Reb Arthur's Latest Thoughts

Heal Earth & America: Honor Transformative McKibben, Royster, Wilansky -- May 21

 Sow the Seeds of Transformative Leadership;

Stand Today with Seed-Sowers for Spirit, Justice, Beauty

Even as fear and danger rise, something new is emerging in our world. At Standing Rock, we saw activism braiding culture, spirituality, and politics so seamlessly that no one could pull them apart, and so powerfully that its force reverberated around the globe.

The Water Protectors inspired our work going forward to achieve planetary and social justice. They expressed the life-giving unity that echoes in Jews’ daily repetition of the Sh’ma, the exhortation to listen deeply to the truth that the Source of Life is One.

To catalyze future action, to mark the moment, to rise in the face of terrible forces and persist, we are gathering in Philadelphia on May 21st to honor three towering figures who understand this new, indivisible power to move hearts, minds, and miracles. This moment is calling you in:

Please join us to attend “Sowing Seeds of Transformative Leadership”

<https://theshalomcenter.org/civicrm/event/register?id=17&reset=1>  --

whether in person, to  contribute to a young activist’s participation, or  to contribute your personal message of hope and honor to the Tribute Book being assembled for this event. -- even if you cannot make it to Philadelphia.

Please be aware that after May 7, the contribution level rises – so act NOW!

However you help, you make it possible to advance The Shalom Center’s work in taking on our own new transformative direction. See below for what we mean!

 At the same time, you will be honoring these transformative leaders:

  • Bill McKibben, world-renowned leader of  350.org and of campaigns against the Keystone XL Tar Sands dirty-oil Pipeline  -- now exploring the next step to resist the Trumpian feverish insistence on wrecking Mother Earth and subjecting our kids to lead and mercury poisoning.
  • Bishop Dwayne Royster, former director of POWER in Philadelphia, instigator of POWER’s jobs-and-climate alliance with EQAT (Earth Quaker Action Team); now the political director of PICO, the national umbrella for religious congregation-based community organizing, with a special involvement with African-American and Latino communities; and

  • Sophia Wilansky, the young anti-pipeline organizer who, after stints working against oil-delivery pipelines in New England and New York, came to Standing Rock as a Water Protector and was cruelly wounded by the militarized police. Sophia will be introduced by Chief Dwaine Perry of the Ramapough Lenape, recently featured by the NY Times for his Nation’s resistance to yet another water-poisoning pipeline.

What is more, even if you think you already know what and who The Shalom Center  is, “Seeds of Transformative Leadership“ is a restart-place for us as well. We will sow our own seeds of transformation. Here’s how:

Almost all scientists and even the most climate-sensitive political activists have accepted that the best we can achieve is bare survival in the midst of continuing climate turmoil, because even ending all CO2 emissions will leave gigantic amounts of CO2 wreaking havoc in the atmosphere.

We have started working with scientists who are looking toward a more compelling vision –– that our children and grandchildren live once again in the Earth’s climate joyful and abundant as it was for our parents and grandparents.

That means getting many many tons of CO2 out of our atmosphere. It can be done – but it will be expensive for our society as a whole. Many politicians simply assume that ends the discussion --- especially in a political situation where Corporate Carbon Pharaohs are willing to wreck the Earth to multiply their profits.

 How do we change this? How do we make a new vision of our relationship to Mother Earth one that inspires people into action?

The scientists who see this also realize that science alone cannot make the necessary social change happen.. They – and we – see the religious communities of America as a sleepy, yawning giant whose energy and commitment are crucial to make the vision real. 

 

So The Shalom Center has been invited to convene and guide a network of diverse religious teachers and liturgists to make this happen  -- by making the goal part of religious life. Creating the sermonic, educational, and liturgical materials to do this, and getting them widely used in the religious communities. 

We cannot do this without your help, your commitment –--  your covenant.  That begins on May 21.

It is no accident that these three transformative people agreed to be with us. Now it is up to you:

Please join with us by filling out this registration page:

https://theshalomcenter.org/civicrm/event/register?id=17&reset=1  Remember --  After May 7, the contribution level rises – so act NOW!

With our deepest gratitude and freshest hope in this season of renewal,

Arlene Goldbard,  President of The Shalom Center


Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director

 

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Cleaning out the Climate Chumetz

 Torah teaches us that as Passover begins we must clean from our houses all traces of "chumetz” -- leavening, yeast, whatever makes our bread rise and our cucumbers turn sour.

