Reb Arthur's Latest Thoughts

Reb Arthur's 2d Bar Mitzvah?! What's that?

For Reb Arthur's 2d Bar Mitzvah
The Gates Are Close to Closing!

Below: Read Praise of Reb Arthur

By Bill McKibben, Ruth Messinger, & Other Notables


The Shalom Center Board invites you to celebrate Reb Arthur’s 2nd Bar Mitzvah on October 29, shortly after his 83rd birthday.


The gates are (almost) closing, the limited space is close to full (no kidding!), and the registration cost is going up on October 2nd.

So -- now's the day and now's the hour! --  REGISTER HERE to be with us in Philadelphia at The Shalom Center's extraordinary fund-raiser in honor of Reb Arthur's 2nd Bar Mitzvah on Saturday afternoon, October 29th. .......... SORRY, NO WALK INS WITHOUT PRIOR REGISTRATION!

Reb Arthur's work benefits us all:  seeking justice, pursuing peace,  healing our wounded Mother Earth, and sounding the Shofar of new life for our spiritual and religious traditions and communities.

So if you can't be with us physically, but you want to support Reb Arthur in continuing to do that work through The Shalom Center, make a contribution by clicking this link .

Remember: You can also use either the "Registration" form or the "Contribution" form to sign up for sending a 200-word-maximum letter for the Tribute Book about your encounter with Reb Arthur, or about your own Bat/ Bar Mitzvah. After you've signed up for that, all Tributes must be sent to Office@theshalomcenter.org by September 30.

Join us in song, in story-telling,  and in celebration!

As we announced this joyful celebration, we started receiving Mazeltovs from various leaders of movements for peace, justice, and healing of our wounded world. Below you will see notes from several of them --  Bill McKibben, Ruth Messinger, Rabbis Michael Lerner, Elliot Dorff, and Jay Michaelson, among others. You'll also see two wonderful photos of Arthur -- then (at 13) and now.

But first, details for you, on how to take part either in Philadelphia or by long-distance connection:


The event will be a fundraiser for The Shalom Center, supporting its work and inspiring Arthur to keep going — as we always hope, biz hundert und tzvantzig, gezunt und shtark — till 120 in good health and strong spirit!

You can take part by attending the Bar Mitzvah and the celebratory supper party to follow; OR by contributing in Reb Arthur’s honor even if you cannot attend; AND (either physically present or not) by underwriting a page in the Bar Mitzvah Bukher's Booklet featuring your story about Reb Arthur or your own Bat/Bar Mitzvah.

Join us –- and Rabbis Shawn Zevit, Deborah Waxman, Marcia Prager, Gerry Serotta, Shefa Gold, Cantor Jack Kessler, and other notables, friends, and family --  at this twice-in-a-lifetime celebration on October 29.

You need not attend to honor Reb Arthur and contribute to The Shalom Center.  To make a contribution, click here  and complete the form.

To reserve your seat for supper and support the Bar Mitzvah event and The Shalom Center, click REGISTER NOW  and sign up for Reb Arthur’s 2nd Bar Mitzvah Celebration during this early-bird period before the contribution level riss on October 2 or the space  fills up. Sorry – no walk-ins!

Here are the responses from just a few of our most renowned social0activist herooes:

From Bill McKibben:

Time and again, at some important moment in the key environmental fights, I've looked up from a podium to see Art Waskow in the front row, or tuned into a key webinar to hear him making a cogent point. The point is, he's always there. There's no one who's showed up more often, added his voice more unselfishly, made his time on this earth count. So, mazel tov! 

-- Bill McKibben, 350.org

From Ruth Messinger:

What an honor it is to celebrate the second bar mitzvah of the amazing Arthur Waskow.  No one is more deserving of this honor.  With the energy of a passel of 13 year olds, Arthur continues—on behalf of all of us—to speak truth to power,  to focus our energies on building peace, creating a world with reduced strife and the possibility of building community across lines of difference,  and to insist that we work together to save our planet from the environmental degradation that is destroying homes, livelihoods and lives of some of the world’s most marginalized people.

I know Arthur would want us to use this occasion—as we did not, most likely, fully use our own coming of age experiences—to dedicate and rededicate ourselves to the work he has mapped out as essential to the future of Jews and the future of the world.

-- Ruth W. Messinger, President,  American Jewish World Service


From Rabbi Michael Lerner:

Arthur Waskow has long been one of the most inspiring Jewish thinkers I know. What a joy to have discovered a Jewish spiritual progressive in the early 1970s when he and I were allies in the movement against the war in Vietnam.

Though we were living 3000 miles apart, we continued to share ideas as we moved through an array of social change movements and found ourselves in the Jewish Renewal movement. Not just in it  -- also pushing it to address not only inner liberation but also fundamental structural transformation both in the U.S. and in Israel!

Arthur became my spiritual brother --  and like many brothers, we wrestle with each other, and learn from each other in ways that are beautiful and soul nourishing for me. I was blessed to have Arthur and Phyllis join me as co-leaders of High Holiday services at Beyt Tikkun, and to have him speak at numerous national conferences of the Tikkun and NSP community--he was always deep and wise. 

Arthur has shared his powerful wisdom with Tikkun readers, demonstrating the spiritual depth that our Jewish Renewal movement has to offer. And at 83 Arthur is just as creative as he was at 40, so I'm looking forward to many years of camaraderie as we attempt to shape and build a Transformative Judaism together.

What do we mean by "Transformative Judaism"?  We insist that our greatest task as a Jewish people and as a human race is to save the life-support system of the planet before the rapacious dynamics of the capitalist system and the rest of us as collaborators in consuming the planet's scarce resources bring on the greatest catastrophe of human history -- geocide.

It is an honor to partner in this way with such a mensch, whom I've deeply loved for the past 44 years!!!

-- Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor,  Tikkun


From Rabbi Elliot Dorff

 I first met Arthur through his book, Godwrestling, whose very title, as well as its content, bespeaks my own approach to Judaism. We are b'nei yisrael,  "the children of Israel," and Jacob does not become Israel until he wrestles with God.

     So to be a true "Israelite," one must wrestle with God and with the entire Jewish tradition during one's whole life to make Judaism truly "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might."  

     My second encounter with Arthur's convictions came when I joined his website.  Time and time again, he would nudge me to do what I knew I should do anyway -- whether it was on issues of social justice or on the environment.  In heart and mind, I am really committed to those issues, but Arthur's postings kept me focused on those commitments.  I am sure that he has done that for all of us, and we are all the better for it.

     My continuing encounter with Arthur's convictions is through his writing -- superb books that push the boundaries on theology, environmentalism, and social justice.  I do not agree with him on everything -- how could two Jews ever do that?! -- but I love being pushed by his keen mind and warm heart to expand my own thinking about issues.

    It was no surprise, then, when I asked him to write the chapter on Judaism and the environment in a book I was co-editing, The Oxford Handbook on Jewish Ethics and Morality, and, characteristically, he did that in a very creative way, using midrash rather than halakhah to articulate a Jewish viewpoint.  

