Thursday, September 29, 2022

Earth Etude for the 10 Days - It's Not too Late to Turn Toward the Possible

by Maxine Lyons

As Elul approached, I collected many quotations and articles on the theme of how to turn toward "the possible" in our lives, inspired in large part by Rabbi David Ingber’s message to his NYC congregation, Romemu. I often participate in their “zoomagogue" as he affectionately refers to it. One of his thoughts struck me particularly:

Romemu’s theme this year is AWAKEN: POSSIBILITY. The Hebrew word efshar holds the power of the possible, of that which is yearned for but not realized. It contains a sacred value, hope, and the unwillingness to resign in the face of unseemingly impossible and insurmountable obstacles…our collective prayer is for the possible, the small opening by the simple but profound word efshar: it is possible or perhaps, doable.

I found other instructive practices to reach realistic and spiritual inroads in my quest for the possible as well. And I’m finding that this personal “turning" toward the more elevated ways to perform my teshuvah expands my efforts for renewal and change as I evolve in my deep dive into what awakening to the possible can mean for me. 

Maxine Lyons enjoys sharing her understanding of the benefits of Jewish and Buddhist meditation practices, engages in racial justice activities, and is a perennial learner as she gardens in any available space around her home in Newton!

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Shana Tova 5783!

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen 

The Eternal came down in a cloud. וַיֵּרֶד ה’ בֶּֽעָנָן (Ex. 34:5)


you change,

 from minute to minute,

from day to day,

from season to season,

from year to year,




even sometimes seeming to disappear, 

doing whatever is necessary, 

whatever is needed, 

to fit the conditions,


never losing your key identity, 

as a cloud.

In this new year, may we find what is needed

to be like a cloud

yet to not be a cloud,

but always to be ourself,

our very best self.

And. the Eternal went before them as a column of cloud by day. וַה' הֹלֵךְ לִפְנֵיהֶם יוֹמָם בְּעַמּוּד עָנָן (Ex. 13:21)

Shana tov from all of us at Earth Etudes for Elul!  

Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long and has a growing children’s outdoor learning program, Y’ladim BaTeva. She is the founder of the Jewish Climate Action Network-MA, a board certified chaplain, and a former hospital and hospice 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.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Earth Etude for Elul 29 - Chasing Sunrise

by Sarah Chandler

The rolling fog 

Invites me 

To stretch my neck

To peek at a new perspective 


Not quite bright enough

To squint 

My eyes wide across the valley

Trying not to wait

For something else to be

Just when I think 

My orientation is eastward 

The clouds above the mountain 

Tickle the sky

Spreading north across the orange glow

These trees form a frame 

Filled with smaller frames

So that each frame of light 

Can shine through 

On me

It’s the light in front of me

That allows me to re-enter 

The darkness behind 


Sarah Chandler aka Kohenet Shamirah is a Brooklyn-based Jewish educator, artist, activist, healer, and poet. She teaches, writes and consults on issues related to Judaism, earth-based spiritual practice, respectful workplaces, mindfulness, and farming. An ordained Kohenet with the Hebrew Priestess Institute and Taamod trainer since 2018, she is also is an advanced student of Kabbalistic dream work at The School of Images. Previously, Sarah served as the Director of Romemu Yeshiva, Chief Compassion Officer of Jewish Initiative for Animals, and Director of Earth Based Spiritual Practices at Hazon's Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center. Currently, she is the CEO of Shamir Collective, as a coach and consultant to high-profile artists and authors to launch new music and books. 

Friday, September 23, 2022

Earth Etude for Elul 28 - When One Door Closes, Another Door Opens.

by Joan Rachlin

Like many of a certain age, my husband and I had decided to downsize, but unlike many others, ours was less a choice and more a necessity following his stroke two+ years ago. We loved our town, neighborhood, and street and had been making plans to “age in place” before life intervened.

As I began to survey the overwhelming task ahead, it was clear that my obsession with helping preserve what pristineness remained in nature had become disconnected from my personal behavior of “littering” our home. My husband gently commented that the books (e.g., “The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning,” “Clear Your Clutter,” and “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”) sitting atop our ubiquitous piles of “stuff” were symbols of that disconnectedness.

I rationalized the presence of this “stuff” by explaining to myself and others that it included gifts from beloved grandparents, parents, other family members, and friends; souvenirs from travels; memorabilia from childhood and beyond; cards, letters, and miscellaneous paperwork that had to be filed; and/or cherished mementos of the years in which we raised our kids. I had managed to ignore the fact that—despite an object’s back-story and despite my self-proclaimed status as an environmental activist—I had become a “do as I say, not as I do” hypocrite. Although I’ve encouraged many others to read Affluenza over the past 20 years, I never admitted to having an undiagnosed case of that planet-crushing disease.

