Earth Etude for Elul 8: Counting the Months: A Reflection on Rosh Hodesh Elul

by Emily Nadel

The skies these nights are dark & bright

the moon collecting herself

the stars are


Elul. [Elul.]

Elul:     the month of return.

Elul:     when the goldenrod covers the fields and tall, thin purple flowers line the roads and highways.

            A couple maples have shown some color — not many, and among all the green the color is calling to those who are listening.

Elul:     A call to see the turning trees. To feel the cooling air, the shorter days.

Elul,     and the New Year is just around the corner,

            and the call of the shofar calls me home

                                                  leads me home

                                                 builds a home.

We began this time of isolation during the celebration of planting.

Nissan:             the beginning of longer days and warmer air,

Pesach:             a new year grounded in home, a holiday for the home, celebrated in a home I had not left for weeks before, and would not leave for months after.  In these weeks of isolation,

Counting the Omer brought meaning to monotonous days, guided me to look around – to watch the seasons, watch myself, watch our world change… culminating in

Shavuout:         a day of revelation. This day of revelation, days after the murder of George Floyd. This shavuot, I understood our task to be hearing the call for justice, and knowing that the call the need – for justice comes from a place of hurt, hurt with history.

So the summer months: Sivan, Tammuz, & Av are concerned with history. with hurt. with holding loss & holding love.

Adina Allen writes [in the Adamah Guide to Jewish Time], “Our task during this month of Elul then is to cultivate light even in the places that feel dark. In so doing we allow for something new to burst forth, a light whose brilliance we have not yet known.”

This Elul, most places feel dark.

Interconnected darkness; darkness that feels impenetrable and pervasive.

Still, we cultivate light.

We cultivate light – we must – with resiliency,

                                             with tenderness,

                                             with practices learned and ones developed new for these times.

[Elul. Elul. Elul.]

This Elul, I am grateful for my friends the goldenrod and the shofar –

                        grateful for all that is grounding and familiar

                        grateful for the call to return,

                                                      to see ourselves as beloved,

                                                and to cultivate light amidst all this darkness.

Emily Nadel is fascinated by human impact and the ways human history is visible in our landscapes and cities. Since graduating from Macalester College with a focus in Jewish history, Emily has canvassed for Planned Parenthood, led the 9th grade unit at Ramah in the Rockies, studied at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, and worked as a Teva Educator. You can find Emily exploring a new habitat, reading about eco-Judaism, and seeing what’s new in her garden!

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