Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Why I think being in the woods is good for frum Jews

Posted by Frum Hiker on April 16, 2007

I remember in high school when many folks told me that I would quit riding my bike once I got a car and get into more mature activities. The exact opposite happened, the car gave me the freedom of exploration and my wanderings have not yet satiated my appetite for the wilderness.

Another interesting thing happened to me when I got my car and started wandering around America and Canada, people in the frum community questioned my frumkeit. How can you be frum, and always be off in these weird places? Don’t you want to be normal like the rest of frum people? Yoru going to have to settle down an d pick up some normal hobbies, you know?

It wasn’t until the last couple years that I realized that the answer to all these questions was more then no. It was my question back at them- don’t you realize that many great sages in history enjoyed the woods immensely including my favorite the Baal Shem Tov. Not only is the woods a great place for fitness, exploration and solitude- but it is also a great place to learn true Fear and Love of God- the two components in becoming a true servant of Hashem.

When one is in the woods they are away from the barrage of secular and material cultures, they are away from the massive amounts of pritzus that greets everyones eyes as they simply walk down the street, it is also the one place where the hand of man is gone. The woods provides a cathedral of pure God- no buildings, sidewalks and cars, no electronic devices- just you and God.

It is hard to actually believe that everything comes from God in the material world- but in the woods- it is not a hard concept to grasp at all. In fact it is almost given to you on a silver platter.

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7 Responses to “Why I think being in the woods is good for frum Jews”

  1. Alan said

    The fact that you can go out and do all this is pretty awesome, but where does the gas money come from? and the money for biking/skiing equipment, etc? I think that’s the main thing keeping me from following in your footsteps.

  2. Well the thing is I never spend money on certain things, drugs, alcohol, never go to movies- watch TV or go out on the town. Bikes and Skis do not cost that much money- considering people spend 50 bucks on a pair of pants- then again I don’t know your situation.

    I saved my money originally and bought a very good bike when I was 12th grade- eventually I sold it and bought another- as I entered the work force- I saved and bought more toys. At this point I have three bikes, 2 pairs of skis, 2 rifles, and tons of hiking gear. Much of this stuff bear in mind was bought on sale racks at the end of season and off people on craigslist.

    I also rarely go out to eat since there are no kosher places where I live. Gas money is another issue- I am in debt- which I chose to be- because I would rather be in debt then look back when I am 30 even 40 years old and complain that I didn’t o any of my dreams.

    Just an example of what can be done with little money. I drove to Alaska in September- gas prices were very high- and I spent 5 weeks on the road 3 in Alaska and each of us spent a total of $856.00 on gas, food, and tourist attractions.

    I road trip very cheaply.

  3. שלום!

    I grew up in a very Frum environment (still am!). No TV’s, movies, etc. I hated the apartment building I grew up in and even more the tiny apartment shared with my siblings.

    My brother and myself loved the outdoors. However, there was little “Outdoors” in the city at that time. We did go to camp some summers and we spent hours in the woods. We would follow streams, trails, etc.

    I still live in the city and always love to sneak out for a weekend somewhere in the country. So a few years back I took my family to the backwoods of New Hampshire for one week. We stayed in a cabin, hiked the White Mountains, swam in the mountain streams and had the time of our life.

    Now imagine the shock of my life one day… We stumbled onto a camping site and there, sitting at a picnic table next to two tents was a middle aged guy sitting and learning Gemara! He was not real Modern or the like. He was actually more Yeshivish (A.K.A. a Black-Head)! Of course we chatted a while. This guy is from Toronto and loves the outdoors, camping, etc with his kids!

    We stayed a few days at the same camp site. And Mr. Yeshiva Guy from Toronto… I lost your phone number and contact details. We have nice pictures of you and your family joining us one night at the camp fire roasting marshmallows. If you care for them, just email Kosher Travel Info and it will be forwarded to us.

    Anyhow… When you are on the road and need a Minyan, Kosher Food, etc. just visit:
    http://www.koshertravelinfo.com/

  4. David said

    Yeah, I remember a few years ago when I told my parents that I was taking off on a two week canoe trip they were in shock, and said things like “How can you have Shabbos in the forest?” I would always reply that I’m pretty sure that the first people to keep shabbat didn’t wear suits, use shabboslamps, or even attend a shul. To me, shabbat is actually a day of rest, and when you just sit and chill in your tent on the bank of some remote lake in northern Canada.

  5. Frum Hiker said

    Algonquin was it?

    Its true, back in the day man y of the great sages used to learn and daven in the woods. Especially the founders and big strong men in the chassidic world. Like Noam Elimelech and the Baal Shemtov- they were all about being amongst Gods creations.

  6. David said

    Actually, it was in Quetico, a bit farther northwest and a lot more remote. Much nicer park, in my opinion.

    To be honest, I guess one of my (many) gaps in knowledge is of Jewish history. I’m not really sure what chassidism is all about. How do the followers of the Baal Shemtov reconcile the rigor of practice found in the shulchan aruch and demanded by modern day poskim with the (inevitable?) flexibility that is required in order to be in nature?

    Ultimately, there are many things about halacha that only become feasible when you live in a Jewish community. Like glatt kosher schita, minyanim, etc. But I don’t think that living in a city has to be a necessary condition to be a good Jew…

  7. Kayak Racks…

    I remember in high school when many folks told me that I would quit riding my bike once I got a car […]…

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