March 26, 2020 / Comments (0)

A Parsha Insight, and COVID-19 Hiking

Many a drash on the Torah this weekend will deal with the little alef in “Vayikra.” We’ll hear the Ba’al HaTurim’s take on it, which tackles Moshe Rabbeinu’s humility in “the Lord called to Moses” vs, “the Lord happened to talk to Moses.”

I like Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks’ take on this a little better. Alef isn’t only the last letter in “vayikra,” but is the first letter of the alef-bet, and also the first letter of the 10 Commandments. “Anochi” – I am the Lord your God. Rabbi Sacks posits that the alef is written puny to emphasize that God’s presence isn’t always grand and obvious, but sometimes just the small moments.

Obviously, since this is a website with a Torah-centric outdoor mission, we’re all about finding the Divine in small moments.

What you shouldn’t do right now

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy is urging hikers not to undertake thru hikes or section hikes. Similar constraints are recommended for the Continental Divide Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.

The reality is, none of these trails can be undertaken without risky travel to and fro the trail. You cannot avoid exposure and violations of social distancing in trail shelters. You cannot avoid exposure during resupply.

The trails will still be there.

You should leash your dog while hiking. While dogs cannot, so far as we know, be infected and spread the infection, they can be contact conduits, given how long the COVID-19 virus is known to live on surfaces.

This is not the only problem with unleashed pooches. If your dog does not respond well to vocal commands, and is sniffing around another hiker, you may have to violate safe distance in order to retrieve your dog.

Put a leash on your dog, or stay home.

Consider avoiding crowded trails. If you see a parking lot full of cars, consider how well you might maintain social distancing on narrow footpaths. If you have to step off-trail to avoid contact, consider the ecological damage you might do, and how this violated the Leave No Trace ethic.

If your hike involves a long drive, think about fuel purchases and how you’ll handle those.

What you should do right now

Go for a hike with all the caveats in mind. Since our synagogue has shut down, I’ve taken my daughter, Nezzie, for a hike every weekend since social distancing was recommended.

My daughter, Nezzie, is content just tossing rocks in the stream on our property.

This is a good time to try that obscure, unpopular trail.

It’s a good time to try a paddling adventure.

It’s a good time to find the Divine in those small, everyday experiences with your kids, with your spouse, or even by yourself.

Last modified: March 26, 2020

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