   Thank you, thank you, thank you, Arthur, for prodding us all to be better than we would otherwise be.

   Warmly,
    Elliot Dorff


From Rabbi Jay Michaelson, columnist for the Forward:

     

       Arthur and I were two of a dozen or so faith leaders lucky enough to ride on a float designed to look like Noah’s Ark, created by Auburn Theological Seminary for the People’s Climate March in New York City.  We both dressed the part, in our rainbow taleisim and kippot, and we were both eager to show with our bodies that climate justice is a religious, not only ecological, environmental, and political, issue.

       As we looked out over the throngs of marchers stretching to the city horizon, it occurred to me that this was a moment of prophetic fruition for someone who had spoken out on these issues long before it was fashionable to do so.

       The real fruition, of course, will not come for many years, until such time as our global carbon output levels off instead of rises asymptotically.  But in the interim, here, I thought, was the coming into being of one of Reb Arthur’s many visions: a mass, intersectional movement of caring for the earth.

       I snapped a photo, and captioned it “a legend and his legacy” on social media.  Arthur contacted me shortly thereafter and protested: “What legacy?!  I ain’t dead yet!”  I laughed – how quintessentially Arthur!

        But I stand by the caption.  If we’re lucky, we can see our legacies come to life even as we continue to create them.  Mazal Tov, Bar Mitzvah Boy, from the thousands who now walk in your footsteps, even as you continue to make new ones!

Rabbi

 

Meanwhile, here's Arthur at his first Bar Mitzvah, with his younger brother Howard, of blessed memory.



And here's Arthur now, with his beloved bashert Reb Phyllis, as his second Coming-of-Age appoaches. A lot hairier, funnier, and even more vigorous than he was at 13.



The first time, he says, he learned to chant by rote, but nothing more  -- a terrible waste of creative possibility and a turn-off for him from exploring Judaism. This time he intends to speak a true Dvar Torah -- a new way of thinking about what the Torah is teaching.


Among our reasons to honor Arthur is his constant and creative weaving wisdom and activism together. A perfect illustration:                                                                                                                                                                                 This summer, The Shalom Center and Reb Arthur have been involved in a number of conferences, celebrations, teachings, and activist challenges to the Carbon Pharaohs.

He spoke, taught, marched, and/or guided prayer at the Pendle Hill Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia, the Chautauqua Institution near Buffalo, the Community of Living Traditions at the Stony Point retreat center in upstate New York, the Kallah sponsored by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal in Colorado, and in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

And that comes on top of speaking trips where he was invited to Southern California, South Carolina, and the Pacific Northwest in the last few months, as a prophetic voice on the spiritual and moral imperative to heal the Earth from global scorching. PLUS an arrest at the US Capitol alongside the heads of the NAACP, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, & AFL-CIO in a protest demanding Hyperwealth Out & Voting Rights Restored in our elections.

All for "Eco-social justice," as he says!

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And now, back to October 29:  To celebrate Reb Arthur’s 2d Bar Mitzvah by joining directly in the service and supper,  reserving your seat for supper and supporting the Bar Mitzvah event and The Shalom Center, click REGISTER NOW

and sign up for Reb Arthur’s 2nd Bar Mitzvah. Space is limited –--  first come, first served, first celebrated! Sorry, no walk-ins.

If you won’t be able to come to Philadelphia and want to honor Reb Arthur and support his vigorous voice through a contribution to The Shalom Center,  click here  and complete the form.

Either way, we welcome your reserving space in the Bar Mitzvah Bukher’s Booklet to tell a story about your own encounter with Reb Arthur or to tell a story about your own Bat/ Bar Mitzvah. 

Blessings for a joyful sharing of this twice-in-a-lifetime celebration!


Arlene Goldbard, President and Chair of the Board

The Shalom Center



Site Placement: 

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This Election: Three Thresholds

In this election campaign,  the American people came to the edge of three thresholds. We crossed two of them and turned back from the third.

Each threshold beckoned to a different large constituency of "left-out" Americans. The lesson of the election campaign is that we need to build a movement beyond the election that can unite these three by speaking to the spiritual, cultural, and economic needs of each of them.

The first threshold was the choice of a fascist to be the Presidential nominee of a major party, with the strong support of voters who feel excluded -- economically, culturally, and spiritually -- from the emerging new America.

The second was the choice of a woman to be the Presidential nomine of the other major party, with the strong support of the two largest racial minorities in American society. Crossing that threshold, on the basis of that support, looks toward the redemption of several anti-democratic elements that have dogged American history. Looks toward, but does not fulfill, the redemption we need.

The third threshold was to face up to the crucial fact that while the continuing impact of racism is one of the deep issues facing the American people, another is the widening gulf of economic inequality and the power that gives to Hyperwealth and Corporate Pharaohs.  Among them are the Carbon Pharaohs that are burning the Earth, our common home –-  committing global arson for the sake of their profit and power.

The great majority of younger voters did face up to that truth, but the majority of voters turned back at the edge – for now. But the question will not disappear, and answering it will require not only election campaigns but also a movement that can bring together responses to racism, responses to economic domination, and responses to cultural marginalization.

All three of these decisions the American public has just taken force us to face questions more profound than even who gets elected President this fall – though that choice will itself deeply shape the American future.

Boiling beneath the election returns are five questions. They are expressed in politics, but they are deeper than politics. At bottom they call into question not only individual spiritual yearnings but the spiritual life of our society as a whole:

  1. How can we address the real fear and rage felt by many of those “original Americans” who voted for Trump, as they feel “their country” being swept away from them by Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, feminist women, and GLBTQ people?   -- and all while not only their incomes but even their very life expectancies are falling, for the first time in American history?
  2. How can we resist and reduce the power of an entrenched military machine (plus a quasi-military machinery of police and mass incarceration) to swallow up our national wealth and creativity, so that we can meet the long-ignored basic needs of our own society for worthy universal education, universal health care, and effective infrastructure (bridges, railroads, sewers)?
  3. How can we do this while at the same time also coping with twin disorders of the world society that feed on each other ---  fascist movements pushing democratic societies toward repression and exclusion, and violent upheavals and massive floods of refugees among the world’s poor ?
  4. How do we cope with the extreme dangers facing the planet’s web of life, and move into a new economy and culture that can sustain life?
  5. How can we renew and expand democracy itself in the face of worsening disparities of wealth and power and the splintering of our culture and conversation?

Next April 4 will be the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s profound speech at Riverside Church in New York City – exactly one year before his death – in which he named racism, militarism, and materialism as the “deadly triplets” threatening American society. Dr. King saw them not as isolated “political” issues, but all grounded in a spiritual failing of our society: the desire to dominate, rather than to love.

Those triplets are still endangering us –- and today we can understand “materialism” to include the overweening greed of the wealthy, the burning of Mother Earth for profit, and the despair imposed on the poor and the disappearing middle class, as well as the addiction of many to heedless consumerism.