With help from friends and a downsizing professional, our house was emptied and most of our possessions donated to organizations* and individuals. Though bittersweet, my dominant emotion is gratitude for the four+ decades we spent there, the sweet memories that remain, and the opportunity to tread more lightly on the Earth presented by closing the door to our old home and opening the door to our new one.

I therefore entered Elul with the kavannah, or intention, of following the sage advice on my fridge magnet: “The most important things in life are not things.” I’m focusing on progress, not perfection and hoping that my previously overzealous efforts to prevent things from being buried (landfills) or burned (incinerators) will be replaced by the realization that I am doing the best I can and my efforts are good enough. Although not a big fan of self-help books, I’ve just begun listening to Enoughness, which emphasizes sustainability and contentedness and, when finished, plan to start A Good-Enough Life. 

I pray that I will, with mindfulness and discipline, increase the simplicity and balance in my soul, home, and in my microscopic corner of our shared home, Planet Earth. 

Here’s to a safe, healthy, just, peaceful, purposeful, and “enoughness-filled” New Year for all. 

Shana Tova U’Metuka.

*Below is a partial list of the organizations to which we donated:
7 - Our Facebook “Buy Nothing” group (Buy Nothing Brookline) was also helpful in finding homes for everything we no longer needed or wanted. We gave away golf clubs, old cameras, slide and movie projectors, furniture, encyclopedias (“More Than Words” does not take encyclopedias) and many other things.
8 - I also donated collections of family memoirs, photos, and memorabilia to archives and museums. Although this was a time-consuming endeavor, it enabled me to find permanent homes for the treasures passed down through the generations of my family.

Joan Rachlin is the Executive Director Emerita of PRIM&R (Public Responsibility in Medicine and Research) an international bioethics organization. In addition to her work with PRIM&R, she practiced law in the areas of women’s health, civil rights, and criminal and civil litigation. Joan loves nature and its preservation is her priority, purpose, and passion.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Earth Etude for Elul 27 - Grateful Lament

by Judith Felsen, Ph.D.

My King, 

How will I love You when we meet in this year’s fields of Elul?

You who have sent illness, pandemic, bloodshed, injustice, hypocrisy, fire, starvation and death…

We have been estranged and denying our separation for eons

Now it has come to this…

With my ambivalence how will I love You?

Will I remember that You sent us Your

   starry sky on Your darkest night

   blooms of wild flowers in Spring

   symphonies of songs and calls 

   vocal ensembles of insects and birds

   pools of wild waters, waterfalls and streams

   cool forests and trees

   spongy meadows and lichen

fractal images of Your presence and love

Elul calls to us to turn to You to





Your presence always in love 

Judith Felsen, Ph.D. is a practitioner and seeker of paths facilitating the transformation of human suffering to wisdom, gratitude and grace. Engaged in this pursuit for most of her life, Judith has incorporated the natural world as well as mankind’s alliance in her work. Living in the White Mountain National Forest, Judith feels at home with two and four legged and all creatures and has likened the forest around her to a metropolis of symphonies creating a language of their own. Insight, comfort and connection are often concealed to us yet readily and always available in nature’s world. Addressing issues of complex earth changes and resultant grief, loss , voluntary and unchosen outcomes, Judith spends daily time in  mindfulness practice and presence to all of life. Elul is a time to embrace our part in meeting G-d in daily life in all ways including our hardships. We are asked to show up as a partner. Partnering with spirit is day  to day practice on our way to the palace as we wend our way on the trail home. 



Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Earth Etude for Elul 26 - (Re)Turning to Shabbat: An Ecological Approach

by Dr. Leah F. Cassorla

In the loaming, Boobah the One-eyed Wonderdog and I sit outside in our vast, shared backyard, watching the swallows. 

As the evening descends, we watch the tree line of the nearby patch of forest. The lightning bugs begin their fiery dance before us, the swallows swoop in and out, and hares hop in and out of the line of sight--my line of sight as Boobah's is thankfully too restricted to catch them. I consider this beautiful, if tiny, patch of Olam Ha'bah, and it shifts me to another space.

I've been a whole-foods, plant-based eater for several years now and know it is the single most powerful choice I can make for the continuation of humanity on this beautiful earth. I don't say I'm doing it for the planet; the planet will be just fine. She is designed to clean her house as needed. But I am aware that cleaning house may require sweeping away the humans who have overpopulated, overused, and over-dirtied her. And I am concerned that we are not doing enough. This thought leads me to Shmita and Shabbat, and I wonder:

What if we treated Shabbat as an opportunity to practice environmental responsibility rather than a set of strictures for "keeping" or "not keeping" the Shabbat commandments? How could I make my Shabbat a mini Sh'mita, just as Sh'mita is considered a grand Shabbat? 

