Shabbat May 15-16 & Sunday May 17: Jewish Climate Activists Plan Boston Conference -- This Coming Fall, Your City?
For the Shabbat of B’Har/ B’Chukkotai, May 15-16, and for the Sunday of May 17, I will be in Boston, speaking at two synagogues and at a major conference on how Jews can face the climate crisis.
In a moment I will share times and places with you, especially hoping that those of you who live in Boston or fairly close by can take part.
AND -- I encourage all of us to be thinking about organizing such an event in our own cities. These could be Jewish or interfaith gatherings.
For Jews, an auspicious time to do this might be the Sunday of Sukkot, the harvest festival -- this coming fall, October 4. Why then? Partly because Sukkot is one of the most Earth-conscious of our festivals. And especially because this coming Sukkot is special.
The Torah (Deut 31:10-12) calls on us in the Sukkot after a Sabbatical Shmita/ Year of Release to Assemble (in Hebrew, "Hak/heyl") the whole people to learn together the heart of Torah. This very year is a Sabbatical Year -- so that means we could create Hak'heyl this coming Sukkot.
In our generation, this means learning the Torah of eco-social justice,
healing the Earth and human earthlings from the lethal climate crisis we are in, and birthing a new Earth-wide community of shared and sustainable abundance.
If you are interested in organizing a Hak'heyl gathering in your city this fall, please write me at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org
Meanwhile, why this series of events in Boston? We are approaching a very unusual Shabbat, one we encounter only once in seven years:
On May 15-16, Jews using the traditional calendar of Torah reading will read the Torah portion (Lev. 25-27) that in full detail and spiritual explanation calls us to make every seventh year a Sahbatical Year, a Year of Shmita or Release.
We are taught to let the land rest and be released from all organized agriculture, and to share freely with each other and even with all animals what the land freely grows.
All this, the Torah says, because no person “owns” any “property” at all: the only Owner is YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh , the Breath/Spirit of all life – and we humans are but temporary leaseholders.
And the reading also asks, “What will happen if you refuse to let the land rest and celebrate this year of Shabbat?” And the Torah answers that the land will rest anyway – on our heads! -- through flood and famine, exile and exhaustion, drought and disaster.
This very year is, according to the ancient count, a Shmita/ Sabbatical year. And for the first time in thousands of years, there has been a serious discussion of what these provisions mean in the great round Earth at large, outside the Land of Israel.
That discussion is happening because of the climate crisis we are facing. The ancient warnings of Leviticus 26: 18-20, 27-35, 43 have come alive in the predictions of modern scientists and already in the early stages of climate chaos: floods, rising sea levels, super-storms, years of unprecedented drought, earthquakes, waves of climate refugees and civil wars.
So the Shabbat of May 15-16 offers rabbis, synagogues, and for that matter other religious communities like churches and mosques that take the Hebrew Scriptures seriously a powerful moment to address the real biblical outcry for action to stop the Carbon Pharaohs who won’t let the Earth rest from the carbon dioxide, methane, and cancer-causing chemicals and asthma-causing coal dust we are pouring into air and water. The Carbon Pharaohs who are bringing Plagues upon the earth and human earthlings.
We are choking the Breath of Life, the YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh Name of God. Mother Earth can’t breathe
Here is the Boston information for the weekend of May 15-17:
•7:30 pm, Friday May 15: Congregation Dorshei Tzedek, 60 Highland Street, West Newton, MA 02465. R. Waskow speaks on "From Eden to Manna to Shmita/ Sabbatical Year:Eco-Biblical Theology & Present Action"
•10 am to Noon, Saturday May 16: Hillel B'nai Torah 120 Corey Street, West Roxbury, MA 02132 . R. Waskow speaks on "From Eden to Manna to Shmita/ Sabbatical Year: Eco-Biblical Theology & Present Action" & leads part f service
•Public Conference on "From Uncertainty to Action: What You Can Do About Climate Change" Sponsored by the Jewish Climate Action Network and Hebrew College: Sunday, May 17, 2015, 3:00-7:00 PM at Hebrew College, 160 Herrick Road, Newton Centre, MA 02459.
The Shalom Center has worked closely with the Jewish Climate Action Network in Boston as it was coming into being, and ever since. We are co-sponsors of this pioneering conference. I am speaking at a plenary session, & also co-leading a workshop on "Challenging Carbon Pharaohs: Move Our Money/ Protect Our Planet."
I look forward to seeing many of you there.