Earth Etude for Elul 4 – Coming Home

by Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman

1.Tekia! (One long blast)

My toddler cuddles in my lap, shy in the backyard of new friends.

“Look Abraham!” I say. “Look, who is this tree?”

He peeks out and his face breaks into a smile.“Ah-buh-VI-tay!” 

“And who is this, with the sharp needles?”

“Spooce!” he says.

Shyness forgotten under the branches of old friends, 

Abraham squirms off my lap and explores the sandbox.

2. T’ru’ah! (Three wailing blasts)

When I commit myself fully to the personhood all around me –

the agency and the uniqueness of trees, especially –

a pervasive loneliness lifts, and I am folded back into Her

with a welcome as warm as sunlight in July.

So I encourage my son’s love of trees and we learn their names

like kids learn the names of trucks or dinosaurs

because I believe it will save his soul – and mine.

To crawl out of the loneliness of humans-are-the-only-people 

takes intention. 

It takes tolerating the heartbreak

of what is happening to other kinds of people.

It takes bearing the ecstatic joy of belonging again.

3. Sh’evarim! (nine staccato blasts)

I leave behind the pronoun it and never give the burden to my son,

instead massaging English into a new grammar that I hope will be his native tongue.

She has grown new buds. He is giving us shade. Who smells so good in the garden?

We leave it behind in the wreckage of the industrial age

And pick up shehetheysomeone, and who like smooth stones 

To hold in our pockets on the long hike towards a new paradigm.

4. Tekia G’dola! (One very long blast)

In Hebrew the word for God is used as a noun

But is really a verb that means is, was and will be all at once.

In Potawatomi there is a unique verb that means to be a tree

And another verb like it for every natural thing

Because we are not things but beings,

conjugations of a living God.

5. A Still, Small Voice

“Mama, what dis tree called?”

Abraham reaches for the beech’s branch on our walk.

“Mama, I wanna hold his hand.”

Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman is a mother, wife, daughter, sister and aunt. She serves as the Director of Professional Development at Hebrew College in Newton, MA. Find her blog, music and more at

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