews today have lost this connection, our ancient relationship with nature is nevertheless reflected in Jewish law, in our prayers, in the celebration of our holidays, and in the core values of our tradition.
Teva's philosophy of immersing participants in the natural world and providing structured activities which sensitize them to nature's rhythms, helps them develop a more meaningful relationship with nature and their own Jewish practices. This process also facilitates personal growth, community building, and a genuine commitment to Tikkun Olam, healing the world. All Teva programs are built on a thematic progression - from Awareness to Interconnectedness to Responsibility.
"We thank you...for your miracles that are with us each day, and for your wonders and goodness that are with us every moment."
-- Siddur, Amidah
As students make the transition to nature's classroom, they become aware of the miracles within Creation. Brachot, tefillah, and hitbodedut (blessings, praryer, and reflection), are essential components of Teva programs. They not only allow us to pause and notice the fleeting and overlooked - a shooting star, a stand of wild edible grapes, a camouflaged salamander - but they also instill in us a continual sense of awe (yirat shamyim) and gratitude (ahavat shamyim).
"I never knew God made so many incredible things without motors."
Student, age 10
-- Solomon Schechter of Newton, MA
"Even those Creatures that you deem superfluous in this world, such as flies, fleas and gnats, nevertheless have their allotted task in the scheme of Creation."
-- Shemot Rabbah 10:1
While exploring the relationships between bears and red oaks, mosquitoes and blueberry bushes, and mushrooms and soil, participants come to realize the unique role of each creature and element within the ecosystem. we study texts about the integrity of each creature. Discovering the rhythm of nature's cycles keeps us in tune with the daily, monthly, and yearly cycles that infuse Jewish tradition.
"When the Holy One, blessed be God, created the first human...God said to Adam, 'See my works how good and praiseworthy they are? And all that I have created I made for you. [But] Be mindful then that you do not spoil and destroy My world - for if you do spoil it, there is no one after you to repair it."
-- Kohelet Rabbah 7:13
The phrase "l'ovdah u'l'shomrah" from Genesis 2:15 summarizes humanity's responsibility for the Earth - work/serve and to guard/conserve. We must simultaneously work the land and protect the Earth. Fulfilling these mandates in this era of ecological crisis is a greater challenge for our generation than for any which has preceded us. Teva students study a wide range of age-appropriate environmental topics and explore ways in which they, individually and as a community, can become better better stewards of Creation. At Teva, environmental responsibility is viewed through the lens of Jewish ethics, history, aggadah (narrative), and halacha (law).
"The Torah cannot be acquired except in fellowship."
-- Talmud, Berachot 63b
In our pursuit of tikkun olam (repairing the world) we must work on healing not only the discords between humans and the natural world, but also those bein adam l'havero - between one another. Teva places a strong emphasis on developing communities and leadership skills through overcoming group challenges, structured group building initiatives, ropes courses, work, play, and discussion of Jewish visions of community.