Sunday, September 11, 2016

Elul Tools 2016 - 9 Elul 5776

Elul Tools 

Building a 
Strong Foundation 
for the 
Days of Awe

Shofar Blast 
(press the arrow below)

Today's Elul Chai-Ku:

Breath, eat, drink, create.
Everyday we take from her.
Our mother. Thank you.


9 Elul—Keep on Digging:  Did You 

Take Care of your Mother?

Our soul searching carries on! Today we continue to pull our lens back one last notch as we consider the “Environment.” The natural world is our source, that which truly sustains us. Nature is something we relate to everyday, all day, whether we are aware of it or not. We eat. We drink. We breath. We use resources (paper, petroleum, electricity, water for things other than drinking, etc). We are essentially in a constant state of consumption. That in and of itself is not problematic. The question before all of us is whether our consumption is conscious, intentional, reasonable, responsible. Do we even appreciate all that is given to us in this regard? Don’t feel guilty. All of us take these daily gifts for granted.

Judaism has much to teach us about the proper love and care of our larger home, Earth. Our tradition has deep spiritual roots in ecology and stewardship.  Recently these roots, somewhat covered and dormant, have been revived in a movement coined by Rabbi Zalmon Schacter-Shalomi as EcoKashrut. With this type of awareness we consider our planet as both the source of life and our home. As such we need to properly tend this relationship as we would any other.

While only scratching the surface, consider a few aspects of Judaism which reflect its origins as an Earth Based Religion:

The Hebrew calendar is a based on the lunar cycle which makes temporality (time) inextricably linked to nature and seasons. The beginning of each month (Rosh Chodesh) begins on a new moon. Similarly the full moon will always be in the middle of the month. Simply by looking up into the night sky, you know how to place yourself in Jewish time.

The holiday of Tu B’Shevat is an annual time to consider TREES!! We plant trees, celebrate trees, collect money to plant trees in Israel and even have a special Seder meal where we acknowledge, and eat many different fruits all with different properties. Many other Jewish holidays incorporate elements of nature.  Consider the following:  building and “dwelling” in a sukkah outside during Sukkot, casting bread crumbs into a running body of water at Rosh Hashanah, celebrating the new month and new moon at Rosh Chodesh.

The Torah has many overt references which speak to stewardship and protection of the environment including such concepts as Bal Tashchit (forbidding unnecessary waste and destruction), Tza’ar Ba’akeu Chayyim (banning cruelty to animals), Tikkun Olam (literally repairing the world), and honoring the sabbatical laws which gives the land a respite after seven years of farming.  

In Jewish tradition water is often refered to
as Mayyim Chayyim, or sacred, life giving waters. Additionally, the Hebrew word for
life, Chai, is a central and powerful symbol in Judaism. The list could continue for pages, but you get the idea. Not only is it politically correct and trendy to be ecologically minded these days, but these ideas are central in Jewish thought. Take pride knowing that your ancient tradition, your heritage, acknowledged many of these forward thinking principles millenia ago!

Rabbi Fred Dobb, in an article entitled Living an Environmentally Conscious Jewish Life, asks us a pointed question. He says, “God made us  A PART of Creation, with DNA 99% identical to that of our orangutan cousins, while also making us APART from Creation. Small differences, like opposable thumbs and enlarged cerebella, mean we will rule -- but how? “

Today's Elul Tool:  Think about your relationship to the natural world. Were you reasonable and responsible in your consumption of resources this past year? Even if your “footprint” was small and gentle, did you give back to the universe by way of gratitude, being thankful for all the natural world provides? Just like the 10 commandments ask us to honor our parents, have you showed enough reverence and honor to Mother Nature? Remember, this is not a time to blame yourself for missing the mark, but rather a time for a realistic assessment of your role in this intricate web.

Psalm 27

It is customary to read Psalm 27 twice daily during Elul.
Here is an online version of Psalm 27 for easy access. 

For Families and Kids!

 Junior Tool Box:  Some Earthy Activities

•  As a family, discuss ways to make a smaller ecological footprint in the new year.

•  Make a cut out of a very large footprint. When your family performs “eco-friendly” acts,  glue smaller and smaller footprints, one an another. The visual accomplishment will inspire your children to continue!

•  Figure out where we are in the moon cycle today. Follow this through to the end of the month of Elul. The new moon starts on Rosh Hashanah! Go outside and see the nightly changes!

•  Make a nature collage. You can laminate and use as a placemate to remind your children of the natural world around them.

•  Go on a walk and collect natural objects to make a 3-D sculpture OR collect natural treasures and keep in a special box (decorated shoe boxes work well).

•  Go on a “listening walk.” The game is not to talk at all but to push an imaginary “record” button near your ears to capture all the sounds you hear. Come home and press and imaginary “play” button to replay your walk through sounds. Which sounds are natural and which sounds are “human-made?”

•  Go on an eco-picnic. See if you can do this without taking any plastic or paper throw-away products with you. It’s more work, but discuss how this conserves resources with your children.

•  Model gratitude for the earth, the environment, and all that it offers us. Remind your children that we are sustained by water, air, food. These things are given to us every day as gifts. Show your children  how to say thank you!


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