The Shalom Center seeks to speak as a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life. By “prophetic” we mean a spiritually rooted call for social, political, economic, and ecological transformation toward what Dr. King called “the beloved community.”  As this American election process moves forward, we will be exploring how to respond to it and beyond it with a true “healing of the world.”

With blessings of hope --  not as an emotion but as commitment to action – to bring shalom, salaam, peace, and eco-social justice for the Earth --  Arthur

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Our Summer of Eco-Social Justice

This coming summer, I will at a number of venues be teaching, speaking, marching, and/or leading prayerful activist ritual in the modes of "My legs were praying" (Rabbi Heschel after the Selma March) and "Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive" (Rabbi Heschel in a lyrical, mystical essay on prayer). Here are the details:

June 16-19,  Pendle Hill, Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia.

<http://www.pendlehill.org/learn/powerful-faith-based-organizing-for-climate-justice/#.V0pwq9fXYSd>

 3-day multifaith conference to enhance our ability to meet with spiritual depth the challenge of climate disruption. Three skill areas:

  • constructive community-resilience building;
  • formulating and carrying out strategic nonviolent direct action campaigns; and
  • lobbying and moral advocacy in the public sphere.

Reb Arthur and Rabbi Phyllis Berman will join others in leading prayer services, and Reb Arthur will lead a workshop on fusing festival celebration with direct action.

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July 4-8, Chautauqua Inst , upstate NY near Erie PA & Buffalo NY. Week Two: Money and Power through a Spiritual and Ethical Lens

<http://ciweb.org/calendar/monthcalendar/2016/7>

<http://ciweb.org/calendar/eventdetail/214/week-two-theme-money-and-power-interfaith-lecture-theme-money-and-power-through-a-spiritual-and-ethical-lens>

Religious communities and individuals of conscience take seriously their stewardship over money and relationships to the material world and power, and are especially cautious about the corrosive and corrupting effects of wealth on virtue and the tendency to greed and absence of caring for the good of all. In this week we will take a closer look at money and power from ethical and spiritual perspectives.

Reb Arthur, Lecture Title: “Whose Image IS on the Coin? Money, Power, and God”

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July 11-17.  ALEPH Kallah, Ft Collins, CO.

<https://www.regonline.com/Register/Checkin.aspx?EventID=1787597>

Reb Arthur & Rabbis Michael Lerner & Jill Hammer speak on aan evening panel, “Toward a World-Transforming Judaism.“ Together with Reb Phyllis, Reb Arthur leads class AM101 on “Transforming Ritual to Meet New Needs -- Our Own.”

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July & August: Community of Living Traditions, Stony Point Retreat Center, 2 hours north of NYC.

<http://stonypointcenter.org/multifaith-community/summer-institute>

 The Stony Point Center Summer Institute (2 sessions during summer) is seeking Jewish, Christian, and Muslim young adults, ages 19-29, who are grounded in their religious tradition, serious about spirituality and the state of the planet, and excited by social activism in a multireligious context.

Reb Arthur & Reb Phyllis will teach, July 19-23.

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July 24, March for a Clean Energy Policy, eve of Dem National Convention, Philadelphia. 1 pm City Hall. Multireligious action ritual will lead the March. The Shalom Center is taking part in planning & embodying the action ritual.

July 25, Revival service led by Revs. Williiam Barber & James Forbes, Friends Center, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia. The Shalom Center is helping plan the event.

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A CALL TO COMMUNITIES OF FAITH AND SPIRIT: July 24 March for Clean Energy Revolution

Join in the Faith Contingent of the March in Philadelphia, on eve of the Democratic National 
Convention

[To add your signature to this Call, please write "Yes" and any other comment in the comment section below, with your name, what town you live in, your email, and a phone number.]

A Call to Communities of Faith and Spirit

We invite all people of faith and spirit to join with us to support, and, if possible, to join in the Faith Contingent of the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, as we gather in Philadelphia on July 24, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

We ask this in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s outcry invoking “The fierce urgency of Now.”

For beneath and beyond all our diversity as members of different faith communities, we stand as one in our concern for individual health and dignity; for justice in society; for the sacred vibrancy and vitality of the endangered web of life on Earth, our common home.

For us, these concerns arise from the sense of the Sacredness of the universe that fills our lives with joy.

Yet all these concerns are violated by current policies that prioritize money and power over the well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants - especially, and urgently, through the burning of fossil fuels.

The shepherds, farmers, and fisherfolk among our ancestors learned the practical wisdom of worthy relationships among human communities and other lifeforms of the Earth - a proto-science infused with loving care. This loving wisdom was encoded in our sacred texts.

Today, science increasingly affirms the sense of interwoven Unity that suffuses what the ancients taught and teach us. Our science today warns us that continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels endangers both those who live where extreme extraction takes place, and life on the planet as a whole. Extremes in weather and outbursts of unfamiliar diseases already bear out these warnings.

Our ancient texts also warn us against the growth of decision-making pyramids of power that are top-down, unaccountable, tyrannical, and addicted to preserving their own power.

We see these dangers today in corporations that for the sake of their enormous profits have corrupted our politics and deliberately lied about the science their own experts reported to them.

And our sacred teachings call on us to feed the hungry and empower the powerless. Yet the effects of burning fossil fuels damage the poor first and worst. We need planning and restraint to redirect our resources from the wanton waste of the affluent to the urgent needs of the poor.

Our sacred wisdom teaches us that we can restrain our impulses to gobble up all life in ways that make this kind of sharing and of self-restraint a joy, and not a painful crushing of the self.

We call on the political leaders who shape our economy and our technology:

STOP FRACKING NOW

KEEP FOSSIL FUELS IN THE GROUND

STOP DIRTY ENERGY

MAKE A QUICK AND JUST TRANSITION TO 100% RENEWABLE ENERGY

We call on our leaders to end all subsidies to fossil fuel and to focus our funds and our attention on helping neighborhoods turn to community-based renewable energy, creating the jobs that can make this happen, and joyfully celebrating our myriad cultures.

It will take national decisions by public officials, business executives, and religious & cultural leaders to renew health, neighborliness, and vitality at the grass roots and pavement tops of our society.

Join with us to elevate these issues in our national discussion and build a national movement for a world based on love, justice, and sustainability.

Join with us in supporting a strong faith presence in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, this July 24th, in Philadelphia — and if for you it’s possible, join in the March itself.

Join with us as we use the occasion of the Democratic National Convention to urge all political parties: --

In this moment facing the fierce urgency of Now, turn away from destruction and despair, turn to planting and nurturing the Beloved Community!

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 PLEASE SIGN IN for the FAITH CONTINGENT: Please go to the comment section below and write "Yes" and any other comment , with your name, what town you live in, your email, and a phone number.  Then please click here -- <http://www.cleanenergymarch.org/get-involved/call-communities-faith-spirit/> and scroll down to sign. 

The Shalom Center has been deeply involved in planning for the Faith Contingent. Please sustain us to do this work by clicking on the "Contribute/Sustain" banner in the left-hand margin and then follow through by contributing. Write "Clean Energy" in the "Honor Of" box.

