I just returned from the experience of a lifetime. My sons Ezra and David went with me on safari in Africa. If you’ve ever been, you know that the combination of big game, a beautiful reserve and the grasses of the savannah transport you to another world, one very far from my home in Brooklyn. Every day my son David believed we couldn’t top the day before, but every day opened up new, astonishing wonders.
The trip made me think a lot about our relationship to nature and also how our relationship to nature ties into the human relationship to God. In Genesis we are told that human beings are created “b’tzelem Elokim” – in the image of God. We are just unsure of what that image is. It certainly gives human beings a sense of their dominance in the world. It powers us and empowers us to be creative, to replicate ourselves and to build the world around us.
And yet, I could not help but think while I was in this magical part of the globe that when you truly encounter unadulterated creation – as I felt in the presence of the Ngorongoro crater – that there are still places in the world that humble us and make us realize how small we are and how vast nature is. No matter what we can create in this world, we will still be awed by more ultimate acts of creation.
This feeling of humility did not depress me. It had quite the opposite effect. I felt part of something special and transcendent. I felt the interdependence of the natural world. I felt the power of beauty that does not exist on the streets of Manhattan and how infrequently I experience this kind of attunement with my surroundings.
And in another way, all of this creation does inspire us to aspire higher in our own sense of innovation. Human beings have created airplanes, cars, computers, shoes, clothes, wheels – all things that attempt to imitate nature in our own way. We cannot fly like birds, but we’ve created planes and rockets that can scale the skies.
I feel very blessed to have shared all these powerful emotions with my sons, my acts of creation ( or, rather, acts of creation I contributed to…). The three of us stood together, joined as one generation and another both confronting what was larger than either of us.
As we enter Rosh Hashana, the birthday of the world, please take time out to celebrate the wonder of our world. Nothing could mean more on a birthday. As we read in the book of Psalms, “How great are your creations…” Indeed.
Shana tova – may it be a year of peace, blessing and renewal.
Dr. Misha Galperin is author of two books and currently heads a philanthropic consultancy business. He is former CEO of Jewish Agency International Development. You can subscribe to his musings at Zandafi.com.