The Hasidic communities interpreted this to mean whatever makes our selves, our egos,  swell up and turn sour. So Passover, they said, is the time to get rid of the Pharaoh inside us, what turns us from "grown-ups" to "blown-ups," whatever tugs us toward domination rather than community.

In our generation, this certainly means moving away from the habits that dominate, subjugate, and endanger Mother Earth. In our generation, energy is food. And the most dangerous, most ego-swelling chumetz that we "eat" are fossil fuels. Burning them is the most dangerous thing we do because the C02 and methane this emits are burning up our planet.

So let us make a commitment this Passover that we will take the steps to clear our common home, our Earth, from this destructive chumetz.

 At the Seder, let us make three pledges to each other:

1. During or very soon after Passover, we will invite ten of our neighbors to gather in our living room to discuss what it would mean to create a neighborhood solar-energy co-op.

 2.  During the next two weeks, our senators and congressmembers are at home. We will invite the same ten neighbors to make an appointment to meet with one of these officials to urge that they support national policies to heal our Earth from the climate crisis, and that they will oppose all efforts to impose upon us the chumetz of burning fossil fuels.

3. During Passover, we will send serious contributions of money to organizations that are bringing deep spiritual values into working for eco-social justice and against the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs at three levels -– to heal our neighborhoods from asthma caused by coal dust and oil-refinery fumes; to heal whole regions from the poisoned air and water caused by oil-bearing pipelines; and to heal the Earth and prevent climate chaos by moving quickly to the use of wind and solar energy.

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Earth Day Activity

We are planning a communitywide service and teach-in on Earth Day at Congregation Shir Shalom in Buffalo. The purpose is to make people aware that science is warning us of impending danger, and our religions teach us about our stewardship of the planet. The teach-in part will discuss climate change and other environmental issues, and how we can influence our leaders, and how we can make a difference in our individual lives. I like the idea of Chumetz and the cleaning out the Chumetz from the Earth.

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Bringing Elijah truly into the Passover Seder

"Elijah Turning  the Hearts of Parents and Children to Each Other Lest the Earth be Devastated"

 On the Shabbat just before Passover, traditionally we read a passage from the last of the classical Hebrew Prophets –-- Malachi.  It cries out:

"Here! The day is coming that will flame like a furnace, says the Infinite YHWH / Breath of Life, when all the arrogant and all evil-doers, root and branch, will like straw be burnt to ashes.

Yet for those of you who revere My Name, YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Breath that breathes all life, a sun of justice will arise with healing in its wings.

“Here! Before the coming of the great and awesome day of YHWH/ the Breath of Life, I will send you the Prophet Elijah to turn the hearts of parents to children and the hearts of children to parents, lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction." (Malachi 3: 20-21, 23-24.)

This teaching can make a powerful difference in our Passover Seder, where there is a tradition to open the door to welcome the Prophet Elijah.  Out of Jewish suffering in the Middle Ages came the outcry at that moment of opening the door: “Pour out Your wrath on the nations that do not respond to Your Unity, Your Call to love each other!"

But far better in our generation would be to open the door for Elijah and say:

“Holy One, We open this door to open ourselves to all of Earth and all Humanity. We take upon ourselves the mission of Elijah. We will act now before the Breath of Life becomes a searing hurricane. We will turn our own hearts to the lives of our grandchildren; we will work to create for them a world as fruitful and as beautiful as the world of our grandparents. We invite their hearts to learning from the deepest teachings of the Wisdom we inherited -- that together we can yet avert the utter devastation of Your Earth."

Let us search more deeply into Malachi’s Prophetic outcry:  Why this danger and this chance for healing?

"You are defrauding Me!" says God. "You fail to share My abundance with the poor and landless, you will not bring the common wealth into the common storehouse. Only if you turn back to My teaching will the locusts vanish from your fields. Only then, if you will share My rain of blessings on your harvests, will I pour those blessings down from Heaven." (Malachi 3: 8-11)

Let us open our ears and hearts to Malachi speaking to our own generation:

"Here! If you oppress the poor, impoverish workers, and wring super-profits from the earth to plump the rich and powerful, the Earth itself will suffer a planetary scorching. If you turn My Breath, My Air, into a furnace, not only the arrogant pharaohs of your day will suffer, but also all life and humankind, as all Egypt suffered from the arrogance of Pharaoh long ago.

"Already droughts scorch your continents, already your waters boil into typhoons and hurricanes, already the ice melts and your sea-coasts flood, already your birds and insects and diseases migrate where there is no place to weave them into the healing web of life.

