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Earth Etude for Elul 1 — Of Happenstance and Wondering

by Rabbi Katy Allen

~ By happenstance of geography,

Eden–

gathering the fruits of the land

borne by dint of natural ecosystems,

ever-changing as the seasons progress–

is just a distant prehistoric memory 

of Paradise.

From Eden straight into working the land we went–

by the sweat of your brow

you shall till the land.

No pauses with our new-found awareness

to experience

being fully integrated into the ecosystems

outside the gates of Gan Eden

No longer were we part and parcel of Creation,

now we had–

and have–

dominion;

now we reshape the landscape,

the ecosystems,

the water, the air, the flora and fauna.

By eating of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge,

we became like G!d,

attempting to rule the rest of the world

but without Divine wisdom 

or understanding.

Every seventh year, 

we endeavor to recapture a bit of Eden–

letting the land lie fallow,

depending once again– 

ideally–

only upon the natural bounty

of the original ecosystems–

what remains of them

after achieving our fruit-eating-induced

relationship of power

over the land.

Why this seventh-year reverie?

Perhaps stored in our genes

we retain a memory of collapse–

agriculturally induced destruction of an ancient ecosystem,

decline in productivity,

engendering vulnerability at the hands of invaders,

or of climate-change stoked famine

that triggered collapse.

Or perhaps the Edenic understanding

that if G!d had not rested on the seventh day–

if neither we nor our beasts nor our servants 

nor the land

ever rested,

that this, too,

would inevitably 

lead to collapse.

All of this a happenstance of geography,

G!d having made the Divine Self known

in a specific and powerful way

in a cradle of civilization,

in a place where agriculture arose

so many millennia ago.

A wondering arises–

what might Yah have said to Adam and Eve

in different corporeal whereabouts,

in a land where no hoe or plow 

had ever struck the soil,

no animal 

had ever fallen under the yolk of Homo sapiens,

no collapse of civilization–

as a result of famine 

or agriculture-altered ecosystems–

had ever wreaked havoc

on the psyches and the historical memories

of the peoples,

in a land with ongoing experienced knowledge 

of gathering the fruits of the land

borne by dint of natural ecosystems,

ever changing as the seasons progress–

what might G!d have said?

A wondering arises,

how might history have progressed

if our tradition had truly kept alive

not just the memory,

but the non-agricultural knowledge and practice 

of how to live in Eden,

how to be an integral part 

of the native ecosystems–

and the critical importance thereof?

A wondering arises.

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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