[To expand these photos and see title, click on them]
36,000 of us saying: “There is no Plan-et B”
That was one of the signs at the “Forward on Climate” rally yesterday; yet it was what all of us were saying. Crowd estimates run up to 50,000. I’m perfectly happy to settle for 36,000, the mystical Jewish number based on the numerology that makes 18, chai, the number-symbol for “life.”
Life x 2,000= 36,000, = a strong, self-confident, creative, joyful movement to save our earth from the Carbon Pharaohs that are prepared to destroy it for their super-profits.
Said the last of the ancient prophets, Malachi, in the very last passage of his prophecies, speaking for God: “I, YHWH, the Holy Interbreathing Spirit of all life, will send you Elijah the Prophet to turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents, lest I come and smite the earth with utter destructions.”
I saw that prophecy carried out yesterday. Parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, their hearts united to save the earth from destruction. Across the generations! One man came up to me and asked, “How old are? I answered, “79.” He laughed and said, “I’m 86!” We honor 350.org and the Sierra Club for making this possible; yet still it’s true, we were all Elijah for each other.
For me, exactly in the metaphor of the generations turned toward each other, there were three especially poignant moments in the day:
One was when Rabbi David Seidenberg, of Neohasid.org, carrying the banner of The Shalom Center, stood with my bashert and life-partner, Rabbi Phyllis Berman; me; my son David Waskow, the climate point person on staff for OxfamAmerica; and in the center, my ten-year-old granddaughter Shifra Waskow. David Krantz of Green Zionist Alliance took the photo. Elsewhere in the crowd were delegates from the Teva Jewish experiential environmental education center, the Beyt Midrash and Kayyam Farm at Pearlstone Center.
We were CLOSE bundled up;: it was a bitterly cold and windy day in Washington. But the energy of 36,000 committed people raised the political temperature, our spirits, and the Spirit.
The second was meeting Rabbi Ed Harris and teacher Jennifer Bersdale, who were in Washington with 19 ninth-graders of Central Reform Synagogue of St. Louis. They who saw The Shalom Center’s email Call to this rally, and came. Rabbi Harris invited me to give a brief word of Torah to the ninth-graders, and I did. (Photo of the class heads this essay; here’s another, with me teaching:)
I told them about three words of Hebrew: How adam (human earthling) and adamah (earth/ humus) are intertwined in reality just as the words are interlinked; and YHWH, pronounced YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, is the Interbreath of Life: We breathe in the Oxygen the trees breathe out, and the trees breathe in the CO2 we breathe out. When we humans burn too much fossil fuel, the CO2 in our air gets out of balance, and we have global scorching, the Climate Crisis. What we call the Climate Crisis, I said, is a crisis in the Name of God. And that’s why we were marching, to heal the climate, make the balance right.
The third moment was seeing two kids, about eight years old, sitting on a car. One was carrying a placard saying: ”When I’m President, it’ll be TOOLATE.” I took a photo, then walked up to the kids and said, “I swear to you, it will NOT be too late! –- We will make it OK!”
And we must. Here is our next effort: Toward the end of March, during the week of Passover/ Holy Week, The Shalom Center, working with Interfaith Moral Action on Climate (IMAC), Judson Memorial Church in NYC, and other Jewish, Christian, & Muslim groups around the country, will initiate an action of Freedom for Earth from the Climate Pharaohs & Caesars of our generation.
We are offering a blueprint for Freedom for Earth, but communities everywhere can shape it as they will.
The actions, deeply rooted in spiritual commitment to heal the Earth and in biblical teachings and texts, will face the “Climate Pharaohs/ Caesars” of our generation, will name the Ten Plagues they are bringing about, and will affirm Ten Healings of action to heal the Earth from these plagues.
The basic concept was actually used in Philadelphia and New York City last year, when the Jewish and Christian festival weeks also coincided. (Although there is no Muslim festival in this period, a considerable proportion of the Quran speaks about the Exodus, and another portion about the life of Jesus; so we hope Muslims will also feel drawn to this action.)
The focus this year is intended to be climate disruption and global scorching. And we will celebrate the Ten Healings. (The traditional Passover Seder recites Ten Plagues of the Exodus story, but does not match them with Ten Healings.) IMAC intends to stir grass-roots communities to undertake this celebration on Wednesday evening, March 27. This date can draw on the traditional practices and symbols of Palm Sunday and Passover without invading Palm Sunday itself, the first two evenings of Passover with their Seders (Monday and Tuesday), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Shabbat, or Easter Sunday.
We imagine beginning by a Palm Procession that starts from some gathering place — perhaps a church or synagogue — and going out to one or two centers of Climate Pharaoh/ Caesar (e.g. an office of BP or Exxon, a coal company poisoning both the planetary atmosphere and a local neighborhood where the smoke causes a high incidence of asthma, a bank that invests in the destruction of West Virginia mountains in order to mine coal, etc). This Palm Procession might perhaps reach there at about 4:30 pm, while people are still working there, and stay to 5:30, so pedestrians on the streets as they leave their work can see the palms and placards, hear the songs and chants.
Then people might come back to the gathering point for a simple Interfaith Seder for the Earth, drawing on the symbols of the Seder in new ways — Ten Plagues, Ten Healings; the greens of spring & earth reborn; the matzah that becomes the bread of liberation when we share it; the bitter herb of sorrow for those who have died or suffered from floods and famines; the delicious charoset that betokens the joyful earthy eros of the Song of Songs (a traditional Passover reading). And Questions. –probably more than Four.
So the Palm Procession might start at 4 or 4:15, return about 5:45. Then the Seder could begin about 6:15 and end about 7:30.
Make a recurring donation and receive Freedom Journeys as our token of appreciation. Click here for more info about the book. Freedom Journeys is a deep meditation on the timeless—and timely—relevance of the Exodus narrative. In the grand tradition of mystical exegesis, Waskow and Berman reflect upon Exodus not only as an event that happened “then” and “there”, but a paradigm of movement that is happening here and in the now, for all of us, Jew and Muslim, Black and White, male and female. —Omid Safi, professor of Islamic studies, University of North Carolina.