"Yet even now you can turn away from arrogance and greed, from the fires of coal and oil and unnatural gas; even now you can turn to sharing the abundance that still flowers from the Earth, even now you can turn to the solar energy and the winged wind that rise from a sun of justice and tranquility to heal your planet.

“Most urgent: BE Elijah, turning the hearts of the  generations to each other, to save the Earth from devastation!”

 

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Till Next April 4: Creating #MLK50Awake -- A Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation

Dr. King Beckons Us:

Beginning a Year of Truth & Transformation

Toward the 50th Anniversary of his Death

April 4, 2017, marked the 50th anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s prophetic sermon, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” at The Riverside Church in New York.  April 4, 2018, will b the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

During the last year of his life, he struggled in the midst of war and governmental abandonment of the poor to create new multiracial, multi-religious coalitions of action -- coalitions rooted in the spiritual vision of a society committed not to "things" but to people.

This was the heart of his prophetic gift to America:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. . . . . When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. … We are confronted by the fierce urgency of Now.”

As he faced a government obsessed with an immoral and destructive war, today we face the US government's extraordinary efforts to expand the overwhelming wealth and power of the few, and to subjugate the poor, Black and Brown communities, Muslims and oher religious minorities, immigrants, women, those who identify as LGBTQ, those who need medical care, the press, the working and middle class, and even our all-nurturing Mother Earth.

The speech and many thoughtful comments on its meaning and its history are at the website <MLK50.org>

In Washington DC, on  April 4, we gathered at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church for a teach-in: reflection on Dr. King’s message, followed by action.  We began with an intergenerational and interfaith conversation about our current moral crisis with Sister Simone Campbell (“Nuns on the Bus”); Rabbi David Saperstein (former Director, Religious Action Ctnter of Reform Judaism); Imam Talib Shareef (Masjid Muhammad); and Rev Anthony Grimes (Fellowship of Reconciliation & Black Lives Matter).

Workshops and teach-ins on the triplets of racism, materialism and militarism followed. 

The day culminated with a multi-religious Call to Prayerful Action by leaders from Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, and Bahai communities, and then rousing calls by Rev. Aundreia Alexander (Associate General Secretary, National Council of Churches) and Bishop Dwayne Royster (Political Director, PICO National Network)  sending the community forth on a March to the White House where we held a Vigil till a minute of silence at 6:01 pm, the moment of Dr. King's death 49 years ago.

Around the country —at Riverside Church in New York with Rev. William Barber and Ruby Sales and Michelle Alexander, in Memphis with Rev. Barber again, in Boston and a myriad other places, in the pages of the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Washington Post and Tikkun and Sojourners and with Democracy Now, the Stony Point Center and the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the National Council of Elders and the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee and the “US Department of Arts and Culture” (not a government agency!) and Interfaith Moral Action on Climate and in many many more places — the “Beyond Vietnam” prophetic utterance was lifted up. Later this month the Ecumenical Days of Advocacy by many Christian leaders will focus the triplets of Racism, Materialism, and Militarism.

 I see this as a beginning for all of us. I hope we will keep in touch with each other . I invite each and all of us to send our thoughts and plans to <MLK50.org> as we continue to unfold the meaning of Dr. King's prophetic outcry into this year ahead, the Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation.

And I hope we will start planning now for one year from now at the fifieth anniversary of Dr. King's death. It is already clear there will be a great outpouring.  Let us make sure it will address the profound and prophetic depth of Dr. King.

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Tell Amazon: Passover is Deadline to Stop Advertising in Breitbart

 I have just sent the following letter to Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, urging him -- with a Passover deadline -- to stop funding Breitbart wth his advertising.  I am serious about the Passover deadline for me,  and am ready to spread the word and then to act on it. Feel free — especially free, superlatively free!  — to join me.  Write Mr. Bezos, using the address below. And if Amazon won't announce it has dropped Breitbart by the time you gather at the Seder table -- Then ask your Seder-mates to join you in putting your matzah where your mouth is— NOT paying for a racist, Islamophobic, anti-Semitic megaphone.

NOTE TO READERS:

If you wish to write Mr. Bezos, please write directly to <jeff@amazon.com>!   Glad for you to write a comment below (click on "Read more"), but only writing as shown will reach him. --  Shalom, Reb Arthur

Shalom, Arthur


To: <jeff@amazon.com>

Subject: Passover deadline for changes in Amazon's advertising practice

Dear Mr Bezos,

I am a Rabbi — which means  I  know something about both Jewish tradition and Jewish history. From both I know that it is unethical, immoral, and both murderous and suicidal to put money in the pockets  of racists, Islamophobes, and anti-Semites.

