In the coming year, we might be inspired by this midrash (from around 500CE) to not only be in the image of God, but to walk in the path of God in 5780 and plant trees.
Vayikra Rabbah 25:3
“Rabbi Yochanan ben Shimon began, ‘After the Eternal your God shall you walk’ (Deuteronomy 13:5). But is it possible for a man of flesh and blood to walk after the Holy Blessed One, the One about Whom it is written (Psalms 77:20), ‘Your way is in the sea and Your path is in many waters?’ […] the Holy Blessed One, from the very beginning of the creation of the world, was only occupied with plantation first. Hence it is written (Genesis 2:8), ‘And the Eternal God planted a garden in Eden.’ You also, when you enter into the land, only occupy yourselves with plantation first. Hence it is written, ‘When you shall come to the land…'”
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”.