Thanks! -- and blessings of shalom, salaam, peace, Earth!  --  Arthur

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Healing America: BEYOND Economics

There are three profound illnesses afflicting American society and perverting our politics today.

One is embedded in economic oppression:  the collapse  of the white “middle class.”

One is the economic and quasi-military subjugation of the Black community through disemployment, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Both these oppressions stem from the greed of those who rule America – the fewer than “1%.” 

The third illness, however,  stems in part from the inaction or hostility of many progressives. Many of us have insisted that “American culture” open itself to the “strangers” who actually have been around for a long time but have been not so visible or not so rambunctious:  Hispanic,  Muslim,  Black, feminist, and GLBTQ  communities. It was laudable to insist these “outsiders” must also become insiders, affirming their own cultures and reshaping the broad America. 

But in doing this, many progressives ignored or marginalized those cultures  that had for decades or centuries seen themselves as the real America. Many working-class white Christians – especially evangelical Protestants but also mainstream Protestants and Catholics --have seen themselves losing out not only economically but in their own sense of themselves.  During the last forty years or so , even their death rates have risen, for the first time in US history.

They see themselves as abandoned and forlorn.

When the economic pressures on the white working class are reinforced by this sense of cultural marginalization, the result can be –-  to some extent already has been –-  a burst of rage against  “the stranger” that borders on fascism. 

This energy explodes at “the bottom” and is fired up by “the top.” It is inflamed by the arrogant and vulgar persona of Trump the Leader. It is drawn by his platform that combines economic support for “legitimate Americans” –- his rejection of the “free trade” deals that send jobs overseas, his support for Social Security and Medicare,  even maybe single-payer health insurance --  with contempt or fury at liberated women, Muslims, Mexican immigrants, LGBTQ people.  

And the fear and fury grows every time progressives dance their joy that precisely these “new un-Americans” will outnumber the old insiders.

What to do? It would betray the long stumble of America toward fuller democracy if we were to abandon our insistence on affirming and empowering the “new” cultures. But does that require marginalizing the old ones?

Imagine a Federal program that empowered both “new” and “old” Americans,  both economically and culturally.

 Imagine a program that paid for two kinds of projects to be undertaken by any group of 200 households living within one mile of each other in cities and five miles of each other in rural areas:

  • ·     Money to pay for solar collectors to be emplaced by a neighborhood energy coop . The initial grants would cover the initial costs. Once in place, the collectors would reduce prices for the purchase of electric power, making it much cheaper than coal-based energy. Federal grant money would also go to a small part-time staff for the neighborhood coop, both for dealing with technical issues of solar-collector upkeep and efficiency, and for staffing regular meetings of the coop.
  • ·     Money to pay for twice-a-year neighborhood festivals where the same neighborhood solar coops would bring together musicians, story-tellers, cooks, crafts-workers, and other exemplars of the neighborhood culture for a week of celebration.  In a New York neighborhood, this might mean bomba music and Puerto Rican food. In rural Tennessee, it might mean country music and a rifle range.  The money would actually go to local cooks, performers, story-tellers, etc. with some money reserved for the neighborhood coop to bring a regional or national hero of the local culture.

Such a program could end the marginalization of both the old and new Americas, without giving either of them power over the other. It could feed money to the grass roots and pavement tops of America,  in ways that would affirm and build on their myriad differences, encouraging neighborliness as well as a new economy based on sharing rather than domination.

The approach that I have sketched is an invitation to explore, rather than a prescription to adopt. I welcome your responses – especially public ones in the Comments sectioon below, so that we can have a conversation with each other.

 

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The Meaning of Good Friday

Must Thousands be Tortured, Millions Die, in Every Generation --

Because Some of Us Lack Imagination?

Last night  -- the eve of Good Friday --  Phyllis and I went to see the Quintessence Theater in Philadelphia do George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan. Until we were deep into the play, we did not realize how appropriate it was to be seeing it that evening.

 Toward the end of the play, one of the judges who has found Joan, the Maid of Orleans, guilty of heresy and sent her to be burnt actually sees the burning carried out. He is struck with horror at the torture of her death. Standing on the brink of madness, he mourns his own inability to imagine her death ahead of time, and tries to repent of his own complicity.

At that moment, Shaw, a socialist and by then an unchurched transreligious mystic, puts in the mouth of his character this question:

“Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?”

Indeed.

For me, Shaw’s question leaves intact the various and mostly sacred Christian understandings of the meanings of Good Friday, while beckoning other communities to  learn and share their own: Must Rabbi Akiba’s body be torn by iron rakes in every generation because some of us lack imagination? Must the Six Million be gassed to death in every generation because some of us lack not imagination of the horror, but compassion for the “Other” who is seen as not really human?

Must 29 Muslims be machine-gunned at prayer in the Tomb of Abraham because some of us are filled with fear, contempt, and hatred?  -– and must their deaths be renewed in every generation, as when  the Dawabsheh family in Palestine were burned alive in their own home?

Must 30 Jews in the midst of celebrating Passover be blown to shreds in every generation because some of us are filled with fear, contempt, and hatred? 

 Must Martin Luther King and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman and James Cheney  be murdered in every generation because some of us become addicted to their own power and protect it with their cruelty?

Must Cardinal Romero be murdered as he chanted the Mass and Jean Donovan, Maura Clarke, and four other Catholic lay religious sisters be raped and murdered in every generation because their work for the poor threatened the Salvadoran government?  

Must Emmett Till be lynched and Eric Garner be choked to death in every generation because Black lives don’t matter?

Must thousands die in the most powerful tornado ever recorded because some of us would burn the Earth to make a super-profit – and because some of us lack the imagination to see our planet choking, hear it wailing, “I can’t breathe!”

For those of us who are observing Good Friday today, and for all of us who can remember any of these tortures and these deaths;

For all of us who seek to renew our own imagination –-- and awaken it in others —  

May we all remember to resist those Caesars and would-be Caesars of today who get pleasure from calling for the torture of anyone and who gain power from their arson, their burning, of the Earth as their political forebears burned Saint Joan.

For those of us who await with special hope this approaching Easter Sunday, may your day be filled with Joy—

And for you and for us all, may we act to make sure that all that is dead and all that is shattered in our world be redeemed to new life!