Breitbart is a megaphone for all of these. And Amazon supports those murderous falsehoods by advertising there.

I am also the director of an organization with 13,000 members and readers who abhor racism, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism.

And I am also a Prime Member of Amazon. I certainly cannot stomach putting my money into Breitbart’s pocket.

You may need a little time to make the necessary changes to  achieve honest ethics and good business.  Passover is three weeks away.    It is the festival of freedom not only for Jews but for every human being. (The Passover Haggadah says, “In every generation, every human being must look upon him/herself as if WE, not our ancestors only,  go forth from slavery to freedom.”)     

Three weeks should be plenty of time to turn your pocketbook to good as I am sure your heart is turned toward good. So if by Passover,  the evening of April 10, Amazon announces that it has withdrawn all advertising from  Breitbart, I will be glad to keep buying books and chochkes from Amazon. If not, not.

Shalom, salaam, peace, Earth!— 

        Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph.D., founded (1983) and directs The Shalom Center, a prophetic voice in the Jewish, multireligious, and American worlds for justice, peace, and healing of the Earth. <https://theshalomcenter.org>.  

 

NOTE TO SHALOM CENTER MEMBERS & READERS:

Please write directly to <jeff@amazon.com>!   Glad for you to write a comment below (click on "Read more"), but only writing as shown will reach him. --  Shalom, Reb Arthur



   

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Breitbart

The United States was founded on religious freedom and has learned to to respect all. Especially at Passover, let us not go back to hatred and prejudice.

advertising in Breitbert is

advertising in Breitbert is against all of the ideals of America - do not contribute to hate - I am passing this on to my family so they can stop using Amazon if this advetrising continues

funding Brietbart News

I have already disabled my 2 credit cards on line so I have not used amazon for the past 2 months and will continue to do so until you stop advertising in--ie funding--Brietbart News.

Amazon

I am a very frequent Amazon buyer. But if they do not comply I will join by pausing any Amazon purchases.

Rabbi Waskow thank you so

Rabbi Waskow thank you so much for posting this and I also than Dr. Jerry Folk for reposting. Aside from registering my disgust, I will spread the word. Whether they cease advertising or not is of really no concern to me at this point. The sheer fact they engaged in this advertising is enough for me to cease buying from them....probably not their biggest loss but significant nonetheless. Thank you. Melinda (Storey) Weisberg

We are watching

Please understand the repercussions of your choices. I have been an Amazon user for a long time. Until you make changes with your support of perpetuating a negative agenda, I will not be using my credit card nor purchasing anything thru your site. Do the right thing.

You may be unaware that you

You may be unaware that you are advertising on Breitbart News but now that you are aware you should stop supporting a fake news outlet that also fosters hate.

I am sure that there are many

I am sure that there are many alternative advertising sights to Breitbart. Your shame yourself and your company and all the employees by advertising there. You can do better.

thank you Rabbi and please stop Amazon

Pease stop supporting Breitbart news...it is time to take a stand against hate. I am an Amazon Prime customer but will not continue if Amazon does not discontinue advertising with Brietbart news. Thank you.

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Jewish Gravestones Toppled, Mosques Torched, Sioux Water Endangered, ICE Cops Go Wild: How Come?

How Come?

Are these moments connected?

In Philadelphia yesterday, hundreds of gravestones in a Jewish cemetery were toppled.

In Tampa yesterday, a mosque was burned.

In Standing Rock, North Dakota, a careful legal memo written by a Justice Department lawyer detailing the right of the Sioux Nation to protect its land and water was thrown in the garbage by command of the White House and bulldozers resumed tearing through Sioux graves and driving out the Water Protectors.

In the Fort Lauderdale Airport,  Muhammad Ali’s son – a US citizen -- was detained and  grilled for hours by federal agents about whether he was a Muslim.

In the Philadelphia Daily News, columnist Will Bunch drew together reports of Immigration officers reveling in cruel and pointless humiliation of American Muslims and brownish “foreigners.”  See <http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/attytood/Just-following-orders-Trumps-goon-squad-goes-wild.html>

Are these moments connected? Indeed they are. When a fish rots, the stink begins at the head.

The stink of cruelty and subjugation begins in the White House, and it infects not only those under direct orders but those “volunteers,” those civilians whose worst bendings of the soul are glorified by the White House, and whose best impulses toward compassion and truth are met with sneers and contempt.

