Hanukkah's Light beyond Durban's Darkness
For 8 days of Hanukkah, my True Love said to me:
"Help save My Earth!"
In Durban, South Africa, a conference of all the world’s governments has just ended -- once again failing to take crucial steps to prevent world-wide climate disaster. Once again, the US and to a lesser degree China were blocking the necessary action.
The US failure is the result of enormous pressure from Big Coal and Big Oil, preventing actions to reduce CO2 emissions that large majorities of Americans support. How can the 99% of us respond to this lethal failure by the powerful 1%?
The 99% are not helpless. Public pressure stopped the earth-threatening Tar Sands Pipeline and preserved the moratorium on water-threatening fracking in the Delaware River basin. The Occupy movement has alerted many of us to the dangers of corporate domination. Now what?
We can treat this dark season’s Festivals of Light as profound moments for sacred action on behalf of Life and YHWH/ Yahhh, the Breath of Life.
In this letter we are focusing on Hanukkah and its celebration of sacred Light in the Menorah. We are sharing with you two amazing graphic symbols of the Temple Menorah as a Tree of Light, blossoming with light-filled life. (Click on the graphic to see it full-size.) One comes from the Middle Ages; the other, from our own generation.
This year, the first night of Hanukkah comes on Tuesday evening, December 20. As always, it comes when the moon is dark and the Earth is close to the winter solstice when (in the Northern Hemisphere) the night is as long as it gets, the sun is as dark as it gets.
In this time of darkness, we kindle a gathering bank of lights. If we are feeling depressed or despairing about our country, our world, our planet -- now is the time to kindle new light.
There are three levels of wisdom through which Hanukkah invites us to address the planetary dangers of the global climate crisis – what some of us call “global scorching” because “warming” seems so pleasant, so comforting.
These are the deep teachings of Hanukkah:
1. The Talmud’s legend about using one day’s oil to meet eight days’ needs: a reminder that if we have the courage to change our life-styles to conserve energy, it will sustain us.
2. The vision of Zechariah (whose prophetic passages we read on Shabbat Hanukkah) that when the Temple would be rebuilt, the Menorah would itself become a living being, uniting the world of adam and adamah, “human earthlings” and earthy “nature.” For Zechariah prophesied a Menorah that was not only fashioned in the shape of a Tree of Light, as Torah teaches, but was flanked by two olive trees that fed olive oil directly into it.
3. The memory that a community of “the powerless” can overcome a great empire, giving us courage to face our modern corporate empires of Oil and Coal when they defile our most sacred Temple: Earth itself. And the reminder (again from Zechariah) that we triumph “Not by might and not by power but by My Spirit [b’ruchi — or, “My breath,” “My wind!”], says YHWH, the Infinite Breath of Life.”
We are taught not only to light the Hanukkah menorah, but to publicize the miracle, to turn our individual actions outward for the rest of the world to see and to be inspired.
So we invite you to join, this Hanukkah, in The Shalom Center ‘s Green Menorah Covenant for taking action – personal, communal, and political – to heal the earth from the global climate crisis.This is the symbol for the Green Menorah Covenant:
And here is how we can encode these teachings of Hanukkah into actions we take to heal the earth, one action for each of the eight days. We begin at home and enlarge the circle of action step by step, to the national level:
After lighting your menorah each evening, dedicate yourself to making the changes in your life that will allow our limited sources of energy to last for as long as they’re needed, and with minimal impact on our climate.
No single action will solve the global climate crisis, just as no one of us alone can make enough of a difference. Yet, if we act on as many of the areas below as possible, and act together, a seemingly small group of people can overcome a seemingly intractable crisis. We can, as in days of old, turn this time of darkness into one of light.
Day 1: Personal/Household: Call your electric-power utility to switch to wind-powered electricity. (For each home, 100% wind-power reduces CO2 emissions the same as not driving 20,000 miles in one year.)
Day 2: Congregation, Hillel, JCC, retirement home, etc: Urge your congregation or community building to do an energy/insulation audit. Urge switching to wind-powered rather than coal-powered electricity. Call your utility company to learn how.
Day 3. Your network of friends, Twitter buddies, Facebookers, and the members of civic or professional groups you belong to: Visit the Occupy movement in your town, urge them to put Big Oil & Big Coal on their list of the 1% exploiters of the 99%, and offer to join with them to “occupy” their local offices. If you have friends like newspaper editors, real-estate developers, architects, bankers, etc. urge them to strengthen the green factor in all their decisions and actions.
Day 4. (which this year is Shabbat). Automobile: If possible, choose today or one other day every week to not use your car at all. Every day, lessen driving: use public transit, bike, walk. Shop on-line. Cluster errands. Carpool. Don’t idle engine beyond 20 seconds.
Day 5: Workplace or College: Urge the top officials to arrange an energy audit. Check with utility company about getting one free or at low-cost.
Day 6: Town/City: Urge town/city officials to require greening of buildings through persuasion of businesses, ordinances, tax policy, and executive orders. Creating change is often easier on the local level!
Day 7: State: Urge state legislators to reduce subsidies for highways, increase them for mass transit. In states (like Pennsylvania, NY) where high-profit oil/ gas companies are trying to “frack" Oil Shale deposits, demand a moratorium until we can get full information on what poisonous chemicals are being poured into the water table and our drinking water.
Day 8: National: Some Senators and Congressmembers are seeking to cripple EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), mostly to protect Big Coal. Oppose them! Urge your Congressmember and Senators to strengthen EPA to regulate CO2 emissions from coal-burning plants, autos, oil refineries, etc. -- for the sake of our planet's climate, and to lessen asthma outbreaks among our children.
Happy Hanukkah for Planet Earth --- and you!
Blessings of light in a month of dark, hope in a time of doubt. -- Arthur