David Wolkin writes, “I’ve been pushing this writing exercise for a while now, but I taught a class with it in my home on Sunday and it proved to be powerful and connecting for all of us in the room. If you’re reflecting/repenting this season, you might benefit from this.” . . .
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. . . .
After struggling with the requests in Aneinu, read during Selichot, I composed a list of requests and questions for this upcoming Shmita year. . . .
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. . . .