Sh'mita is a year that allows the land a recovery period from the agricultural needs of humanity as well as the economic drivers of social inequality. Perhaps I can try to reduce my Carbon/Nitrogen footprint each week on Shabbat by refraining from using electricity, gas, or oil--or by buying credits if such use is mandatory for my survival (and my religious role in my community). I can refrain from purchasing anything on Shabbat as well, knowing that I cannot fully remove myself from the capitalist system and that reduction of consumption is only one step. I can set aside my pishke each week to support organizations that further ecological recovery. 

And those of us who aren't vegan may choose to refrain from eating meat on Shabbat--a truly radical idea.

Yet with these approaches in hand, I can feel myself (re)turning toward the needs of the ecosystem and my species. With each small step, I can come closer to making more space for the swallows, the lightning bugs, and the hares. Inch by inch, I can bring myself closer to the ideal Shabbat. And so can you.

Dr. Leah F. Cassorla is the Cantorial Soloist - Educator at Temple Beth Tikvah, in Madison, CT. Her etude reflects on her time in Huntsville, AL, as well as her belief that we can enact Teshuvah to a better relationship with our planet. She has written works of journalism, fiction, non-fiction, and academics. She is currently studying for a dual-ordination as a Rabbi and Cantor at the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Earth Etude for Elul 25 - For the Land Is Not Mine

by Rabbi Louis Polisson

And the land shall not be sold for ever; for the land is mine; 

for you are strangers and sojourners with me1

And now we are learning

That the Land belongs to No One, 

To the One with No End

For the earth was confusion and chaos2

And we too have become 

wild and waste

Human beings from the earth

Human beings, full of harm3 

for the earth

Every day

But our fate is not sealed

There is hope

There is choice

There is justice4

And there is return, an answer, repentance

The time to come close 

has drawn near

The season of Elul

The time of “we are our Beloved’s, 

and our Beloved’s is ours”

At the end of this Year of Release

There is an opportunity 

There is a new year

There is time to repair the world

Through the sovereignty of the Almighty, 

through presence of the Supreme Mighty Mother

There is time to say: Here I am

For we are Her People and She is our Beloved5

Not for us, not ours

Is the Land

Not yours and not mine


For Her Own Self


strangers and sojourners are we 

with Her

Both strangers 

and human beings from the earth

We are connected and responsible

From the worm in the ground 

to the fish of the sea

From the tiniest grain of sand 

to the air in the sky

Together we must recognize and lead6 and pray and act 

So that She might grant in our hearts

The ability to understand, to be aware, to listen and to hear7

To learn and to teach8

To serve her and to protect her

The Garden of Eden, where is it?9

In the earth.


And not mine

כי לא לי הארץ

הרב לב שלום

בן אשר זעליג וטובה פוליסון

והארץ לא תמכר לצמתת

כי לי הארץ

כי גרים ותושבים אתם


ועתה לומדים

לאין הארץ

לאין סוף

כי הארץ היתה תוהו ובוהו

וגם אנחנו הפכנו 

לתוהו ובוהו

בני אדם מן האדמה

רבה רעת בני האדם


כל יום

אבל גורלנו הוא לא חתום

יש תקווה

יש ברירה

יש דין

ויש תשובה, תשובה,


הזמן לקרב


זמן אלול

זמן אנו לדודינו

ודודינו לנו

בסוף שנת השמיטה יש הזדמנות

יש שנה חדשה

יש זמן לתקן עולם

במלכות שדי, בשכינת אמא עילאה

יש זמן לומר הנני

כי אנו עמה והיא דודינו

לא לנו


לא שלכם ולא לי



כי גרים ותושבים עמדה אנו

גם גרים

וגם בני אדם מן האדמה

מקושרים ומחויבים אנחנו

מהתולעת באדמה

ועד לדגי הים

מגרגר החול הזעיר

לאוויר בשמיים

יחד כולם נודה ונמליך ונתפלל ונעשה

שהיא תתן בליבנו

להבין להשכיל לשמוע

ללמוד וללמד

לעובדה ולשומרה

 גן עדן, היכן הוא?



ולא לי

  1. Leviticus 25:23

  2. Genesis 1:2; translation after Everett Fox, cf.

  3. Genesis 6:5

  4. Genesis Rabbah 26:6

  5. Ki Anu Amekha, from the Liturgy for Yom Kippur

  6. Mi Khamokha, Shaḥarit (Morning) and Ma’ariv (Evening) Liturgy

  7. Ahavah Rabbah, Shaḥarit (Morning) Liturgy

  8. Genesis 2:15

  9. Sefer Ha-Bahir, II:31 

    Louis Polisson is a musician and rabbi, ordained by the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2018, where he also earned an MA in Jewish Thought focusing on Kabbalah and Hasidut. He currently serves as Rabbi of Congregation Or Atid of Wayland, Massachusetts. He and his wife Gabriella Feingold released an album of original Jewish and nature-based spiritual folk music in November 2018 - listen at