Earth Etude for Elul 9 – Calling For This Year’s Blossoms and Weeds
by Rabbi Dorit Edut
This year I decided to take photos of my garden during each of the different seasons, and it is quite amazing to see the development of the various perennials and how the overall face of the garden alters. It is quite astonishing, too, to find flowers growing in places we never planted them – including a beautiful white hydrangea bush that seems to have come from an underground shoot far from its parent plant!! But weekly I also find certain weeds appearing, which I also did not plant nor desired them to grow. All this only reminds me that as much as I MAY THINK that I am planning and planting this garden, it really is a masterpiece of our Creator, and that I am just a participant in this work.
As we begin the month of Elul with our thoughts turned towards the upcoming High Holy Days, we bring forth our own blooms and weeds of this year, some of which we may be surprised to find emerging in the patterns of our behavior, our speech, and our thoughts. Have we unknowingly cultivated these? Which ones do we want to encourage and support? Which ones do we want to cut back or eliminate? And as we recite the Psalms in the morning prayers of Elul, especially Psalm 27, we are reassured that our relationship to HaShem is still intact, that the work of Elul, as Rabbi Michael Strassfeld puts it. is “to recapture a sense of self-worth based on being cherished by the Holy One “and that knowing this we are then ready to not only look at our gardens but also do the pruning, trimming, and replanting for the next year.
We humans, who are God’s appointed stewards over this earth, let us not forget who our real Partner is, who is keeping things going here, year after year. Let us align ourselves to do all that we can to live up to the great gifts that God has given us, and bring this consciousness of God’s awesomeness to all that we do:
“You take care of the earth and irrigate it;
With the channel of God full of water;
You provide grain for humans;
For so do You prepare it,
Saturating its furrows,
Leveling its rides,
You soften it with showers,
You bless its growth.
You crown the year with Your beauty;
Fairness is distilled in Your paths;
The pasturelands distill it;
The hills are girded with joy;
The meadows are clothed with flocks;
The valleys mantled with grain;
They raise a shout, they break into song.” (Psalm 65:10-14)
Rabbi Dorit Edut was ordained by the Academy of Jewish Religion and lives in Detroit, MI, where she teaches and does s rabbinic counseling at the lay-led Downtown Synagogue, the only active synagogue left in the urban center of Detroit. She also heads the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network which works to uplift the youth and their families in the city, and builds bridges with the suburban interfaith community through numerous interfaith services, cultural events, and social action projects. Married to a now-retired Israeli landscaper, Dorit enjoys gardening, hiking, playing piano, and studying Talmud via telephone sessions with AJR rabbinic friends near and far.