A Taste of Yesod

Yesod, Hebrew for “foundation,” is our year-long, nature-based B’nei Mitzvah experience for youth seeking a meaningful rite of passage that weaves  Jewish wisdom and ritual, nature connection, and wilderness skills with community and identity building.
To give you a taste of this transformative program, here’s an email update that we sent to parents describing a Yesod autumn adventure in Earl Bales Park.

Dear parents,

We’re feeling joyful and inspired to share with you about our wonderful day together at Earl Bales. We all came back pretty worn out, so we want to start by honouring all the effort, exploration and intention the kids brought on this day.


We started our day around the fire pit, enveloped in a thick morning’s fog, honouring the water keepers of this land and singing ‘All the Leaves’ — a song about Autumn and connecting with the elements by Jewish songwriter Batya Levine. We then took our minds back to our previous gathering at Bela Farm where we journaled about who we want to become, and gathered our intention for the day in our hearts, intentionally breathing that intention into the cells of our bodies.

Fire skills
Off we went on a little hike through the wet forest where Yesodniks gathered items they thought would burn within 5 seconds of being exposed to the flame of a lighter. We took turns exploring these possible tinder materials in a game called ‘Will it Burn?!’ After learning about the qualities of good tinder for lighting fires, even on a wet day, we discussed the necessary elements of fire and how to arrange those in an effective fire structure with Tamar. Groups were formed and competed in a fire challenge to be the first to burn a string suspended about 18 inches above the ground. Congratulations to everyone, as everyone put in meaningful effort, learned a lot about fire, lighting fires with matches, and how to build and tend to fire while caring for the land around us. This was the first of our fall focus on fire-building skills.


Shemini Atzereit – Blessings, Interconnection and Dependence
Having ensured our fires were out and our tracks were covered we journeyed once more, sliding down leaf-covered ravine hills to visit a little creek. Paul told a story of being lost in the Judaean desert in the middle of summer, running out of water, food, energy and facing the possibility of dying there. Miraculously, he made it to his destination — the St. George Monastery in Wadi Qelt. There he cried at the sight of clear, fresh water running through the tributary carrying water into the cistern of the monastery — knowing he was safe. The story ends with Paul, having been saved by the monks at St. George Monastery with the gift of a jug of water, being in the right place at the right time to offer food and water to others in need.
It is a story of deep gratitude for water, something that is so vital and yet so easy to take for granted; about our dependence upon the natural world; and about seeing all things as connected. The telling of this story was inspired by Shemini Atzeret, where we pray for the right amount of rain and, in doing so, acknowledge our deep dependence on G-d/creator/the divine and on this planet to support our existence.

Yesodniks then began to share what they are grateful for — for parents, for their parents’ stable jobs and the privileges that those have provided, for friends, etc. — and we began pulling on the threads of these gratitudes with the question, “what had to happen for that thing to exist?” We determined it would take forever to name all the things that had to happen for us to enjoy something as trivial as an xbox, culminating in the realization that our being here today is the product of literally everything that has happened previously, both good and bad. Yesodniks were invited to sit for some minutes by themselves in nature, feeling into that truth, and then to put pen to their journals and begin writing that for which they are grateful.

At the end of our day Tamar read the prayer for rain. Sadly, we didn’t get to search out water on the landscape and offer our own prayers as we had intended. We did, however, have Yesodniks glue pieces of paper into their journals that invited them to offer prayers to the waters in the way of our tradition — citing our ancestors’ encounters with water, a reminder of an ongoing relationship of which we are a part, before bringing ourselves forward and stating our thanks and need. We finished with documenting our adventures and lessons in our Sacred Scroll. Have a look!

To learn more about Yesod, click here.
© 2018 Shoresh.