These moments are indeed connected. And so must be our response, as it already has been. Muslims raised money and brought their bodies to repair Jewish gravestones. A Jewish woman suffered the mangling of her arm by a police-fired concussion grenade because she steadfastly insisted on being a Water Protector for the Sioux of Standing Rock. And those are but a few of the glowing lights of love.

For years, The Shalom Center has focused most of our attention on those whose greed for Hyperwealth and drive for domination are destroying our common home, the Earth wherein we live. We call them the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs because, like Pharaoh in our ancient story in the ancient Bible, they subjugate human communities and they bring Plagues upon the Earth.

As the Bible tells the story --

“Then a new king came to power in the Land that became Tight and Narrow. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘The Godwrestling People have become far too numerous for us. Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous And, if war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us, and rise up over the country.’

“So they put police over them to oppress them.”

 Sound familiar? The morning papers report – The White House is preparing a Federal budget that will slash civilian spending   -- on pure water, truthful teachers, swift railroads, skilled doctors, justice-pursuing lawyers -- and ramp up the military money that already outdoes all the other  military establishments and terrorist arsenals in the world, put together.

 Racism, militarism, and materialism are the three deadly “triplets” endangering America, said Martin Luther King on April 4, 1967, fifty years ago, exactly one year before he was murdered.

We need “a radical revolution of values,” said Martin Luther King on April 4, 1967, fifty years ago. 

We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society [where] machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people -- to a “person-oriented” society,” said Martin Luther King on April 4, 1967, fifty years ago. 

We are confronted by the fierce urgency of Now,”  he said.

Today the urgency of Now is even fiercer.

We must end the subjugation of the Earth, of women, of Blacks and Muslims and Mexicans and Jews and Sioux and of the white working-class and lower-middle class people who in despair and rage voted for their enemy.

The fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s most profound and prophetic sermon-speech should be a time for us to gather, to relearn his wisdom and to act with as much courage as he did. Already networks are gathering to do this. (See https://MLK50.org.)

We are in this together. That is the only truth the White House is trying to teach us, precisely with its myriad lies. If we focus on different issues, it is because the issues are different the way the pieces in a jigsaw puzzle are different. They fit together in a wholeness of Truth.

And so must we.

With blessings of Truth, Justice, and Peace –-- the three pillars which, the ancient Rabbis said, make it possible for the world to stand. And then one of them added, “These are not three, but one!”   --  Arthur

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Thank you!

Thank you for connecting these acts of violence and hatred with the new administration's actions and tone. We must, as Americans, stand for love and reconciliation, and work to build true justice in the United States.

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Why is Purim Close to Passover?

When they shaped the Jewish calendar, the Rabbis decided that seven  times in a cycle of 19 years, we must insert an extra month of Adar to keep the Jewish calendar in tune with the solar year as well as the lunar moonth.  Why was that important? They said it was to keep Passover in the spring. Otherwise,  it would circle through the solar year the way Ramadan does in the purely lunar Muslim calendar.

They also decided that whenever there was an extra Adar, the festival of Purim should always be in the  second Adar, to keep it  close to Pesach.  

This raises two questions: Why did they think Passover must always come in Spring; and why did they think Purim should stay close to Pesach?

 I think they had politico-spiritual reasons for both decisions. Let's take up th second question first:

Both festivals are about the overthrow of a tyrant: Purim in early spring when the trees are putting on their fresh costumes, at a time when the Earth and human earthlings are redolent wth bawdy laighter — and Megillat Esther is a doubling of a classic bawdy satirical joke  — the first Purimshpiel.

In that sense, Purim is an experiment in overcoming tyrants through laughter — as Saturday Night Live is aimed at our own pompous, cruel, and vicious rulers.

That is the nusach, the melody, of early spring. Then comes the nusach of “serious” spring. With Passover, YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change,  becomes a Hurricane of Transformation. Is the sequence a reminder that we should began overthrowing our tyrants with laughter and if that is insufficient, we need to turn to more “serious" measures of resistance?

Just to clarify why I said the Megillah is a double joke:  

Haman starts the anti-Jewish action that ends up destroying him (even the same gallows he had intended for Mordechai ends up hanging him). A bloody joke, of the classic "hoist on his own petard” form.

AND — there is in the Megillah another joke of the same form, less bloody: Ahasuerus starts the action going with his put-down of Queen Vashti — women must not disobey men. And the result of his own anti-feminist tyranny is that he abjectly obeys what a woman -- Queen Esther -- tells him to do.

