Gather in community to devise a Green Menorah Covenant, binding the community together in continued climate justice action in the coming year. Write us what you are planning, at GMCovenant@theshalomcenter.org
[By Faryn Borella, the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern for The Shalom Center, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow]
Hanukkah begins tonight. Jews and their friends and allies will light one candle to serve as the kindling-candle shamash for the first candle of the first night. It is an important time to look ahead to the last night of Hanukkah, next Sunday night, when the shamash will light eight candles. What do we want the mood, the action, the commitment of our community to be, by that last night?
We urge that it be the creation of the Green Menorah Covenant -- a local group in your own community that will grow connections with Jews around the nation and the world. Green Menorah Covenanters will celebrate the Tree of Light that was the Menorah in the Temple, for the sake of protecting the Tree of Life and the Interbreathing of Life everywhere. Healing our wounded Mother Earth and ourselves from the climate crisis.
First of all, the original Temple Menorah was shaped like a tree -- branches, buds, flowers. At the heart of Hanukkah is this Tree of Light, connecting Earth with the handiwork of human earthlings. This medieval portrayal makes the point, as does our generation's symbol for the Green Menorah Covenant:
Each year for the Shabbat of Hanukkah, we read a breathtaking passage from the Prophet Zechariah that goes even deeper to connect Earth with Humanity: Zechariah imagines two olive trees beside the Menorah in a yet-to-be-rebuilt Temple – already a radical departure from the Torah’s original ground-plan of the Holy House. The Haftarah explains the meaning of this prophetic vision: “Not by might and not by power but by My Breathing Spirit/Wind of Change, says YHWH [Yahhh/ the Breath of life].” Let us remember this wisdom at the heart of Hanukkah, as we face the power and the might that are condemning Earth to fiery death.
Then, in a passage just a few lines later, Zechariah asks for a further explanation:
“‘And what,’ I asked him, ‘are those two olive trees, one on the right and one on the left of the light-bearing Menorah?’ And I further asked him, ‘What are the two outgrowths of the olive trees that feed their gold through those two golden tubes?’ He asked me, ‘Don’t you know what they are?’ And I replied, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he explained, ‘They are the two aspects of the shining/pure oil-of-anointment, who take their stance for the lordly connective-link of all the Earth.’” (Zechariah 4:11-14)
So from the Prophet Zechariah, we learn of the self-renewing miniature ecosystem that sustains the eternal burning of the Temple Menorah: two olive trees--one to its right and one to its left--that feed their oil directly into the Menorah. The Temple Menorah, keeper of the Eternal Flame, is to never be extinguished. And what allows for it to be eternally alight with sacred fire? Trees that, springing directly forth from Earth, directly provide the resource necessary for the Menorah’s functioning. Trees, who spring from the Eternal Breath of Life and interweave their breath with all Earth’s animals and so sustain the human beings who fashion the Gold Menorah. And so the Eternal loop of Light and Life and Love that lights our way in the gusts of Winds of change.
What can we learn from the Green Menorah of the Temple Courtyard -- one that is sustained indefinitely by cooperative relationship with the ecology of its surroundings? That we are reliant on the resources of our Earth around us and within us, and that we need to create social systems that not only sustain us, but allow for us and the Earth we’re harvesting to mutually sustain one another. From the Green Menorah, we learn of the importance of Longevity. Eternity.
Therefore, as Hanukkah comes to a close, we invite you to open from thinking immediate to thinking long-term. What continued action can you commit to over the coming year? What covenant will you enter into with your community to ensure that Hanukkah’s lessons on resource conservation last all year?
Below, we provide four potential options for your Green Menorah Covenant to support you and your community in continued climate justice action throughout the next year to enter into covenantal relationship with each other and with Earth, which cradles all of us each day. And will continue to nurture us – IF we act to make sure our own mechanical out-breath of CO2 does not poison and burn the planet.
And just as the interwoven Breath of Life nurtures us into the future, we need to keep the Green Menorah Covenant alive into the future. Not just for the eight nights of Hanukkah.
One more thought about timing: Some who read this may feel that the notion of gathering to create a Green Menorah Covenant makes sense, but there is not enough time in the next week to organize the meeting. Fine. Start planning now to meet the Sunday of Martin Luther King weekend, on January 20. Or on Sunday, February 9, in honor of Tu B’Shvat, ReBirthDay of the Trees, which begins that Sunday evening.
What then could we promise to each other on the eighth night of Hanukkah? We offer four possibilities. Your community could adopt just one or two. Your community could create your own.
- Organize a campaign against the energy powers-that-be in your community. Is the local oil refinery poisoning the air in your city? Demand that it be shut down and reparations be made for its negative health impact. Does one energy corporation have a monopoly over energy access and distribution in your city, region or state? Demand the monopoly be broken up and local, renewable energy companies be created in their stead. Is there a bank in your community complicit in propping up the fossil fuel industry? Demand that they instead invest in renewable energy -- Move Our Money to Protect Our Planet.
- For more information on how to plan a direct action, see The Shalom Center’s Direct Action Guide. at
2. Convene a neighborhood council to plan the formation of neighborhood emergency preparedness plans, resource pooling and solar energy cooperatives. Climate collapse is global, but manifests locally. And it is the coerced individualism of consumerism that has caused this catastrophe, so the only appropriate response is to push back together. How can your local community both collectively prepare for the worst while taking immediate action to reduce? The pressure on the planet? And how can this site of resistance and resilience also be a site of community building and mutual support?
3. Collectively commit to a beef-free home and community. It is widely known that the beef industry is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions beyond what is normal for an agricultural industry. Between both the methane that the cows produce and the inefficient land usage that raising cattle requires, the costs of the beef industry outweigh its benefits. However, the beef industry does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon, because demand for beef is too high. Often, creating a more just and sustainable world for all requires that those with power, privilege, and resources give something up. Immediate and constant access to beef produced by unethical agribusiness practices is something that those of us with access and resource can choose to give up for our earth and for future generations.
4. Campaign to ensure that the Green New Deal is a primary agenda item in the upcoming Presidential Election, as well as on the legislative agenda. In the form of the Sabbatical/ Shmita year, where in times of old the Israelites allowed for both rest for the land and access to the resources of the land for those historically without access, ancient Judaism inextricably linked justice for humans with justice for the earth. So too does the Green New Deal today.
The Green New Deal understands that racial and economic justice are interwoven with ecological justice, for those most directly and immediately impacted by climate change are often those also targeted in systems of poverty and white supremacy. Therefore, mitigating the impact of climate change necessarily creates a safer and more just world for all. This is why we so desperately need a Green New Deal at all levels: locally, regionally and nationally. How can your community ensure the success of the Green New Deal and a safer future for the next generation?
Please let us at The Shalom Center know what you are doing, how and when, about the Green Menorah Covenant. You can write us at GMCovenant@theshalomcenter.org
-- We have provided resources for you to shape Hanukkah into a way of healing Earth and saving many lives. Please help us keep doing this kind of work by giving The Shalom Center a life-saving (and tax-deductible) Hanukkah gift -- by clicking on the “Contribute” button in the left-hand margin.
Thanks and blessings of Light for Clarity and Dark for Mystery at this sacred time of turning for our planet. – Faryn and Arthur