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“Jewish Values” on the Front Page:

THREE INCIDENTS In the past week, there have been three occasions when “Jewish values” have been at the heart of major US political acts and events. One of these is the invitation by the powerful Jewish organization AIPAC, which claims to lobby for good Israeli-US relations, to invite Donald Trump to speak  -- and a range of responses in the broader Jewish community to that invitation.. Another was Senator (and Presidential candidate ) Bernie Sanders saying that the memory of the Holocaust has been at the heart of his Jewishness as it has powerfully affected his outlook on public policy throughout his life and in his campaign for President. The third is that President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland,  came to the edge of tears in saying that memories of the Holocaust as an important part of his life as a Jew had deeply affected his outlook on the law and justice. The long-ago rabbis who edited Prophetic passages to read  as the “Haftarahs” in the synagogue each Shabbat began their choices with outcries at troublesome behavior of the people and ended with joyful affirmation. I want to begin with what for me is the most problematic case and end with the ones that give me joy –- and with my own personal response to the entry of “Jewish values” into such public arenas. There have been two major responses from Jews who claim they oppose Trumpery to AIPAC’s decision to invite Mr. Trump to speak at its convention: One is — “NO!”  — on the ground that Trump is utterly contemptuous of all American Jewish values and of the Constitution. Thank God —literally — for the insistence by Rob Eshman, editor of the L.A. Jewish Journal; by the leadership of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; and by the leadership of the Reconstructionist movement, that Jewish values MUST underlie and inform the work of all Jewish institutions, including AIPAC. The Reconstructionists urged AIPAC to rescind the invitation.   T’ruah’s statement ended, “Neither AIPAC nor any other Jewish organization or community should offer a platform to a candidate who spews the same racist and nationalistic language that we have too often seen lead to violent actions.”  The other response is, “Well, AIPAC’s role is to improve relations between the US & Israel.  So it needs to begin cozying up to a politician who is likely to be a leading candidate for President and might even sit in the White House.” But AIPAC, despite its origins and claims, is no longer devoted to improving relations between the US and Israel, nor to making nice to US Presidents merely because they are President. It has, rather, become devoted to unblinking support for whatever an ultra-right-wing government of Israel wishes, up to and including a rejection of  diplomacy with Iran -- a path that would have inexorably led first to the defeat of the Iranian reformist movements that in fact won the recent election there precisely because diplomacy worked, and then would have inexorably led to US involvement in  a war to prevent Iran from making  nuclear weapons  -- a war that would have been far worse for the US than the War Against Iraq. What’s more, AIPAC at the Israeli government’s bidding did its best to thwart President Obama’s diplomacy with Iran — hardly a way to improve Israeli relations with the White House. It had no problem nastily challenging a sitting President when it did not like his policy. Why then treat as a guest an aspirant to the Presidency who pours contempt on American Jewish values and on the Constitution? Some other Jews (including much of the official leadership of the Reform movement) have made clear they think Trump’s proposals and language are utterly contradictory to all Jewish values.  I applaud them for that assertion. But they exempt AIPAC from caring about Jewish values. The Reform statement promises that some Reform Jews at the AIPAC convention will make clear their disapproval of Trump, while “respecting completely” its decision to invite him. Its statement is here. I think that position is an important mistake.  If a leading US Christian or Muslim organization were to invite an extremely prominent speaker who had been calling for sanctions against all American Jews because  some Israeli Jews have been terrorists, would Jews have said they “completely respected” that choice? Is it only because Trump’s propensity to violence, contempt, and hatred is directed so far at Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, and strong-willed women, not (yet?) at Jews, that makes it all right for a Jewish organization to suspend Jewish values? Of course AIPAC’s abandonment of Jewish values is certainly no surprise, since in its relations to Israel and to US policy toward Israel it has already abandoned Jewish values as they were, for example, eloquently expressed in the Israeli Declaration of Independence. And even in the more strictly US context, with no excuse that it is advancing Israel-US relations, it has  already, before this,  invited some notorious Islamophobes to speak -- another violation of Jewish values.  But to welcome a proto-fascist leading candidate for the Presidential nomination to speak is a last nail in the coffin of AIPAC's pretensions about protecting Israel.  And it should be the last nail in the coffin of American Jewish respect for AIPAC. What to do? I hope that many Jews will publicly call for AIPAC to rescind its invitation, and will boycott AIPAC if it won’t.  Short of that, I am glad to hear that hundreds of Jews (some rabbis among them) who feel that their work requires them to be at the AIPAC meeting, plan to walk out of the AIPAC meeting when Trump begins to speak. The plan seems to be to keep silent as they leave. I would suggest they sing one song, a prayer well-known to many Jews, with one phrase added (here in italics) as it is added in one of my own congregations: May the One Who makes harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe, teach us to make peace within ourselves, among each other, and for all the People Israel,  for all the people of our cousin Ishmael, and for all humanity and other life-forms that dwell upon this planet: “Oseh shalom bimromamav, hu ya’aseh shalom alenu, v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol Yishmael, v’al kol yoshvei tevel.” ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Now the other two cases. My attention was caught by the response of a well-known neocon syndicated newspaper columnist to Bernie Sanders’ assertion that he is proud to be Jewish and to draw on his memory of the murder of much of his father’s family during the Holocaust to empower his “democratic socialist” work in local Vermont politics, in the US Senate, and in his campaign for President. So I wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, my home town paper and one where the column appeared: [Your columnist’s] comment on Senator Bernie Sanders’ reference to the Holocaust as the reference-point of his Jewishness utterly missed the point. Krauthammer writes that he expected Sanders to cite tikkun olam, “repair of the world,” as his Jewish touchstone. What Krauthammer missed is that for Bernie and for many many Jews, the memory of those murdered by the Nazis connects profoundly with the ever-renewed memory of being enslaved in ancient Egypt  — and of winning freedom from Pharaoh. The Prophetic search for justice, repairing the world,  merges with the resistance to Nazism. When in America today there reemerges the impulse to hate the “stranger,”  oppress Blacks or Hispanics, violate the religious freedom of Muslims, break labor unions  — then many Jews  both hear our own Prophets and sniff the stink of early Nazism — from 1922 to 1933.  As for [your columnist’s] fear that young Jews are abandoning Torah wisdom, the profound meaning of the Sabbath, and life-enhancing aspects of Jewish practice: Where these are shrouded in boring rote, he is right — and so are those who abandon them. Where instead they are filled with the energy to heal our planet from our modern Carbon Pharaohs, end the new forms of slavery in disemployment and mass incarceration, and affirm the Image of God in women, Muslims, and Mexicans — Jews young and old are giving life to a Judaism where ritual and practice are imbued with life. The Inquirer published the letter, minus one sentence and an unfortunate change of “disemployment” to “unemployment.” (I deliberately used “disemployment” rather than “unemployment” because the former gives the sense of a deliberate decision by those in power to abolish jobs, while the latter sounds like an accident  -- workers stubbed their toes on the way to their jobs.) And the third case – Judge Garland – also made clear that his Jewish religious life – Bar Mitzvah, marriage by a vigorously social-justice Reform rabbi to a Jewish woman – as well as his commitment to justice as a lawyer and a judge -- was also deeply affected by the Holocaust. For him, too, it is clear that his consciousness of the Holocaust did not turn him inward to protecting Jews alone, but made clear to him that healing the world –- the whole world  -- is a Jewish imperative. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Finally, my own responses to this unexpected series of events: Why is my soul stirred by the vitality of Jewish values among some Jews? Why is my soul wounded by other Jews who turn away from Jewish values? Is it because I think it is “good for the Jews” to call prophetically for healing of the world? No – often it brings such Jews into disrepute or even danger, even inside the ethnically Jewish community. It is rather because I think it is good for the world that Jews, allied with others, work for a world that is healed from exploitation, tyranny, and hatred imposed on other human beings and on Mother Earth herself. Good for the world, for Jews to gather around the Passover Seder table to say, “In every generation, every human being must look upon himself, herself, as if we ourselves must go forth from slavery to freedom.” Good for the world, for Jews to cry out in recollection of the Holocaust, “Never again – for anyone!”

