It is almost inconceivable that a poem could be written by a committee. This one was – for the tenth anniversary of the Earth Charter in 2010. The Preamble and Way forward of the Charter (also written by a committee!) give a strong but hopeful view of the current situation and what we must do . The poem reminds us, in this period of teshuvah, that we must begin with ourselves.
It Starts with One
It starts with one universe
With one awakening, one choice
With one person who cares
With one teacher, one neighbour
With one dialogue, one collaboration, one action
With one dream
It starts with one
Caring for one plant, one tree
Looking after one bird, one squirrel,
Saving one drop of water
Picking up one piece of waste
Walking one journey
One future, together
Caring for one Earth community.
As we move through the month of Elul we have the opportunity to work on ourselves, in the hope that we might begin a new year ready to make changes and to be the person we feel we could be. At Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the birthday of the world, and as we begin 5780 we know that our actions are increasingly not only impacting on our ‘environment’ (as if we ourselves were somehow detached from it) but changing and endangering our futures in the world.
This Elul, therefore, Reform Judaism is focussing on what wisdom and reflection Judaism can offer us, and encourage us in the changes necessary to make a difference in the upcoming year. Though we begin with ourselves, we do not end with ourselves. The changes we make, in our attitudes, understanding and behaviour affect all around us – our families, communities, our work place, the organisations we belong to, the government and the world itself. It begins with us.
The texts and reflections for this series have been drawn together by Rabbi Jeffrey Newman and Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers, together with members of the Assembly of Rabbis and Cantors who are credited individually when appropriate. Reflecting together and learning in partnership has made this a much more meaningful process for us, and if you have the time and someone willing, we hope these texts might also provide a wonderful opportunity for learning with a partner (or chavruta). As Pirkei Avot 1:6 says “make for yourself a teacher; acquire for yourself a friend”.