INTEGRATING AWARENESS OF
NUCLEAR ISSUES INTO JEWISH STUDY,
CELEBRATION, AND LITURGY
Purpose: To experience traditional prayers in which awareness of the nuclear threat has been explicitly integrated; to explore whether and how prayer should be used as a way to deepen our awareness as Jews living in the nuclear age; to experience prayer as "action"; to choose a next step action in this area, as appropriate.
1. Experience of Prayer
Ask the students to take a moment of quiet, during which they imagine that it is Shabbat night or Havdalah, or that they are beginning the Pesach candle-lighting.
Light two candles and read the Kavannah together, or in two groups, alternating paragraph by paragraph.
We are the generation that stands between the fires. Behind us is the smoke of Auschwitz. Before us is the nightmare of the Flood of Fire: the thermo-nuclear holocaust that could consume the world.
We therefore light this flame as a symbol of danger and of hope. This flame could burn and destroy; but we will use it as a light to see each other. To see the image of God in all of us. To see the Rainbow in our many-colored faces. To see that all of us, in our differences, are human, the children of Adam and Eve, and Noah and Naamah. To see the beauty of the Earth, and all its creatures.
Blessed be the One Who shapes the fire into light. Baruch attah Adonai Elohenu melekh ha-olam bgLex m'orey ha-aish.
—Menorah April-May, 1983
Ask the students to take a moment of quiet, at least three deep breaths. Then read responsively the Responsive Reading (Tisha-B'Av Prayer) below.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind, with all your strength, with all your being.
In the eyes of the One God, here and there are the same, they and I are one, Oceans divide us; God's presence unites us.
Set these words, which I command you this day, upon your heart.
To pray is to stake our very existence on the truth and on the supreme importance of that which we pray for.
Teach them faithfully to your children; speak of them in your home and on your way, when you lie down and when you rise up.
The world is not the same since Auschwitz and Hiroshima. The decisions we make, the values we teach must be pondered not only in the halls of learning, but also before the inmates of extermination camps, and in the sight of the mushroom of a nuclear explosion.
Bind them as a sign upon your hand; let them be a symbol before your eyes.
The groan deepens, the combat burns, the wailing does not abate. In a free society, all are involved in what some are doing.
Inscribe them on the doorposts of your house, and on your gates.
Some are guilty, all are responsible.
Be mindful of all My Mitzvot, and do them; so shall you consecrate yourselves to your God.
Holiness, an essential attribute of God, can become a quality of our own. The human can become holy.
You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
—Gates of Prayer, New Union Prayerbook, p. 579-580
Take another moment of quiet.
II. Reflect in Prayer
Ask the students to take three minutes each to share with each other in pairs their reactions to the reading: any images that stay with them, any lines that particularly strike them, how they felt as they read and how they feel now, any questions they have. Call "switch" after three minutes, and bring the group back together after six minutes.
III. Group Discussion Guide
Ask the students to share with the whole group any images, feelings, thoughts, questions they would like. Respond with "understanding responses" (Page 2). Pick up on themes, e.g., the noticing of a specific value, such as: diversity is good; seeing the beauty of being alive; questing for an understanding of God after the Holocaust; the feeling of terror that may come with really taking in images of Auschwitz and images of Hiroshima.
As appropriate, deepen the discussion: e.g, about diversity: what is special, unique, different about each person in the class/group; experiences with different kinds of Jews, with non-Jews, with people of color, with people born outside the US; or about the use of the word holocaust as used both for the experience in Germany and for the nuclear peril.
IV. On Prayer
Give each student a card with a different quote from "On Prayer" and "Prayers for Peace." Ask each student to read the card aloud. Ask the next person to take at least one deep breath before reading.
After the reading, ask the students to talk in pairs for two minutes about how they could add nuclear age awareness to the quotation or the prayer. In the whole group, share these thoughts.
**To pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain the sense of the mystery that animates all beings.
"Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great.
"Prayer takes the mind out of the narrowness of self-interest, and enables us to see the world in the mirror of the holy. We do not step out of the world when we pray; we merely see the world in a different setting.
"Prayer is no panacea, no substitute for action. It is, rather, like a beam thrown from a flashlight before us into the darkness.
**It is in this light that we who grope, stumble and climb, discover where we stand, what surrounds us, and the course which we should choose.
"Who rise from prayer better persons, their prayer is answered.
