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Parashat Beshalach: In Honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. - Get Going!

June 26, 2020

To me, July in the Berkshires is all about getting outside, experiencing nature, and connecting with ourselves - we look inward by going outward. We hear the question that God asked Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: Ayekah? Where are you? But not just, where are you located right now? Where are you at? Where are you at physically, and where are you at spiritually?

As you may know or remember, past summers, our Temple has welcomed all who are interested to join us for hikes, yoga, meditation, and more on Shabbat mornings. We call these experiential Shabbat gatherings Spiritual Physical Fitness, or SPF. Yes, we even gave out sunscreen bottles with our logo so everyone could be protected with lots of SPF!

For so many of us, these outdoor and reflective activities are an ideal way to observe Shabbat. In past years, we hiked at Canoe Meadows, Parson’s Marsh, Olivia’s Overlook, and more. I especially loved partnering with many of you in our community, who showed me you favorite hikes and trails throughout central and south county. This summer, we were looking forward to adding opportunities to run, bike, and do yoga together.

I know that many of you have been taking extra advantage of our beautiful and remote natural environment during these strange times. With fewer other physical gathering spaces open, our trails and rural roads, or even our backyards, have become our sanctuaries. I love hearing about your walks, runs, hikes, and gardening.

We have drawn strength from our virtual Shabbat services, Torah study, and classes. This month, in addition to the continuation of these wonderful virtual opportunities, we offer the July Spiritual Physical Fitness Challenge as another way to connect.

So here’s how it will work! Throughout the month, we’ll encourage all those participating in the challenge to set a goal to get out in nature, to look inward, to do an embodied activity that enables connection to spirituality and reflection. In fact, if you’re here tonight, I’ll invite you to set a goal in the chat box right now, and as I continue to explain the components of the challenge! My goal will be to return to my meditation practice, and to meditate outside for 10 minutes each day.

Everyone’s spiritual practices look different. You may decide to participate in the Spiritual Physical Fitness Challenge by hiking a new trail every Shabbat morning. You might want to join me in trying out meditation. You may be a spiritual gardener, finding meaning by tilling and tending the earth. You might go for a run along a new route, seeing what you notice on a different path.

Some of you may want to enjoy these activities on your own. If you are looking for connection within the Temple, either a partner, a chevrutah, who will also be participating in the challenge, who will hold you accountable, from a distance, we’d be happy to make those connections. And if you are feeling comfortable with socially distant in-person meetups, we will also help make those connections among members of our Temple family and extended family. If you’re looking for a chevrutah, you can also write that in the chat box now, or connect through the Temple in the coming days.

We will be offering a wide range of suggested activities that would fulfill the intent of the Spiritual Physical Fitness Challenge. Each week, in our weekly Temple email, I will also be posing a few reflection questions for you. You might want to take those questions with you on your walk or hike. You might want to spend some time reflecting and journaling on those questions. If you feel so inclined, please send me your reflections, or a photo of your experiences, or both! We will be including the voices of those participating in this challenge at our Shabbat services and communications throughout the month.

You’ll also be able to sign up and count yourself into the challenge via our webpage, Look for more information available in our weekly email this coming Tuesday, and on our webpage on that day as well.

The challenge will continue for the month of July, and we’ll share and celebrate our successes at Shabbat services on July 31.

So - in summary - pick a goal that works for you. Commit to participate and count yourself in. Use our journal prompts each week. Share reflections and photos. Let us know if you’d like to connect with a chevrutah, virtually or otherwise. Gather each week on Shabbat to connect with community and share with each other.

When Adam and Eve answered God’s question, Ayekah - where are you at, physically AND spiritually - they hid from GodIt is not always easy to answer that question. But we can look to other ancestors in our text and tradition, to Abraham, Moses, Esther and more, who responded to the call: Hineini. Here I am. Not just a physical location, but a spiritual one, too. I am present, and I am ready to be a part of something new. Hineini.

Rabbi Liz P.G. Hirsch
Temple Anshe Amunim | Pittsfield, MA

Tue, April 16 2024 8 Nisan 5784