High Holy Days: Does the Earth really matter?

Rosh Hashanah is traditionally understood as the anniversary of the creation of Adam from Adamah --- the Hebrew that might most accurately, though clumsily, be translated into English as "Human Earthling" born  from "Earthy Humus." (The intertwining of these words is far closer to the truth of the relationship than the word "environment," which means something "out there" -- in the environs.) 
So, to traditional Torah readings for the day we might add Genesis 2: 7:  "And YHWH [the Name of God that can only be pronounced by breathing with no vowels, thus "Yahhh, Breath of Life"] formed the earthy-human from the humus-earth and blew into his nostrils the breath of life;  and the human-earthling became a living being."

Notice that in moving from earthiness to humanness, the human loses the "ah" – a breath-sound – at the end of Adamah, and takes on the more conscious independent breathing received from God.
 This replicates the process of birth in which at first the fetus has an unconscious gift of breath from Mother through the placenta; loses this breath as s/he is born; and regains a separate, more conscious breath by, usually, being gently tapped by an adult.  
 This reading would then lend itself to exploration of the relationship between "adam" and "adamah" today – especially since the story of Eden (which follows) is about alienation from the earth resulting from a greedy attempt by the human to gobble up all earth's abundance, without self-restraint.
 There is a way to echo and enhance this passage on Yom Kippur.

In some communities, on Yom Kippur there is a tradition of full prostration of all or many congregants during the Avodah service, imitating what the ancient Israelites did at the Temple while the High Priest breathed God's Name.  If this were done outside and allowed to last 18 minutes, it would reconnect  adam with adamah, the human-earthlings with the earth.  It could help us commit ourselves to redeem the relationship in our generation.
For the ceremony of Tashlich on Rosh Hashanah afternoon, Jews leave their synagogues to go to nearby lakes and rivers to cast small objects (traditionally bread crumbs) into the water.  Traditionally, they recite a passage: "You [God} shall cast [Tashlich} all their sins into the depth of the sea."
For centuries many rabbis opposed this custom for fear  that people would think this "magic"  would be enough to atone for their misdeeds, instead of correcting their action and making amends with their neighbors.

But the people insisted – perhaps because this was their one opportunity to get out in the open, among trees and streams, to celebrate the God Whose Torah is written not only on parchment but in grass and squirrels and fish and wind.
Today we know that there is no "away" to cast our misdeeds against the earth –-- "downstream" is just another part of our planet. And we know that organic matter like bread crumbs can disrupt the eco-balance of the river; so we might use pebbles instead.
Just as Hagar did not "cast" her son Ishmael away but tried to renew and transform his life, just as God did not "cast" Jonah away but sought to transform him – so we might say aloud that our "casting" is not to get rid of our misdeeds but to transform the energy in them toward good.
In later letters, we will unfold the Earthy aspects of Sukkot and Shabbat Noach  -- that story of a disastrous planetary Flood, followed by the Rainbow Sign of love and healing.
Don't forget to register for enjoying Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at Elat Chayyim/ Isabella Freedman with Phyllis, Shawn, Simcha, and me: Click here. 

 Shalom, salaam, peace – Arthur



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