Rabbi M. Miller of Gateshead z”l quotes Yalkut Shimoni on Jeremiah 2:4 with its terrible warnings (prob. early 13th Century CE) in his sermons (Vol 1 p 285) As the intensity and consequences of global warming increase – floods, fire, storms, drought, scarcity, famine, migration, violence – how far must we go before we are prepared to listen?
Listen to the words of prophecy before you are forced to listen to words of rebuke.
Listen to the words of rebuke before you are forced to listen to the sound of punishment.
Listen to the sound of punishment before you are forced to listen to the sound of war.
Listen in the Holy Land before you are forced to listen outside the Holy Land.
Listen whilst you are alive before you’re forced to listen from the dead.
Listen with your ears before you are forced to listen with your bodies.
Listen with your bodies before you’re forced to listen with your bones – dry bones! – hear the word of the Lord.
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”.