Universal: 

U.S. ELECTION NAMED BEST PURIM-SHPIEL!

King Trump-Us-Swear-at-Us; P.M. Haman-yahoo;

Hillari-ester;  & Morty-Sky Sandstorm

This election has already won the Harpo Marx Award for Best Purim-Shpiel of the 58th Century. It’s hard to parody. But let’s try!

Here’s the Inside Dope: Purim is the Jewish festival of Spring Fever.  (This year it begins the evening of March 23, ending at sunset March 24.) Purim is hilarious and subversive, exactly one lunar (loony) moonth before Passover --  and then Passover is the serious celebration of birth and freedom. In the same way, Mardi Gras is hilarious and subversive, 40 days before Easter --  and then Easter is the serious festival of life renewed and resurrected.

 One aspect of Purim is “purim-shpiels” – Purim playlets that poke fun at all Established Institutions – kings and rabbis, Torah and politics. 

The biblical Scroll of Esther that is traditionally read during Purim is not a factual history; it is itself the first purim-shpiel, a satire on stupid and tyrannical governments, especially on hatred of minorities and women. Its main characters are the feckless King Ahasuerus, his bloody-minded Prime Minister Haman, the doomed Queen Vashti, the would-be Queen Esther who hopes to lead an alternative government, and her clever adviser Uncle Mordechai.

In The Throne Room

KING TRUMP-US-SWEAR-AT-US: Prime Minister Haman-yahoo, this is my golden scepter. It's the biggest scepter in the world.  When I hold it out and wave it in front of everybody, especially the ladies of the court, they all bow and faint in awe. Except Queen Washout, who thinks she is the queen of all our country’s news reporters. When I wave the scepter, she gets so angry she starts bleeding from wherever.

PRIME MINISTER HAMAN-YAHOO: So just execute her already.

KING TRUMP-US-SWEAR-AT-US:  Can I really do that?

PRIME MINISTER HAMAN-YAHOO: I do it all the time. Assassinate whoever you want. Enemies. Teen-agers. People on their way to a wedding. Your predecessor King Panorama used to do it, too. Worked fine.

KING TRUMP-US-SWEAR-AT-US: Wow. Any more advice?

PRIME MINISTER HAMAN-YAHOO: Sure. First, demonize the Muslims. Last time I was worried, I accused them of ruining democracy by coming to vote in “hordes.” Worked fine; I won the election.

Next, put refugees and people who claim they need asylum in detention camps. Indefinitely. Forever. I do that with African refugees, and it works fine.

If you are speaking somewhere and somebody stands up to disagree, shake your scepter at them. If they don't shut up, urge your supporters to beat them up.

And if that doesn't stop people from making trouble, here is what we do: we make people who don't like me wear little tags wherever they go saying that they are foreign agents. Works fine. After all, I'm the Prime Minister. And you, even better; you are the King!

And if that is still not enough, here we have people we call "shtetlers." They live in little shtetls out where the Muslims are. They have rifles and submachine guns and assault weapons. Since we actually have some real live terrorists among our Muslims, the " shtetlers " already think the only way to defend themselves is to shoot first and ask questions afterwards. After all, we’ve already convinced them that all Muslims are “dangerous anti-democratic hordes,”  especially when they try to vote.

I think you have armed people like that, and you call them “militias.”  Or “supremacists.” Or some such.  So if you have any trouble …

And by the way, if somebody asks you to repudiate people like that, just fumf around for a while. Ask – –"What's wrong with supremacy? We should all be supreme, just like me!" Everybody will get the message.

 And then there’s the stuff we do to the trouble-makers we imprison. It’s top secret. We can teach your CIA about it anytime you say the word.

KING TRUMP-US-SWEAR-AT-US: No need. We already know. Don’t you read my speeches? I’m already –

PRIME MINISTER HAMAN-YAHOO: Sh’sh’sh! And I almost forgot, when we catch terrorists we burn down their houses so their kids won’t become terrorists. Trouble is, some of the kids get so traumatized and angry they become terrorists.

KING TRUMP-US-SWEAR-AT US: I already figured that out. I’m ahead of you on that. I announced we’ll just kill the families, whether they knew about the terror plans or not.  Then nobody grows up  to be a terrorist.   -----  Listen, I have a question.

PRIME MINISTER HAMAN-YAHOO: Shoot! – No no! --  Don’t point that scepter at me!  Does it shoot too?

KING TRUMP-US-SWEAR-AT-US: Of course. Biggest shooting scepter in the world!   Here’s my question: When I just talk about some of these ideas, the Jews over here get all riled up. Start muttering about Mussolini and Hitler and whatever. But you actually do some of this stuff, and they don’t say a word. Why not?

PRIME MINISTER HAMAN-YAHOO: Good question.

Meanwhile, In a Neighborhood Bar:

HILLARI-ESTER: Uncle Morty-Sky Sandstorm, I think we may be getting closer to throwing King Trump-Us-Swear-at-Us out and making me the first real reigning Queen in history. Any ideas?

MORTY-SKY SANDSTORM: A lot of folks got mad when they saw the King take over 10 luxury hotels, name them after himself, and throw that six-month-long wild drinking party. Most of the people have to pinch their pennies now. So I think you ought to push this whole question of unequal wealth and income.

HILLARI-ESTER: But a lot of my friends are pretty rich too. Won't they get mad and refuse to support me if I talk like that?

MORTY-SKY SANDSTORM: You know, people say you’re not humorous. But I think you’re Hilarious enough. In fact, you’re Hilariest! Don’t you get it? Look, I can be bad cop and you'll be good cop. I'll talk about a whole political revolution and you talk about important reforms. Your rich friends will get so scared by me that they'll be willing to support you for Queen.

HILLARI-ESTER: But you are organizing thousands and thousands of people who are demanding radical change. How can you turn them off?

MORTY-SKY SANDSTORM:[Silently smiles.]

 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^

Dear friends, The Book of Esther unravels two profound jokes – really the same joke.

Haman -- who plans to hang Mordechai on the gallows -- by his very own planning sets in motion a process that ends by Haman himself being hanged on the very same gallows.

And the King -- who commands that his wife and all women do exactly what he and all their husbands order them to do -- by his very own command sets in motion the process that ends with his doing exactly what a woman – Esther – tells him to do.

Hoist on our own petard, whatever a "petard" is. Slipping on our own banana peel.

Laugh – and swallow. Breathe deep.  Get the joke, let the joke get you, and have a hilarious Purim!

