The Gift of God’s World
Yael Eckstein | June 2, 2020
“‘There they are to present their offerings to the LORD: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering… ‘” — Numbers 6:14
Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Naso, which means “count,” from Numbers 4:21–7:89.
I want to share a story with you that I tell my children whenever we are out hiking and enjoying nature. It is about a renowned rabbi who lived in Germany during the 19th century. When the rabbi was old and frail, he decided it was time he visited Switzerland.
His followers were confused and asked, “Why are you going to Switzerland at your advanced age?” He answered, “Soon I will pass away and appear before our Heavenly Father. I will have to answer for many things. What will I answer when He says, ‘What did you think of my Alps? You were so close to them, surely you made it a point to see them!’ I’ll need to have an answer ready, so that is why I am going.”
The rabbi’s message for his followers — and for us — is that God wants us to enjoy His world. Sightseeing and appreciating nature are not merely recreational activities. They, too, can be a way to worship and serve God when we experience them with awe and gratitude.
In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the laws of the Nazirite. The Nazirite was an individual who chose to take on extra restrictions, including abstaining from wine and not cutting one’s hair, for the purpose of growing closer to God. At the end of the period observing these restrictions, the Nazirite was required to offer sacrifices to the Lord. Interestingly, among these sacrifices was a sin offering. Even though the Nazirite’s actions were acceptable and even admirable, he was still required to atone for the “sin” of not fully enjoying God’s world.
If you gave someone a gift, and the recipient never even opened the box, it wouldn’t feel good. You might feel that your efforts in selecting a gift were unappreciated. Rather, what brings us joy is seeing a person truly enjoying our gift. It’s the same with God. He has created a world filled with beauty and delights specifically for us to enjoy. It gives Him great pleasure when we partake of His blessings with sincere gratitude and joy.
It’s not just a privilege to enjoy God’s gifts to humankind, but also a sacred responsibility and obligation in serving Him.
Your turn: How will you enjoy God’s gift of Creation today?