 

 

(Look carefully at the King. Here we see what Ahasuerus looks lke in our generation, with Haman lurking just behind.)

Anti-Semitism & anti-feminism go hand in hand (as they do in our present White House). Indeed, there is ancient midrash that says the courtier Memucan, who advised the King to get rid of Vashti, was Haman in disguise! Ahasuerus may seem to be a pompous, empty-headed, self-obsessed fool -- but remember, he affirms Haman's tyrannical plot.

It seems to me that every generation of Jewish renewal, including the one that created the Pesach Seder and the one that wrote the Purimshpiel Megillah and the one that wrote Isaiah’s original challenge to the fasters of Yom Kippur and the one that set Isaiah as the Haftarah for Yom Kippur   and the one in which the same Heschel who said that his legs were praying
when he was at Selma marching against racism also said that prayer was meaningless unless it was subversive  — all these knew that “liturgy” and “activism” were indivisible.  

Now the other question: Why must Pesach come in Spring? First of all, carefully reading the Torah's description of the first celebratory commemoration pf the Exodus reveals that the Passover of the Temple period of Jewish history -- with the offering of the "paschal" lamb and the eating of matzah -- was crafted from two spring festivals: the shepherd's spring festival of lambing, and the farmers' spring festival of new unleavened bread. The intense hot moment of a social upheaval melted them into one.

But this connection of Exodus with Spring is more than an echo from he ancient past: As the flowers rise up against winter, so the People rise up against Pharaoh. The Rabbis decreed that the Song  of Songs must be sung during Pesach. In the same way, the workers day of rebellion, May Day, tracks the "pagan" celebration of Spring -- the May Day of the May Pole and sexual renewal.

Not only are "liturgy" and "activism" indivisible, so are the rhythms of the Earth and the rhythms of social transformation. 

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Torah for Tumultuous Times: April 2017

“April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory with desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.”



So said T.S. Eliot, riffing on Walt Whitman’s

"When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd ...

I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring"

about the April death of Abraham Lincoln.  Lincoln was our greatest President because he was the one who did the most — not then or yet enough — to wrench America loose from the inheritance of slavery and to breed an expanded democracy out of the bleeding land.

Mixing memory with desire: The recipe for the Pesach Seder, usually in April, breeding freedom, past and future, out of the Narrow Land and its Narrow Pharaoh.

April — the cruellest month of American history, the yohrzeit month of Lincoln, FDR, and Martin Luther King,

This April,  we face our own Pharaoh, the American President who is already the worst, stifling democracy and choking Earth at every breath:

Then a new king came to power in the Land that became Tight and Narrow.

“Look,” he said to his people,

“The Godwrestling People have become far too numerous for us.

Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous

And, if war breaks out, they will join our enemies, fight against us

And rise up over  the country.”

So they put police over them to oppress them.

So this April, there will be a series of Shabbatot that beg for focusing Torah on tikkun olam, the healing of our country and the wounded Land of every country  --  Earth.

(1) April 1,  Vayikra.  This Shabbat immediately precedes the 50th anniversary (on April 4) of Martin Luther King's most  profound & prophetic sermon, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” given at Riverside Church in NYC with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel beside him on the bima.

I recommend using passages from this sermon as Haftarah. Do we need a warrant to name MLK a Navi? — Almost a year after the prophetic "Beyond Vitnam" sermon, Heschel spoke to the Rabbinical Assembly, introducing MLK and saying:

"Where in America do we hear a voice
Like the voice of the prophets of Israel?
Martin Luther King is a sign that
God has not forsaken the United States of America. …
Martin Luther King is a voice, a vision and a way.
I call upon every Jew
To hearken to his voice,
To share his vision,
To follow his way.
The whole future of America will depend upon
the impact and influence of Dr. King.”


And ten days later, on April 4, 1968, completing precisely a year from that Prophetic sermon,  Dr. King was murdered. Was that "America's" response to him? Did that murder define the whole future of America? Or is that future once more in our hands?

The whole “Beyond Vietnam” sermon, comments on it, and suggestions for action are on the new website <http://MLK50.org>. I hope that our congregations and all congregations and communities will on that weekend and/or on April 4 itself gather to read King’s prophetic words, discuss them in the light of our own lives, and decide together what actions we could take that would be worthy of King’s wisdom and his courage.

