Today’s reflection tells us that individual righteousness cannot exist without awareness and care for one’s generation. Care of trees was interpreted as meriting divine protection.[One] essential attribute of a righteous person’s proper attitude (intention/kavanah) in their actions is care for the well-being of their generation, their merit and protection. This is the meaning of the verse (Isa.3:10) “Say of the righteous that it shall be well with them; for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds.” Those who belong to the same generation as a righteous person, enjoy the fruits of their actions. Our Sages interpreted allegorically Moses’ command to the spies that they observe whether there were trees in Canaan (Num 3:20) as signifying that the spies were to note whether there was anyone in Canaan who was able to secure divine protection for his contemporaries.(B.B.15a)
The Path of the Upright Mesillat Yesharim.
Moses Luzzatto 1707-1746 (trans Mordechai Kaplan JPS (p.360/1)
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”.