Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 4/14/2004
On the Shabbat immediately before Passover, we traditionally read the last passage of the last of the Prophets, Malachi, that ends:
"Before the coming of the great and awesome day of YHWH [Yahh, the Breathing Spirit of the World], I will send you Elijah the Prophet, to turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents, lest the earth be utterly destroyed."
The intergenerational aspect of this and the warning "lest the earth be utterly destroyed" — a real danger in our generation — clicked for me with a message posted on a Jewish-environmentalist listserve sponsored by COEJL, the Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life. One member — Saran Kirschbaum — sent a passage she had read, as follows:
<< ... Pledge to make a difference in your career by
signing on to the graduation pledge alliance and wearing a green ribbon
on graduation day. The pledge reads, "I (name), pledge to explore and
take into account the social and environmental consequences of any job I
consider and will try to improve these aspects of any organizations for
which I work." >>
She added, "This is appropriate for all students, including nursery school. Teachers could suggest this for all classes that recess for spring or summer vacations."
It strikes me that this would be terrific at Bar/Bat Mitzvah events, especially connected with setting aside a moment in the service for an echo of the line about Elijah, like this:
On a few occasions where I had the opportunity, I have invited all those under 13 in the congregation to stand up, come to the front of the shul, and face those older.
I have read the passage above and said a VERY few words about "lest the earth be utterly destroyed."
Then I have asked the congregants of "both" generations — "the parents and the children" — to focus their mind's eye on doing one thing they can, personal or communal or political, to save the earth from utter eco-destruction.
Then I ask THOSE WILLING to make and carry out that commitment to say aloud, facing each other: " **I myself** will undertake the task of Elijah the Prophet, turning the hearts [etc.] — lest the earth be utterly destroyed. "
Doing this when a child is becoming Bat/Bar Mitzvah and there are a number of her/his friends that age present would have a special power.
The child becoming Bat/Bar Mitzvah could wear the green ribbon and say a slightly different version of the graduation pledge above, focused on his/her own actions.
S/he — perhaps together with the parents, "turning their hearts" to each other and to saving the earth from utter destruction — — could take the first step by announcing from the bimah that they will give tzedakah to a Jewish environmental organization — COEJL, The Shalom Center, Hazon, Teva, and Adamah come to mind.
Similar recommitments of the generations rto rturn their hearts tyo each other and so to save the earth could be undertaken at the Passover seder in connection with the Cup of Elijah, and /or in the synagogue on Shabbat HaGadol when the Malachi passage is read, and/or at every Brit ceremony for a newborn child where the Kisei Eliyahu, the Chair of Elijah, is emplaced.