Elul Subscribe

A selection of etudes for the month of Elul highlighting the the call to personal and community changes in preparation for the High Holidays.


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Earth Etude for Elul 10 — Earth Mother

by Carol C. Reiman ~ She holds us in her arms, charms us with star sparkle eyes, lilac breath, song of rippling water over stone. She tells us our story, from deep in the loam of her heart, fed by rains and heat, warmth, cold, into the family of breezes, currents, creatures— those like us and not. Movement in spurts, and slow, creeping, climbing, sliding, changing skins and gestures, while we grow along with our earth siblings, cousins, at pause and in dance, flowing in mutual ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 9 — Elul: A Time to Start Shifting Our Imperiled Planet onto a Sustainable Path

by Richard H Schwartz As the world spirals toward a climate catastrophe, the current Hebrew month of Elul again provides time for heightened introspection, a chance to do t’shuvah (repentance), to improve our lives and our involvements, before the “Days of Awe,” the days of judgment, the “High Holidays” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  How should we respond to Elul today? How should we respond to the current reports of dire warnings and other environmental threats to humanity, including: The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organis...

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Earth Etude for Elul 8 –A Year of Travel, A Year of Wonder

by Susie Davidson Photos (from top left clockwise): Louisiana Bayou from Amtrak; Maine foliage; Hills of Mexico, Del Rio Texas; Susie Davidson at El Paso Crossing; Banyan tree, Miami, FL. ~ Over the past year, I've had many unforgettable experiences in different countries and regions, within amazing, varied landscapes. There is nothing like discovering and living in a new environment. The languages, cultures, geography, and people are so different. However, it is within these strange surroundings that I have conversely noticed what is similar. There are common ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 7 — To Everything There is A Season

by Maxine Lyons ~ Growth takes many forms and like other Jewish seekers, I rely on the life-cycle events to provide a framework for growth, celebrating nature and new life, knowing that to everything there is a season and a time for every purpose under heaven. I started this year’s Elul preparation in June, with conscious gratitude for the experience of becoming a grandmother for the first time in my 70’s and ready to welcome a second grandbaby due to arrive before Rosh Hashanah. Through my work as a professional educator with older adults for several ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 6 — God I Am Your Sapling

by Nakhie Faynshteyn ~ God I am your sapling Let me take in your sunlightso that I may nourish my leavesAnd grow vibrant and green Let me take in your rainsand let them soak into my roots beneath the ground I will be nimble and bendMy branches will stretch and sprout budsWhile my roots hold me firm and planted God I am your sapling Nakhie Faynshteyn is a first generation immigrant from Odessa, Ukraine who lives in the Fenway area in Boston. He is as climate and social justice activist working with the Sunrise Movement, Kavod and Boston Workmen’s Circle ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 5 — True Tikkun Olam

by Dr. Karen I. Shragg ~ Euphemisms have always hurt us. Jews have had their ears tuned in to anti-Semitic language for a long, long time and know when someone is trying to paint us in a negative picture while couching it in coded language. But there is a new way that euphemisms are hurting the whole planet and its future. Recently the forecast of species extinctions and climate change have alarmed us and sent us running to our recycle bins, organic food and if we have time, to our laptops to write letters to the editor about the evils of using pesticides. We hear ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 4 — Experiencing G!D in the Wilderness

by Rabbi Greg Hersh ~ Elul is the time of year where we can take a break from our routine and set ourselves on a path of returning to our purest and best selves. For many Jewish people, this involves getting dressed up and attending long services. In addition to (or in lieu of) those experiences, we can also accomplish these annual goals by stepping into the natural world, just like our teacher, Moses. One day, Moses was doing his usual work of tending Jethro’s flock, when he decided to “turn aside now, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 3 — 200 Jewels

by Thea Iberall ~ I had a medical emergency. The room felt like the galley of a sinking ship and I was lurching against the walls. The doctor said my heart had become irregular. He handed me blood thinners and I wanted to run away. My mind flooded with trying to figure out what to do. His western medicine uses empirically-based tools and years of rigorous scientific testing. It’s ingrained into us to believe doctors. But this medicine is what killed my father. Besides, it is only one model, one that continually evolves. Look at how much Western medicine has ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 2: A Plan

by Judith Black ~When despair for my planet came ramming down my door, my heart, my hope, I stood crushed. When despair entered my bloodstream and resonated as cancer, I nodded toward death. When despair began to drive away friends, family, like a toxic odor, I kept belching it out. Then Spring woke the earth. It bloomed in every color imaginable. It smelt like the heaven of the very good. It started to grow cabbage and weeds and insects and flowers. It lives. If this mother of us all has the resilience to wake up and give life, who am I to lose hope? ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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I want to invite you to BeLoved Shabbaton! Rosh Chodesh Elul Jerusalem Hills