Shalom, salaam, sohl, peace, Earth! --  Arthur

P.S. – By the way: This Purim-shpiel arises only from my own feverish imagination in honor of Rosh Chodesh Adar-Bet -- the New Moon of the moonth of Purim. It does not express the opinions of anyone else or any institution on any subject whatsoever –-  Purim, the Scroll of Esther, American politics, or the uses of a golden scepter. Please feel free to share this with others under --

<Creative Commons Attribution/ShareAlike (CC-BY-SA) 4.0 International>       Oh yes: If I get hanged for this under the laws of ancient Persia, will you-all come to my funeral?  --   AW

Universal: 

Jewish and Interfaith Topics: 

Leopard in the Synagogue!

The Leopard Roars,

The Liturgy Awakens,

All Breath Enlivens

One of my favorite moments of 20th century Torah is a two-line short story by, of all people, Franz Kafka:

One day a leopard came stalking into the synagogue, roaring and lashing its tail.

Three weeks later, it had become part of the liturgy.

 The story tells the tragic tale – the lashing, roaring tale – of all organized religion, not just Judaism.

 Powerful moments of breakthrough to The ONE get encoded into a text, a practice, a tale - – how else can we make sure the moment is never forgotten?

 And then we read it, recite it, practice it, not by “by heart”  but by rote.  The leopard is locked into the cage of liturgy.

 I hear my calling in the world as letting the leopard out of the cage. In every generation, every year, every day – every breath!  -- we must let the leopard out of the cage. 

Frightening, that roar, that  tail, that tale.

And full of life.

For me, in this generation one line of llturgy that has the leopard caged – a leopard we need to live with in all its roar of passion – is this:

Nishmat kol chai tivarekh et-shimcha YAHHHH elohenu! ---- The Breath of all life  praises Your Name, YyyyHhhhhWwwwHhhh (pronounce the Great Name by just breathing] OUR God.

Of course the Breath of all Life praises this name of God – for this Name is the Breathing we all do!

I am writing you about this today because last week I heard this verse sung in a haunting new melody created by Joey Weisenberg.  Haunting not because it whispers the ghosts of the dead but because it chants the spirits of all who live now and are still to come.

At the end of this letter to you, I will share the link to hear Joey’s chant sung by the group Hadar. But first, let me share the roar of the leopard that I heard emerging from his gentle, haunting melody.

What I heard:

Find a tree, breathe into it and let it breathe into you -- each of us, the tree and you, the tree and me, by our breath praising OUR God, Who breathes all life.

OUR God: not merely the God of the Jewish people, not merely the God of the human species -- the God we share with all life. When the tree breathes the Name, as it does in every moment, it is among the “we” who are celebrating “our” God.

Those human cultures that grew up into their many forms of holiness without the Bible, without the Holy Quran, without a “personal” God, even against a “personal” God -– are nevertheless breathing in what the trees and grasses breathe out, are breathing out what the trees and grasses breathe in.

Beneath all the Holy Names in all the different languages, beneath all the celebrations of birdsong and whalesong, of leopards’ roar and the rustle of the leaves, is the Breath.

The still small Voice that the Prophet Elijah heard when God was not present in the earthquake or the thunderstorm was simply Breath. In the Breath was God.

In the Ten Utterances at Sinai we are taught: “Do not take My Name in an empty-hearted, empty-headed way.”  Remember: each breath you take is my Name. Breathe each breath mindfully, heartfully, soulfully. Be conscious that every breath You breathe in is the breath a tree, a field of grasses, has breathed out.  You must not choke this Breath to death!

Why do I think that in our generation even more than in all others, this particular leopard in this particular line of liturgy  is so important to free from the cage?

 Because the constant Interbreath of oxygen and carbon dioxide is the Life-Breath of this planet. Yet the human species has learned to pour more CO2 into the air of Mother Earth than the trees and grasses can transmute into oxyg en. The CO2 is heating the planet, scorching Earth. Those who insist on burning fossil fuels to spew it out are committing arson, choking us all to death. 

What we call  the climate crisis is a crisis in the Name of God.

How do we open the cage that for so many years has caged this leopard’s teaching of the prayerbook into mere liturgy?

Nishmat kol chai tivarekh et-shimcha YAHHHH elohenu! ---- The Breath of all life praises Your Name, YyyyHhhhhWwwwHhhh (pronounce the Great Name by just breathing] OUR God.

Three ways:

By learning and sharing the fullness of its meaning.

By learning and sharing the haunting new melody created by Joey Weisenberg for this verse. Chanting into fuller life the spirits of all who live now and are still to come.

In the chanting I am about to offer you, the group Hadar of which Joey is a member substitutes “HaShem, HaShem  -- The Name” for the Breathing. I understand why, following traditional practice, they do this.  They want to protect It from misuse and overuse. I want to protect It from being forgotten — never really breathed at all. So I invite you to name the true Name, simply to Breathe, in that place.

Hush’sh’sh’sh and Sh'sh'sh'sh'ma, listen to all life Breathing, and learn:

<https://m.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=WT1Vt9ESZ18>                                                                                                                                                                

And by making this prayer “subversive,” as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught: Carrying its message into the streets and the polling-booth, into the US Capitol and the Exxon offices.

 Challenging the Carbon Pharaohs of our generation: We will not let you choke to death the Sacred Name of God and our sacred Mother Earth.

 Shalom, salaam, shantih, Earth!  --  Arthur

 P.S.  --  I welcome comments. You can post them below.Please share this essay with your friends.  And if you can, please contribute to the work of The Shalom Center by clicking on the Donate button to the left  --  AW

 

Universal: 

Jewish and Interfaith Topics: 

Dancing in God's Earthquake

 Yesterday, at the tail end of my letter “Election Hot, Supreme Court Hotter,”  I wrote:

 The crisis is all of these. We are living in God’s earthquake.

There are three possible responses to an earthquake:

Denial. Ignore it. Keep walking, and if a broken building falls on us, kills us, too bad. What else to do, when everything is changing?

Grabbing hard at something that just might be immovable. “Christian white America, run by men – real men, not sissies." Seventeenth-century religion  --triumphalist and rigid --of all strands:  Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu.  Workers without troublemaking unions. Cops in control.

Dancing in the Earthquake.  Hardest to do – for the dance floor itself is shaking, rolling, swooping, dancing. But the most life-giving choice.

(If you missed that letter, click here: <https://theshalomcenter.org/content/big-news-supremes-turn-heat-planet-burning-new-hampshire-explodes>. At the end, if you like, you can post a public comment.)

And I promised that today I would explore what “Dancing in the Earthquake” might mean. Here goes:

First: There can be great value in reaching for a truth in past wisdom, if we don’t think it is immovable, unchanging. For example, there have been some creative responses to the Bible’s calls for Sabbatical and Jubilee Years  (Lev. 25) - – rhythmically letting the Earth rest, periodically annulling personal debt --   that indeed became creative by letting go of the biblical assertion that these practices only applied in the Land of Israel.

Why is it more creative and effective to draw on these ancient teachings and refer to them than simply to start from scratch with a political demand? Because the spiritual depth at the roots of these teachings carries a fuller resonance and therefore a deeper appeal (and sometimes a broader appeal to more people) than treating them as sheer political proposals.  That is why they became sacred teachings in the first place. That is why the Pope’s encyclical on the climate crisis had such broad and deep resonance.