2)  April 8, Shabbat HaGadol. Check carefully the “HaGadol” haftarah, which warns of the Earth being consumed in a furnace of heat but says the “wings” of a just and righteous sun can remedy the danger (solar & wind energy?). The very end calls for the Prophet Elijah to turn the hearts of parents & children to each other lest the Earth be utterly destroyed.

    • Perfect text for  climate crisis, leading into Pesach & the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs of today, bringing Plagues upon the Earth.  
    • Perfect text for calling pre-B'nei Mitzvah kids & the rest of the congregation to stand and face each other, and to have both generations pledge to become Elijah so as to heal the Earth from danger.  
    • Perfect text to welcome Elijah to the Seder.


3)  April 16, Shabbat Chol Ha’Moed Pesach. The Haftarah is Ezekiiel’s “Dry Bones,” given new life by oft-repeated “Ruach" — obscured by most translations by using “breath," “wind” & “spirit” in different contexts, making it hard to realize they ae all the same. This can be used in many ways — the desiccated bones of US democracy needing Ruach to revive, the planet afflicted by drought as well as flood, etc etc.

(4) April 22,  Shmini and Earth Day. The parashah defines what is kosher. It would be relatively easy to craft divrei Torah about eco-kashrut. In doing that, it would be important to keep in mind that what Reb Zalman z’l and I had in mind was NOT just about food but about other elements that we humans (who are no longer chiefly shepherds & farmers) “eat” from the Earth.  — e.g. coaL, oil, uranium.  In our generation, energy is “food.”

What are the rules for the kosher eating of this food? (See my chapter, “What Is Eco-Kosher?” in my book Down-to-Earth Judaism.)

(5) April 29:  Tazria/Metzora and People’s Climate March/ Movement Shabbat.

I think the most relevant texts would be the two Haftarot.

(a) One is about how the lepers who are living (starving) on the margins of Israelite society end up becoming its saviors. It could be the focus of an affirmation of our various "outsiders” and a warning  not to squash those people because “the stone that the builders rejected is the cornerstone of the House.”   Warning: Don't make Muslims pariahs.

(b) Directly relevant to Climate concerns is the other Haftarah, in the context of Standing Rock’s “Water is Life.” General Naaman’s life is saved by dunking him in the Jordan River. At first he is scornful of the life-giving powers of such a piddling stream, but It Works!   Water IS Life!!  



Last week I sent out a mailing that calls for us to walk three paths in the period of the Trump-Bannon-Pence presidency: Resist, Rethink, Recreate. I hope these thoughts about the Shabbatot of April  will help stir our juices to the Rethinking that both Jewish and American peoplehoods need today.

 

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The Loooong Narrow Pharaoh and the Midwives Who Gave Birth to Freedom

The Short Colorful Passover Gift-Books for Kids & Their Grown-Ups
As Passover approaches, you may find especially delicious a colorful way to share the story with your children or grandchildren, your friends' kids, your Seder hosts and guests, and for that matter with grown-ups who are open to laughng at loooong narrow pharaohs of the past as well as the present.  

 



That’s what our words and the wonderful pictures by Avi Katz (a creative illustrator for the Jerusalem Report)  do with this new brief and colorful book --  The Loooong Narrow Pharaoh and the Midwives  Who Gave Birth to Freedom.  We share a new story of both resistance to a cruel ruler and the birthing of a new community.

(Or maybe it's not just an old story, since the Pharaoh tried to incite hatred of an immigrant community who talked a strange languag and had a different religion. Uncannily familiar, maybe? )

(Anyway, the story we tell sure is new --  Like, Did you ever hear it was really the midwives who inspired and led the Exodus itself? Was that a secret, long kept hidden by the men who wrote our Bibles?  Or was it --- shshsh!)

The long narrow Pharaoh ordered two midwives, Shifra and Puah -- to kill the boy-babies of that immigrant community, the Cross-Over People.  BUT ---



 

AND THEN --  (Sh-sh-sh, you remember that Women's March last January, all over America and all around the world?)

But we don't want to spoil the story by telling what happens next.  Get the book to find out!

You can order The Loooong Narrow Pharaoh and the Midwives  Who Gave Birth to Freedom  by clicking here:

<https://www.amazon.com/Looooong-Narrow-Pharaoh-Midwives-Freedom/dp/069275721X>  

At the bottom of the same Amazon page you’ll find another of our books,  The Rest of Creation, and you can buy them both together.  Here’s a page from that one:





So —  who explained to God why there needed to be a day of resting from Creation? And who came up with exactly the right name for the day? Read the book to find out!