B"H Shalom I want to invite you to: The FIRST EVER BELOVED SHABBATON: A Shabbaton Experience: Celebrating SHABBAT & Commitment to the World! Environmentally Friendly : Vegan : Wholesome : Halachic Fresh Farm to Table an Enchanting Shabbaton to reconnect to our Beloved. a celebration of Eco Torah natural living, wellness, & sustainability For Families, Individuals Raw food foodies and vegan connoisseurs, meditators people who love praying, learning, holistic natural living Torah! Learn Pray Sing Dance Meditate Eat Wholesome Holy Food Prepared ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 29 – World as Lover, World as Self

by Daniel Kieval~ there is a meditation practice watching everything arising, inside and outside responding with a gentle, "not me" this thought - "not me" this anger - "not me" this leg - "not me" "not me" it is a Big Truth all this stuff is unfolding in a giant performance art piece we call The Universe and we are just a witness to this flow They say the opposite of a small truth is a lie, but the opposite of a big truth is another big truth is it not equally true to say to everything - "me" ? this anger - "me" this song - "me" this wafting scent of ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 28 – Not One

by David Greenstein~ There is not one blade of grass on earth without its angel descending from above, prodding it urgently: “Grow, grow!”* And, in return, the grass keeps growing. There is not one lion on earth without its angel descending from above, prodding it urgently, “Roar, roar!” And, in return, the lion keeps roaring. There is not one stream on earth without its angel descending from above, prodding it urgently, “Flow, flow!” And, in return, the stream keeps flowing. There is not one bee on earth without its angel descending from above, ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 27 – Elul Solastalgia* Blues

by Rabbi Ben Weiner~ Like almost every Jewish festival, the High Holidays have both spiritual and natural resonance, which, at the deepest level, are intertwined.  Our ancient ancestors, linking the quality of the oncoming rainy season with the quality of their deeds, derived the need to perform an intense ceremony of  repentance at just the time they began anxiously scanning the sky for clouds. Growing up in central New England, it was not the rains I anticipated as the days of Elul ticked away but the first signs of autumn--cool dewy mornings and crisp breezes by ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 26 – Returning to The Trees of Life

by Rabbi Margaret Frisch Klein~ I am a tree hugger. From long ago. I have planted trees, hundreds of them. I have celebrated Arbor Day as a Girl Scout. I have hiked in the woods from the time I was little. There is a tree that grows in the center of the Merritt Parkway on the way into New York. I passed this tree every week on my way to rabbinical school. It is a beautiful tree with many strong, curved branches coming out of the central trunk. It looks like a menorah. There is another tree like that, a very old tree on the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, ME. Over a ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 25 – The Hawk and the Kippah

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen~ For the past 13 years since my ordination, I have been wearing a rainbow kippah. The kippah and its pattern hold many meanings for me: connection to family, covenant with G!d, hope for the future, acceptance of all kinds of people (including myself), and more. Periodically, I have had to make a new kippah, when the previous one wore out. Recently, when I again needed to make a new kippah, as I thought about it, I realized that I wanted to make this new kippah slightly different from all my previous rainbow kippot. I crocheted the first few ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 24 – Delights in Breaking Your Own Behavior and Heading Toward Love

by Molly Bajgot~   delights in breaking your own behavior and heading towards love:   when water logged branch comes girdling down the stream and gets caught by poised stick, gracefully, i hang   caught on its varied   fluttering,   communicating with its dancer.   i watch from a brightly blazed, hot sun rock naked, this intimate exchange   and then, off it goes —   drifting away, pushed by some force lightly more powerful than all the other tide pulses, ...

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Working Together: Will a Single Plan Ameliorate Climate Disruption? Earth Etude for Elul 23

by Andy Oram~ Climate disruption is a universal scourge that requires a coordinated worldwide response. As such, it is a constant frustration to activists who wish that institutions everywhere could collaborate on implementing the Paris accords and to do even more. We often lament that governments and companies go their own ways, violating their own promises to hold back carbon production. Why can't humanity learn to work together in its own interest? Recourse to Jewish traditional texts can help us accept this situation. In particular, the story of the ...

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Earth Etude for Elul 22 – You Shall Be Like a Watered Garden

by Rabbi Toba Spitzer~ Of the many ways that the Divine is described and experienced in the Hebrew Bible, one of my favorites is Water. In the prophets, in Psalms, God is referred to as Peleg Elohim/“River of God”; M’kor Mayyim Hayyim/“Source of Living Waters”; Ma’ayanei Hayeshua/“Wells of Liberation,” and more. For our Biblical ancestors, the metaphor of God as Water was a powerful way of describing their connection to the Source of Life:  How precious is Your love, O God!...Humanity is nourished from the riches of Your house, You give them ...

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