For example: One way of dancing in the earthquake is drawing on Passover and (Christian) Holy Week to renew the challenges to entrenched power (Pharaoh, Caesar) that were at the spiritual / political root of the ancient actions that became these sacred festivals. It was no accident that Pharaohs and Caesars defined themselves as gods, and that resistance to idolatrous worship of these cruel and arrogant powers drew on a holistic sense of God as Creator, Liberator, Breath of Life, Resurrector.

At the core of other sacred festivals is this same affirmation of the Spirit,  often obscured by commerce and sometimes even by a superficial pleasure in family or church. Joy includes pleasure, and goes beyond it. Joy requires justice. It requires seeing in the family, the congregation, the neighborhood, the nation a beckoning to a fuller Wholeness, what Martin Luther King called the Beloved Community.

Why and how is this a “dance” in the earthquake? Because it dances between the past and the present. It does not ignore either one, it does not get stuck in either one. It moves in a delicious rhythm in time the way a dance moves in space.

Second: One of the most powerful forms of social change is to embody in the present a vision of the future, and in the doing to challenge the unjust, destructive aspects of the present. This too is a dance in time –- twirling consciously and fluidly between the future and the present.

The Sit-ins and Freedom Rides and Freedom Schools and Freedom Parties half a century ago were all embodiments of an envisioned future. Where restaurants and buses and schools were racially rigidified and unjust, where the right to vote was denied, they began by creating a just alternative that rubbed raw the skin of habit and control. 

“We imagine racial integration someday; here we are today, racially integrated. You will have to respond to us. You can arrest us; you can kill us; you can integrate the buses; you can change the laws; you can change the elections.”

They did not begin by asking for new laws. They did not begin by bombing unjust buses. They did not simply withdraw into a purely utopian village, but forced utopia into the mouth of privilege. They set the teeth of the powerful on edge.

Similarly with the Teach-ins and Draft Resistance as aspects of the movement to end the US war against Vietnam. The Teach-ins were informational, but more than that they were confrontational. Not only about the war, but about a system of education that was boring, stupefying, disconnected from the blood, sweat, and tears of urgent life. 

The Teach-in form was all-night classes, lectures, seminars, workshops on subjects left silent in the daytime university, led by people who knew what they were talking about whether or not they had official “credentials” commanding credibility. In the dark of night, a lightning-flash of knowledge.

The message became the medium, and in this way the medium became the message.

What might this mean today? In neighborhoods where the police have become a military occupation, it might mean starting from the bottom to found Freedom Guardians --  people from the neighborhood, people known to their neighbors as healers and sages.  Carrying not tasers but a chemical shot to heal an overdose of heroin or oxycontin. Using their cars not to imprison or to maim, but to transport a disemployed person to a job.  Trained to defuse conflicts.

And in a neighborhood where all the electric power comes from burning coal, it might mean creating a neighborhood solar coop. Saving money for households, reducing CO2 emissions, weakening the coal and utility companies, expanding the market for renewable energy devices, building a grass-roots political base for changing  energy policy.

Third: Dancing with anger and with love, starting perhaps with a two-step in the emotional dance, learning to synthesize them in what the ballet calls a “lift.” Leaping beyond fury and passivity to offer the most basic of affirmations to our opponents, our oppressors  -– “I will not kill you, I will not hurt you, I will not obey you.” Creating nonviolence  -- what Gandhi called not “non” anything but “soul-force.”  

As I‘ve suggested above, the strongest form of “soul-force” is creating an oppositional alternative in the present that embodies a future we envision. Yet sometimes soul-force does not embody an alternative, is simply an effort to stop the unjust machinery in its tracks. In 1967, padlocking the doors of local offices of the military draft apparatus.  In 1967, Catholic priests and devout laity using home-made napalm to burn the records of a local draft board, disrupting inductions into war. As Father Dan Berrigan said, “burning paper instead of children.”

Was this a “violent” act? Is the destruction of property ever nonviolent? I think it walks the edge, and is often the tactic of secret provocateurs to discredit an oppositional movement. Almost always, better to reject the tactic. Some dance steps are very likely to bring about a broken leg.

So the possibility demands of us a keen and caring discernment. If ever this tactic might make sense, it would only be to destroy property that itself is intrinsically  violent –-  like the records that forced young people to kill and die in an unjust war –- and never to destroy property that is intrinsically neutral –-  like the glass windows of a department store, or the fences around a city hall.  And always to keep in  ind the possibility of provocation.

Fourth: Cleaning and clarifying our language just as we learn the careful grammar of a dance.. 

As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said to me in 1971 when I was still a fledgling on  my Jewish journey   -- two uncertain years beyond the Freedom Seder:  “What are our weapons in this struggle? We have no guns, no money. We have only words. We must aim our words with as much precision as people who have guns aim their guns.”

I was moved by the great sage using “we” to include me, so new and ignorant, into "our" effort toward revitalizing Judaism that he saw alrady under way. And I was educated by his rebuke of an inflated, chutzpadik  phrase I had used to describe our work in a way that  I thought might attract excitement.

No inflations. And no sugary soporifics. For example:

Conventionally, we talk about “losing” a job.   The word conceals a politics of put-down, of blaming the worker who has been thrown into despair. Rarely might I “lose” a job the way I might “lose” my house keys.  Calling it that defines me as careless, heedless. It shifts the blame onto the despairing worker. Jobs are robbed from us by a bank, a boss, a governmental policy.

 To be “unemployed” sounds as if we “lost” our jobs, or stubbed our toes on the way to work.  In truth we are “disemployed,” not “unemployed.” Some one decided.

 There is no “global warming,”  -- warming is for most of us a pleasant sensual feeling. Using the phrase says inwardly and outwardly,  It can’t be all that bad. In truth there is global scorching, global weirding, global burning.  And in truth there is no “climate change”  -- as if I decided this morning to change my climate the way I changed my shirt.  There is “climate crisis,” the danger of “climate chaos.”

Finally, we must learn to dance more gracefully with both our principles and our practice. Never to get stuck in the immediate day-to-day without asking ourselves, How does this live in the light of the principles I hold? And even more, Can I learn by searching beneath each immediate problem I am facing, beneath each surface action I am taking, for the deeper truth, the fuller wisdom, that is hidden here?

I have tried to shape these thoughts to themselves embody this pattern --  some principles of dancing that have emerged not from abstract theory but from a waltz here, a grapevine there, a dosado and a pirouette. Moments of dance that I have sprinkled back into clarifying the categories they created. I welcome you to share your own thoughts, your own suggestions and critiques. You can do that by going to the "Comments" section below:

And I also ask your help in continuing this work. The metaphors I’ve used emerge from our work at The Shalom Center. The work of dancing our way into the future, in the very midst of earthquake.  Our dancing needs your steadying hand on the shifting floor.  If this letter has lifted your heart or opened your mind or strengthened your activism, please make a (tax-deductible) gift to keep the dance going, by clicking on the Donate button in the left-hand margin.

Thanks! –--  and blessings of grace and gracefulness!

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