If you want to make an extra gift to The Shalom Center without any additional cost to you, you can start -- before you begin shopping -- by going to  AmazonSmile (smile.amazon.com), and naming The Shalom Center (the one in Philadelphia) as  the organization to receive Amazon’s donations of a percentage of your purchases.

We promise that you and your kids and grandkids, nephews and nieces,  your neighbors' children -- will enjoy the time you share reading and  looking together at the colorful pictures in these books.

 We've tested the books by telling them as stories in many synagogues on Friday evening and some churches on Sunday morniing, and find that adults enjoy them too.

Grown-ups, kids, and YOU will enjoy learning how “the Bible, “the Torah,” can become seeds of creativity rather than narrow strictures of rigidity. We ourselves can leave behind our own Narrow Pharaoh to become the midwives of our freedom.

Remember -- you can order the book through Amazon by clicking here:
https://www.amazon.com/Looooong-Narrow-Pharaoh-Midwives-Freedom/dp/069275721X


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Tu B'Shvat/ YAH B'Shvat: 4 Teachings, 4 Worlds, ONE Tree

 

     
 

This year the festival of Tu B'Shvat -- the ReBirthDay of earthly trees and of the supernal Tree of Life, falls on Friday evening Febuary 10/ Saturday February 11.  For a unique treasury of history, wisdom, and practtiuice of Tu B'Shvat that will help ylu celbrate Tu B'Shvat, see the book Trees, Earth, and Torah (publ by Indiana Univ Press for the Jewish Publication Society, ed. by Ari Elon, Rabbi Naomi Mara Hyman, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow). Available from Amazon.

These four teachings might be included in the passages read for the four courses of the Tu B’Shvat Seder, marking the Four Worlds of reality through which the Kabbalists of Tzfat 500 years ago shaped the mystical Seder of God’s ReBirthDay on the full Moon of Midwinter.  

1. Asiyah, Physical Actuality: The foods of the Tu B’Shvat Seder (this year, Sunday evening  January 24) are nuts and fruit, the rebirthing aspects of a plant's life-cycle. They are the only foods whose eating requires no death, not even the death of a plant (like the radish or the Bitter Herb in the Pesach Seder).  Our living trees send forth their fruit and seeds in such profusion that they overflow beyond the needs of the next generation. This is the sacred meal of Eden, the Garden of Delight. The sacred meal of Mashiach-zeit, the Messianic Age.  

2. Yetzirah, Relationship: The four cups of wine for the Tu B’Shvat Seder are white; white with a drop of red to become pink; red with a drop of white to become rose;  red. Red and white were in ancient tradition seen as the colors of  generativity. To mix them was to mix the blood and semen that to the ancients connoted procreation. The Seder celebrates rebirth in all its forms throughout the world.  

3. Briyyah, Creative Intellect: In two separate epiphanies, Rabbi Phyllis Berman and Ari Elon pointed out that the conventional name for the festival of the Trees’ ReBirthDay names it in a constricted, fearful way. The festival comes on the 15th day (the Full Moon) of the midwinter lunar “moonth” of Shvat, and “Tu” is  made up of two Hebrew letters, Tet and Vav, that numerically are “9+6,” making 15. But this way of counting is an anomaly. Normally with numbers in the teens we say the letters for “10+x,” not “”9+y.”  That would mean “Yod-Aleph” for 11, “Yod-Bet” for 12, and so “Yod-Hei” for 15.  But “Yod-Hei” is “Yah,” one of the Names of God (as in Hallelu-YAH.).

So out of fear and reluctance to say God’s Name when we name the festival, we use “9+6,” “Tu,” instead.

But – “What might happen if we joyfully proclaim God’s full Presence on that day of God’s Rebirth, YAH B’Shvat, and on every Full Moon of each month?” said both Phyllis and Ari.  

4. Atzilut, Spirit.  At a Tu B’Shvat Seder held in a grove of ancient and majestic redwoods  to protest the logging of such redwoods for corporate profit, then rabbinical student Naomi Mara Hyman (now a rabbi) gestured at the tall-reaching trees around us  — the tallest living beings on the planet —  and said, “These are eytzim [“trees”], yes?  And the wooden poles that hold a Torah scroll, we also call them eytzim, yes? Imagine a Torah Scroll so majestic that these redwoods were its eytzim! In that Torah, each of us would be just large enough to be one letter in that Torah!” And that is what we are: each a letter making up together the words, the wisdom, of that Great Torah that is indeed the Tree of Life.

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