In the Talmud it is taught: “Rabbi Assi pointed out a contradiction [between verses]. One verse says: ‘And the earth brought forth grass,’ referring to the third day [of Creation], whereas another verse, when speaking of the sixth day [of Creation] says: ‘No shrub of the field was yet in the earth.’ This teaches us that the plants commenced to grow but stopped just as they were about to break through the soil, until Adam came and prayed for rain for them; and when rain fell they sprouted forth. This teaches you that the Holy One, blessed be the Name, longs for the prayers of the righteous.” *
(Talmud Chulin 60B)
All through the days of Sukkot, in the chanting of Hallel, we weave our words of praise and gratitude together with our pleas—please, please!--Hosha-na! Save us! Save our fields and trees, earth and sky, our animals and crops—please, please!
And now, at this moment of Hoshana Raba--the Great Hoshana, the Last-Chance Hoshana, it’s time to up the ante, to focus our bodies, minds, and hearts like lasers and to open the floodgates of our souls as never before, to pray with our arms and legs, bellies and throats, to let our tears of gratitude and longing, bitterness and regret, shame and longing, water the Earth that we have failed to protect.
And what are we praying for?
We’re praying for everything and everyone we know and love!
For “the Aura of life”** and “the Illumination of Light,”
for “the Majesty of Sky” and the “Variety of the plants,”
for “the Infinity of Space,” for the fish, birds, insects--
for all life on this planet and for the Earth itself!
We pray for Earth’s beauty and aliveness!
We pray that we not go extinct!
We pray to stem the tide of eco-breakdown!
We pray for the wisdom to cleanse our air, cool our waters.
We are praying for “Bears and Babies, Fawns and Families,”
for all “Instinctual and Intelligent Life.”
Hosha-na, PLEASE, we are pleading
Because we don’t know what to do!
Help us see!
Help us know!
Help us act,
so that our children
and our children’s children
have a chance at life and breath,
joy and creativity and holy service
on this, our “rising, exuberant”*** Earth.
* translation by Rabbi Yoel Glick
** All the quotes are from original Hoshanot, prayers of pleading, written in 1998 by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi for a “subversive prayer action” organized by The Shalom Center and Elat Chayyim,
on the banks of the polluted Hudson River.
** Lewis Thomas