The text of this ritual shofar blowing for Rosh Chodesh Elul and Rosh Hashanah Labehemot developed as part of annual ceremony taking place at the dairy barn on the campus of the Isabella Freedman Retreat Center beginning in 2009 under the auspices of Elat Chayyim and the Adamah Jewish Farming Fellowship. The ceremony was co-developed by Rabbi Jill Hammer and Sarah Chandler in 2009, with elements added by Aharon Varady beginning in 2012. . . .
The Talmud (Brakhot 35a-b) teaches that eating food without saying a brakhah (a blessing) beforehand is like stealing. A lot of people know that teaching, and it’s pretty deep. But here’s an even deeper part: the Talmud doesn’t call it “stealing”, but מעילה ׁ(“me’ilah“), which means taking from sacred property that belongs to the Temple. So that means that everything in the world is sacred and this Creation is like a HOLY TEMPLE. . . .
“Tsaar Balei Ḥayyim” ([It is forbidden to cause] suffering to a living creature), source unknown. Many thanks to Tiferet Zimmern-Kahan for recording the niggun for the song and to Naftali Ejdelman and The Jewish Daily Forward for providing the lyrics. . . .
I have come to see That we are not the only creatures who are B’tzelem Elohim, We are all in God’s image. So today, on Rosh Ḥodesh Elul, On the New Year of the Domesticated Beasts, Let’s give thanks to the bugs Like the four questioning children Wise and snarky and simple and oblivious, Like the four worlds of the kabbala The earth, the sky, the heart and the spirit We give thanks and acknowledge The bugs we have domesticated The bugs who serve us in their wild state The bugs that hurt us or gross us out And the bugs who live only for themselves, without any reference to us. . . .
Talmudic and midrashic sources contain hymns of the creation usually based on homiletic expansions of metaphorical descriptions and personifications of the created world in the Bible. The explicitly homiletic background of some of the hymns in Perek Shira indicates a possible connection between the other hymns and Tannaitic and Amoraic homiletics, and suggests a hymnal index to well-known, but mostly unpreserved, homiletics. The origin of this work, the period of its composition and its significance may be deduced from literary parallels. A Tannaitic source in the tractate Hagiga of the Jerusalem (Hag. 2:1,77a—b) and Babylonian Talmud (Hag. 14b), in hymns of nature associated with apocalyptic visions and with the teaching of ma’aseh merkaba serves as a key to Perek Shira’s close spiritual relationship with this literature. Parallels to it can be found in apocalyptic literature, in mystic layers in Talmudic literature, in Jewish mystical prayers surviving in fourth-century Greek Christian composition, in Heikhalot literature, and in Merkaba mysticism. The affinity of Perek Shira with Heikhalot literature, which abounds in hymns, can be noted in the explicitly mystic introduction to the seven crowings of the cock — the only non-hymnal text in the collection — and the striking resemblance between the language of the additions and that of Shi’ur Koma and other examples of this literature. In Seder Rabba de-Bereshit, a Heikhalot tract, in conjunction with the description of ma’aseh bereshit, there is a clear parallel to Perek Shira’s praise of creation and to the structure of its hymns. The concept reflected in this source is based on a belief in the existence of angelic archetypes of created beings who mediate between God and His creation, and express their role through singing hymns. As the first interpretations of Perek Shira also bear witness to its mystic character and angelologic significance, it would appear to be a mystical chapter of Heikhalot literature, dating from late Tannaitic — early Amoraic period, or early Middle Ages. . . .
ראש השנה לבעלי־החיים – על מה ולמה? מקורו של ראש השנה לבעלי־חיים הוא באותה משנה שבה המקור לט”ו בשבט: “ארבעה ראשי שנים הם: באחד בניסן ראש השנה למלכים ולרגלים. באחד באלול ראש השנה למעשר בהמה; רבי אלעזר ורבי שמעון אומרין, באחד בתשרי. באחד בתשרי ראש השנה לשנים לשמיטים וליובלות, ולנטיעה ולירקות. באחד בשבט ראש השנה לאילן, כדברי בית שמאי; בית הלל אומרין בחמישה עשר בו”. (משנה ראש השנה א, א). . . .
Domesticated animals (beheimot) are halakhically distinguished from ḥayot, wild animals in having been bred to rely upon human beings for their welfare. As the livelihood and continued existence of wild animals increasingly depends on the energy, food, and land use decisions of human beings, the responsibility for their care is coming into the purview of our religious responsibilities as Jews under the mitzvah of tsa’ar baalei ḥayyim — mindfullness of the suffering of all living creatures in our decisions and behavior. Rosh Hashanah LeBeheimot is the festival where we are reminded of this important mitzvah at the onset of the month in which we imagine ourselves to be the flock of a god upon whose welfare we rely. The Council of All Beings is an activity that can help us understand and reflect upon the needs of the flock of creatures that already rely upon us for their welfare. . . .
Once upon a time when the Temple still stood, the Rosh Hashanah La’behemot celebrated one means by which we elevated and esteemed the special creatures that helped us to live and to work. Just as rabbinic Judaism found new ways to realize our Temple offerings with tefillot — prayers — so too the Rosh Hashanah La’behemot challenges us to realize the holiness of the animals in our care in a time without tithes. The New Years Day for Animals is a challenge to remind and rediscover what our responsibilities are to the animals who depend on us for their welfare. Are we treating them correctly and in accord with the mitzvah of tza’ar baalei chayim — sensitivity to the suffering of living creatures? Have we studied and understood the depth of ḥesed — lovingkindness — expressed in the breadth of our ancestors teachings concerning the welfare of animals in Torah? Rosh Hashanah La’behemot is the day to reflect on our immediate or mediated relationships with domesticated animals, recognize our personal responsibilities to them, individually and as part of a distinct and holy people, and repair our relationships to the best of our ability. . . .
God of all spirit, all directions, all winds You have placed in our hands power unlike any since the world began to overturn the orders of creation. . . .