Earth Etude for Elul 12 – The Sh’ma

The Sh’ma, A Jewish Invocation of the Unity: An Interpretation for the 21st Century

by Rabbi Arthur Waskow~

[This might best be recited paragraph by paragraph, each one read by a member of the community until the last line, which everyone says together.]

Sh’sh’sh’ma Yisra’el –

Hush’sh’sh and Listen, You Godwrestlers –

Pause from your wrestling and hush’sh’sh

To hear — YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh/ Yahhhhhh.

Hear in the stillness the still silent voice,

The silent breathing that intertwines life;

YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh / Yahhhh elohenu

Breath of life is our God,

What unites all the varied

forces creating

all worlds into one-ness,

Each breath unique,

And all unified.


Hush to hear your heart beat

With love of that Breath.


Listen, You Godwrestlers –

No one people alone

owns this Unify-force;

YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh / Yahh is One.


If you hush’sh’sh and then listen,

yes hush’sh’sh and then listen

to the teachings of YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh/ Yahh,

the One Breath of Life,

that the world is One,

all its parts intertwined ––

For you breathe in

What the trees breathe out

And the trees breathe in

What you breathe out —

Then the rains will fall

Time by time, time by time;

The rivers will run,

the heavens will smile,

the good earth will fruitfully feed you.


But if you break the One Breath into pieces
And erect into idols these pieces of Truth,
If you choose these mere pieces to worship:–

gods of race or of nation

gods of wealth and of power,

gods of greed and addiction

If you Do and you Make,

and Produce without pausing;

If you Do without Being —


Then the rain will not fall —

or will turn to sharp acid —

The rivers won’t run —

or flood homes and cities;

The heavens themselves

will take arms against you:

the ozone will fail you,

the oil that you burn

will scorch your whole planet –

and from the good earth

that the Breath of Life gives you,

you will vanish –- yes, perish.


So what must you do?


At the gates of your cities,

where your own culture ends,

and another begins,

Where you might halt in fear –

Saying —

“Here we speak the same language

“But out there is barbaric,

“They may kill without speaking—“


Instead take a deep breath and pause in the gateway

To chant in its passage:

“Each gate is unique in the world that is One.”


On the edges of your Self,

On the corners of your clothing,

take care to weave fringes –

threads of connection.

So you end not with sharpness,

A fence or a wall,

But with sacred mixing

of your cloth and God’s air –

A fringe that is fuzzy.

Not good fences but good fringes

Make good neighbors.

They bind us together,

Make One from our one-ness.


Connect what you see with your eyes
To what you do with your hands.

If the day is coming that will burn like a furnace,

Turn for your healing to a sun of justice,

To its wings of wind and its rays of light

To empower all peoples.

Then the rains will fall

Time by time, time by time;

The rivers will run,

The heavens will smile,

The grass will grow,

The forests will flourish,

The good earth will fruitfully feed you,

And all life weave the future in fullness.

Honor the web that all of us weave  —
Breathe together the Breath of all Life.

[Pause for a minute for all to breathe in full awareness]


Rabbi Arthur Waskow is the author of Godwrestling – Round 2 and co-author of The Rest of Creation (an illustrated tale of why God needed Shabbat), the editor of Torah of the Earth and the director of The Shalom Center.





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