From, IN THE CALIFORNIA DESERT, WILDERNESS TORAH TAKES JUDAISM BACK TO NATURE, on TabletMag.com. Selected introduction:
Zelig Golden, an environmental lawyer turned rabbi-in-training, tries ‘to reconnect the Jewish people’ to the earth--
Shortly after he finished law school in 2007, Zelig Golden went on a “vision quest” in California’s White Mountains with Rites of Passage. Although it was “a religiously universal program,” Golden said, he had “what turned out to be a very powerful Jewish experience.”
It began as a 10-day group trip in the wilderness, at an altitude of 10,000 feet in the high desert, but the focus was on preparing for three days and nights Golden would spend alone afterward. “I was guided to go spend three days and three nights fasting and praying,” he recalled. He intended to reevaluate his “work in the world” because he’d decided that being an environmental lawyer wasn’t satisfying enough. “I came back with a very simple vision,” he said. “I wanted to connect my people to the earth.”
Wilderness Torah has developed from a small gathering of campers to a full cycle of outdoor festivals tied to Jewish holidays—Sukkot, Passover, Shavuot, and Tu B’Shevat—as well as other back-to-nature wilderness quests for adults throughout the year. The group has also created a nature-mentorship b’nai mitzvah program called B’Naiture for 11-to-13 year-olds, and an outdoor-education program called B’Hootz that takes younger kids camping, hiking, and into the wilderness to learn Torah through outdoor experience with mentors.
Check out the rest of Zelig's story here.