Earth Etude for Elul 5 – Dandelions and Teshuvah
By Thea Iberall, Ph.D.
As an act of service, I take care of the lawn and gardens at my local Unitarian Universalist Church. The first time I mowed the lawn, I used the hand mower so as to not pour carbon pollution into the atmosphere. People laughed at me, saying this is so old-fashioned. As I doubled-down into my task, I replied, “It’s the wave of the future.”
In the lawn are dandelions which are weeds that don’t belong. But what is a dandelion anyway? Is it a weed or a flower? If we think of it as a weed, it is something to destroy because it ruins our desire for a perfectly neat green lawn. If we think of it as a flower, it is a living aspect of nature.
We want neatness and stability, but nature is about bountifulness and change. It is about cycles and balances. We can no longer afford to compete with nature for our own needs, greeds, and pleasure. We can no longer afford to keep our conveniences at the cost of our planet.
The Hebrew word teshuvah means ‘turning.’ Jewish repentance or turning from sins is more than regretting what one has done. It is about understanding our behavior. We can regret we have lived using conveniences like power mowers and automobiles and electric mixers. But teshuvah also means ‘answer.’ I’ve heard that there is nothing more important than being good. Even if we are frail humans who mess up, we can commit to being good by doing good acts. Good acts like living in harmony with nature, like maybe even not mowing a lawn or using a convenience. Do something the hard way and use the extra time it takes to reconnect with G!d.
Earth Etudes for Elul are a project of Ma’yan Tikvah – A Wellspring of Hope.
Thea Iberall is a poet, storyteller, and climate activist and the author of The Swallow and the Nightingale – a fable about a 4,000 year old secret brought through time by the birds.