Re-Turning, Turning Around, Turning Toward: What Does it Take?

by Rabbi Katy Allen

~ The Jewish month of Elul is almost here. It’s meant as a beginning of our process of turning and re-turning and returning to G!d as we prepare for the most holy day of the year, Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement. It is a time to turn away from that which is not good for us, others, and the world, and to turn toward healing, wisdom, blessing, and all that is good for us, others, and the world.

Common wisdom reminds us that it requires 21 days – three weeks – of doing something in order to change. Elul has 29 days. And then there are 10 more days till we get to Yom Kippur. It should be plenty of time, right?

It seems to take a lifetime to learn how to live. My mother used to quote Rabbi Manfred Swarensky, z’l, long-time rabbi in Madison, WI, and a Holocaust survivor, as saying that we need to live twice, the first time to learn how, and the second time to do it all correctly.

Our reality is that we have only one life. But every year at this time, Jewish tradition reminds us that we can do better, and gives us tools and encouragement to do so.

The Earth Etudes for Elul, reflections on t’shuvah and Earth, will begin this Saturday evening, with the beginning of Elul. They are here to help each of us along the road of return, in particular in our connection to the Earth. During the month of Elul you will receive daily reflections from rabbis, priestesses, environmentalists, musicians, poets, and more, with thoughts about how to renew our connection to Earth and to G!d. May you  find in these etudes wisdom, support, and food for thought.

Many blessings on your journey.

Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma’yan Tikvah – A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long, and the co-founder and President pro-tem of Jewish Climate Action Network-MA. She is a board certified chaplain and a former hospital and hospice chaplain and now considers herself an eco-chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY in 2005 and lives in Wayland, MA, with her spouse, Gabi Mezger, who leads the singing at Ma’yan Tikvah.

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