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Susan Levine


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Earth Etude for Elul 11: Planting Hope

by Rabbi Judy Kummer Hope is planting a tree, knowing that we will be feeding the worms under the tree’s ground before the tree yields fruit….Hope sees the rays of light in the depth of the dark night.Hope is an active act of faith, refusing to surrender. —Omid Safi Early in the lockdown — that odd, isolating and scary time filled with unknowns and fears ...


Earth Etude for Elul 10: The Dream

by Nyanna Susan Tobin The past few years, I have been inspired by Rabbi Katy to write my Elul reflections. This year I find that I am looking backward rather than forward into my future. As I age, memories seem more in focus than the daily details. I remember as a young woman, I wanted to be a forest ranger. I wanted to care for and protect trees with a passion. My parents and teachers advised me that girls could not be forest rangers. An older ...


Earth Etude for Elul 9: Fear God, Love Earth

by Andy Oram The terrifying spread of COVID-19 has also led to a spike in gun sales in the United States, causing an estimated increase of anywhere from 70 percent to 501 percent in different areas. Less notice has been given to bicycle sales, but demand here has also accelerated somewhere between 121 and 700 percent.  A bicycle is an optimistic approach to the pandemic. Perhaps buyers recognize that public transportation is risky and either ...


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 Expansive. 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 ...


Earth Etude for Elul 7: Tiers of Love

by Rabbi Suri Krieger Watch and listen to this meaningful etude performed by Rabbi Suri and her daughter Ariel… Ordained from the pluralistic Academy for Jewish Religion, Suri studied with Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi in the early days of Jewish Renewal. Adjunct professor at Sacred Heart University for 8 years, Suri is currently Spiritual leader of B'nai Or: Jewish Renewal of Greater Boston.


Earth Etude for Elul 6: As Above, So Below

by Deb Nam-Krane What is the difference between dry, grey soil that’s one step up from clay, not too far removed from dirt, and dark, rich soil that you could grow almost anything in? The answer, of course, is biodiversity. As above, so below, as they say. The more diverse the plants above ground, the richer the microbial life and the amazing mycorrhizal network (think “plant internet”) that nutrients travel through. Strong networks and ...


Earth Etudes for Elul 5, Aleinu to Jews: Have Faith in the Future

by Mirele B. Goldsmith As we strive to heal the earth and reverse the damage caused by climate change, I find hope in recognizing that we are part of the greatest movement in human history.  This movement crosses all borders and includes people of every nationality, race, and religion. Forced to confront a global challenge, we have come together. During the COVID 19 pandemic, I’ve been praying more than ever before, and I have been inspired ...


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 ...


Earth Etude for Elul 3: This Elul

by Judith Felsen, Ph.D. This Elul I will meet You in our fields   of shattered dreams desires not sustained supplications unrequited Earth in hovering between   pending diagnosis, treatment,  and precarious recovery Our state and fate, of You I bring our ailments    sown in self and soil   to be plowed   to wisdom’s strengths through ceasing, owning, pausing, cl...


Earth Etude for Elul 2: Reflections on The Challenges of Living with Fear and Hope

by Maxine Lyons I find new signs of hope and gratitude for the changes that I feel are beginning to surface despite the anxieties and sadness I feel for the families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19, and for the heightened consciousness of racism. We are living through a time when many forces are coming together with the potential to change our daily lives, setting in motion systemic reforms to our institutions that could dismantle systemic ...


Especially this Mother’s Day, remember Mother Earth.

~Mother’s Day will be different this year for many of us because of the impact of the coronavirus, being in quarantine and social distancing; however, we can still be mindful of how our actions can help prevent climate change even if we are having virtual Mother’s Day dinners and celebrations. Reduce: Reduce your energy needs. Winter is finally over and it’s warmer inside and out. Open your windows and let the fresh air in. If it is really ...


A Vegetarian New Year

by Susan Levine ~ The New Year, January 1 of the Gregorian calendar, is the same as Rosh Hashanah for me. I think about things I have done over my lifetime and the most important thing I’ve tried to do is to become a vegetarian. But let me start at the beginning: Both my parents grew up in kosher homes and when they got married, they had a kosher home. But it wasn’t kosher enough for my father’s mother who would visit my parents but ...


L’Shanah Tova and a thank you to our Earth Etudes for Elul Contributors

Elul is the month before Rosh Hashanah, a time when we review our lives and think about how we will live the coming year. Many of these earth etudes actually connect our earth with the spirit of Judaism–Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. We would like to thank Rabbi Katy Z. Allen for bringing together these awe-inspiring contributors, whose essays, poems and thoughts help us understand the meaning of our lives and how we can repair our world. ...


Earth Etude for Elul 29 –Waking up to the Climate Crisis

by Rabbi David Jaffe ~ My guess is that many readers of the Elul Etudes are fully awakened to the climate crisis and read these blogs with the hope of gaining perspective and spiritual resilience to keep facing the crisis without panicking and burning out. This blog post is for a difference audience – those, like me, who intellectually understand the crisis but don’t feel the urgency.  Despite reading articles and watching videos about the ...


Earth Etude for Elul 28 — Swimming in Circles in Life

by Rabbi Judy Kummer ~ Every August I participate in a 1-mile breast cancer fundraising swim at a pond on Cape Cod. I have done this swim every year since 2007, training each summer day to swim further and faster.  I especially delight in swimming outdoors. Sometimes my practice swims are in daytime, sometimes at “golden hour” as the sun is setting,  and sometimes at dusk, when I can watch the moon rising, cycling inexorably ...


Earth Etude for Elul 27 — A Vegetarian Journey

by Susan Levine ~ When I think about Elul, I think about things I have done over my lifetime and the most important thing I’ve tried to do is to become a vegetarian. But let me start at the beginning: Both my parents grew up in kosher homes and when they got married, they had a kosher home. But it wasn’t kosher enough for my father’s mother who would visit my parents but wouldn’t touch the food. My mom didn’t see the point of being ...


Earth Etude for Elul 26: What do animals feel and think? Who are they?

by Rabbi David Seidenberg ~ That’s too broad a question by many degrees, but the difference between asking “who are they?” and “what are they?” is the gulf between civilizations, between epochs, between a world in which humans dominate and destroy, and a world in which humans collaborate with other species in the great project of the universe--Life. Since Descartes, the idea that the other animals (besides human beings) are not subjects ...


Earth Etude for Elul 25*– To the Silent Stones

by Sarah Chandler ~ Do you count your days in footsteps? In strollers? In sunlight? Cement and concrete Below my feet I take a peek at the patterns And the places Where tiny rocks gather Solid, safe, secure What was it was like To move your entire being From a quarry of friends To this square of sidewalk? City stones Bricks, brownstone, marble Are your family now You The eyes of Our neighborhood My commute My shabbat walk Sometimes ...


Earth Etude for Elul 24 –If Not Here, Where

by Maggid David Arfa ~ For Reb Bob in honor of his ordination Hillel says, "If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? If not here, where?" Ethics of the Fathers, 1:14+ The High Ledges Audubon Sanctuary, Shelburne, MA Ok, he didn’t say that last part. He didn’t have to. Back in the ancient world it was not so easy to get lost in the global view. Today it is different. The ...


Earth Etude for Elul 23 — The Prayer for Rain

by Rabbi Louis Polisson ~The Hebrew month of Elul is well-known as the month of preparation for the Jewish holidays Rosh Ha-Shanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). In Jewish literature, it is often called a month of teshuvah (repentance, self-improvement, and returning to the good parts of ourselves). However, one might also view Elul as a time to prepare for the fall harvest festival of Sukkot (which literally means ...