Nature calls Congregation Beth Evergreen in an important way.
Outdoor services and meditations at the synagogue’s outdoor amphitheater are common, and services for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, on Sept. 15-17 were no exception. Rabbi Jamie Arnold led an outdoor meditation on Sept. 16 with congregants sitting in the morning sun to contemplate renewing their lives and their connection to the natural world.
“Among CBE’s core values is an alignment with nature and appreciation of the natural world around us,” according to Sarah Hess, CBE’s director of operations. “Our amphitheater is certainly unique (for synagogues). I know a lot of our members come up from Littleton, Golden and Morrison because they appreciate how we are in sync with nature and want to have an elevated experience.”
CBE’s amphitheater, called the Open Sky Amphitheater or OSA, is an outdoor venue where the community, both the synagogue’s and groups outside the synagogue, can join together. The word “Osa” in Hebrew means “to make” or “she makes.”
The amphitheater, which opened in November 2021, now has lighting, so it can be used for evening events.
Arnold strummed his guitar, accompanied by Veronica Gruning and Laura Berman, and they sang Hebrew verses and songs that mixed with the cool mountain air. Arnold, who has been CBE’s rabbi for 18 years, led congregants through breathing activities.
Arnold also blew the shofar, an ancient musical instrument usually made from a ram’s horn that is blown in synagogue services on Rosh Hashanah and at the end of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which is Sept. 25.
In fact, on Sept. 17, CBE joined with three nearby synagogues to continue Rosh Hashanah at Lair o’ the Bear, and Arnold invited congregants to bring their own shofars to play during that service.
“So much of the spirituality we are trying to perpetuate comes from the beauty and solace of nature,” Arnold explained.
He spoke of the earth, fire, air and water within people, and he sang, “Love the earth, love the sky, heat of fire and drops of water.”
He talked about clouds, and how they can be a symbol of fear and unknowing such as smoke clouds from wildfires, or they can be a symbol of protection and safety because they bring cleansing, cooling rain.
“To know something is wrong is different than bearing the torch saying, ‘I only have the right answer,’” he said. “Clouds remind us of uncertainty — fire or rain, shelter or storm. We are called to choose life, and to listen to and celebrate the wonder of creation.”