Thursday, August 10, 2023

The Earth Etudes for Elul Are Coming!

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

We’re noticing the sun is setting earlier each day. We’re lighting our Shabbat candles earlier each week. We’re rushing to pack into the remaining days of summer a last hike, a last day at the beach, a last cookout, a last camping trip.

My daughter-in-law, a teacher, calls August the “Sunday of summer vacation”, when thoughts turn to the new school year ahead and the end of the freedoms of summer looms. The Jewish month of Elul, which begins in August, is the “Sunday of the Jewish year.” Elul is a time of reflection and preparation for the new year and the Yamim Nora’im, the Days of Awe. During Elul we begin blowing and hearing the shofar, the wordless prayer that touches us in our kishkes (gut) and reminds us to do the spiritual work of getting ready to face G!d with an empty stomach and an open heart on Yom Kippur, and ask for forgiveness.

The 30 days of Elul are a time for cheshbon hanefesh (soul searching) and teshuvah (return, repentance). They are a time to turn from the ways in which we have missed the mark and return to G!d and our best selves. Elul is a time to be reborn, transformed, and renewed. It is also a time of love and caring – the Hebrew letters of the month’s name correspond to the first letters of the verse, Ani l'dodi, v'l'dodi li, “I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 6:3).

To help us on our journey through Elul, we at JCAN-MA and Ma’yan Tikvah have again gathered from among ourselves and our friends a series of reflections for the month of Elul, teachings that connect Earth and Torah, which we call “Earth Etudes for Elul.” In these daily reflections, rabbis, poets, environmentalists, and seekers write for all our beloveds, and in these painful days of scorching heat, wildfires, rising seas, and increasing despair, they remind us to reconnect to our beloved Earth and be strengthened.

We invite you to step through the wide-open doorway into Elul with us as we begin our journey together, beginning Thursday evening, August 17 and continuing daily through the month of Elul. You can sign up here to get them in your inbox each day.

This year for the first time, we will be hosting An Evening of Earth Etudes for Elul Live, a time of reading and reflection, during which selected Etude writers will join us to share their works and engage with us in meditation and thoughtful conversation. Sign up here to join us on Thursday, August 24, from 7:00-8:30 PM EDT.

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. She is the author of A Tree of Life: A Story in Word, Image, and Text and lives in Wayland, MA, with her spouse, Gabi Mezger, who leads the.singing at Ma'yan Tikvah.

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