“Reading Ellen Bernstein's Toward a Holy Ecology is to partake in a garden of delights. She refreshes our reading of the Song by enlivening all of our senses." —Rabbi Nancy Flam, Co-founder National Center for Jewish Healing, and The Institute for Jewish Spirituality
Song of Songs is known as the erotic part of the Bible, but Ellen Bernstein shows how it is also an ancient source of deep ecological wisdom.
Toward a Holy Ecology is a new translation of this Hebrew text, illuminating the place of humans in the natural world and inviting you to develop a holy, ecological language for life.
This book sets the natural world before you with intensity and beauty, inviting you to savor it with all your senses. Then you are able to return to the world with a renewed clarity, love, and energy necessary for creating a healthier future for the earth and all her inhabitants.
Toward a Holy Ecology is for all who love the earth and its inhabitants—including outdoor enthusiasts, spiritual seekers, fellow poets, feminists, and students of the humanities, religion, and ecology. It will change how you see, how you speak, and how you live.
FOREWORD: Bill McKibben xi
Introduction: My Journey with the Song of Songs xiii
PART ONE: The Importance of the Song for an Ecological Age 1
PART TWO: Reading the Song Ecologically 9
Ecological Identity 11
Cycles of Time 16
PART THREE: The Song of Songs: An Ecological Commentary 39
ABOUT THE AUTHOR 149
“What happens when a rabbi with an expertise in biology reads the holiest and most sensuous book of the Bible? A fresh and arousing reading springs forth! Ellen Bernstein, founder of the first national Jewish environmental organization, offers an inspired ecological reading of the Song of Songs that will (re)kindle the reader’s love affair with the earth. Her writing is as rich as the Song is evocative. Her interpretive insights reflect a deep engagement with the Song’s poetic nuances. Cultivating an eros for creation, Rabbi Bernstein’s interpretation is exactly what today’s ‘earth keepers’ need for continuing the hard work of shalom-justice for the world. Call it ‘Fifty Shades of Green.’” —William P. Brown, The Seven Pillars of Creation: The Bible, Science and the Ecology of Wonder
“The lushness of Ellen Bernstein’s eco-sensitive commentary on the Song of Songs is worthy of the original, which says a great deal about the ingenuity and power of her work. Bernstein reads the Song of Songs as a love song to and from the earth, and in so doing, uncovers truths in this long-beloved text that are essential, moving, and needed. She describes the ‘archetypal intimacy between humans and nature’ that evolves throughout the Song, as lovers co-mingle with the land and love itself burgeons as spring arrives. Bernstein’s essential message, which she brilliantly derives from the text, is that ‘beauty calls us to love the world.’ This uplifting and enlivening book is an important and timely work—a wondrous gift to all who passionately love the earth, inviting us to find solace in the Bible’s most erotic and egalitarian text.” —Rabbi Jill Hammer, PhD, The Jewish Book of Days: A Companion for All Seasons
“Toward a Holy Ecology is a rich and illuminating commentary on the The Song of Songs. Ellen Bernstein brings a unique voice that skillfully weaves scholarly and poetic insight. Her book is accessible for everyone interested in how this iconic text carries a deep ecological wisdom.” —Mary Evelyn Tucker, Co-director, Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology
“Rabbi Ellen Bernstein’s masterful commentary reveals the Song’s profound vision of ecological wholeness and revives an embodied and earth-honoring tradition that is vitally needed today. This is an important, timely and beautiful book that deserves your attention.” —Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Judaism without Tribalism
“Reading Ellen Bernstein's Toward a Holy Ecology is to partake in a garden of delights. She refreshes our reading of the Song by enlivening all of our senses. Her penetrating and compelling thought is expressed with eminently accessible and beautiful prose. Just as she highlights the importance of time and timing in the text itself, her commentary appears at just the right time to nurture a deepened ecological and embodied spirituality of which the world stands in urgent need.” —Rabbi Nancy Flam, Co-founder National Center for Jewish Healing, and The Institute for Jewish Spirituality