Prayers for Peace
**A person should pray for peace until the last clod of earth (has been thrown upon hislher grave.)
—Talmud, Berachot 8a
"Grant us peace, Your most precious gift, 0 Eternal Source of peace, and give us the will to proclaim its message to all the peoples of the earth. Bless our country, that it may always be a stronghold of peace, and its advocate among the nations. May contentment reign within its borders, health and happiness within its homes. Strengthen the bonds of friendship among the inhabitants of all lands, and may the love of Your name hallow every home and every heart. Blessed is the Eternal God, the Source of peace.
"May it be Your will to cause war and bloodshed to vanish from the earth, to let a great and wondrous peace prevail in all the world. So never again shall nation lift up sword against nation, not ever again shall they train for war.
Follow the sequence on pg. 5, "Interaction Strategies." Use these statements: 1. "A time when I prayed and felt close to God was..." 2. "It's sometimes hard for me to pray because..." 3. "My family thinks prayer is ... because..."
Talk about the function and power of prayer: during the Holocaust and other times of Jewish history; in our daily lives; as a response to living with nuclear danger. Ask the students what Kavannah (meditative intention) means in this context.
Ask the students if they think it is all right to change the traditional prayers. Why? Why not?
Discuss the difference between individual prayer and collective community prayer: How are they similar? How different? Share experiences with both. What do people pray for? What is the power in each?
V. Action Through Prayer
Tell the students they are going to brainstorm individual and class "action through prayer" possibilities. Remind them that action takes many forms.
Individual Action: talk with someone, pray within oneself, study, write a song or poem, draw.
Action as a class: write a new prayer together; take the initiative to ask the rabbi or their family to include their new prayer in services; send it to their Senator or Congressperson; letter-writing together; participate in or plan a vigil or service together.
VI. Journal Writing or Drawing
Ask the students to write their thoughts and feelings about this lesson in their journals. This reflection/evaluation time is an invaluable part of the lesson.
V11. Action Step
Brainstorm with the class for about seven minutes. Put up two pieces of big paper, one for individual actions, one for actions the group could do. Remind the students that brainstorming means there is no commenting on other people's ideas. Choose a person to write with magic marker on each paper. As the students call out ideas, the writer(s) will write them down.
After the brainstorm, review the lists. Give each student an index card on which to write an individual action she or he wishes to take. Discuss with the class what, if any action they want to take at this time as a class. Discuss what makes an action meaningful. Discuss what makes an action effective. Effective for whom? Discuss possible consequences of actions, intended and unintended.
1. E5cperience of Prayer.
2. Reflection on experience in pairs.
3. Whole group sharing.
4. Discussion of Prayer in Jewish life and as a response
5. Action Steps: brainstorming and doing.
6. Reflection in writing.
Creating and Exploring Midrash for the Nuclear Age
To understand the traditional form of midrash as a powerful form of expression and communication for the nuclear age; to engage in the process of creating and telling midrashim for our age.
. 1. Read or Tell the Students About Midrash
"The word midrash is related to the Hebrew verb "lidrosh," which means to examine or question. With midrash we delve into and search out the meaning of the Torah text. We actually dialogue with the Torah, coming to the Torah as we do, from the perspective of our generation, our own life experience. The Torah text states many questions without answering them ,explicitly. These questions jump out at us and demand a response. Midrash is the process of focusing on these questions and delving into the text in an attempt to answer them." (Rabbi Ruth Sohn, Menorah Jan-Feb 1983)
Ask the students to remember a time when someone told them a story. Ask them how hearing information as a story is different from hearing it in statement form. Ask them in what ways commenting on and learning from stories stimulates thinking differently from thinking in an analytical way about factual information.
Some points for discussion are: Traditional forms of learning such as story-telling have relevance in the nuclear age in personalizing information that is difficult to let in; we can feel powerful as we create; practice in asking questions of the tradition can open our imaginative capacities for previously unthought of alternatives.
II. Creating Midrash
Together choose a story that is relevant for the season or the Torah portion of the week.
Ask the students to read the story out loud, taking turns. Give each student a card, and ask them, as they read, to remember the questions that come to mind. After the reading, each student will write down three questions. List one question from each person on the board.
Form pairs. Ask each person to pick a question from the list, or a new one, and think out loud for three minutes about story themes and possible ways to include nuclear age awarenesses into the midrashim.
Take parts and role-play both the traditional story and the new story.
Each person can then write or draw a new midrash, perhaps taking the point of view of a minor character and including nuclear age awarenesses into the story. Spring from and return to the text.
In groups of four, each student can read or tell the new midrash to the group. Collect the midrashim and make a class book.
LESSON 10: Lingering in Sodom
To explore traditional and new midrashim in the context of the nuclear age; to
experience the power of creating midrash in writing and in dramatic form.
Ask the students to form groups of four and read the story, "Lingering in Sodom" aloud to each other, taking turns.
After they read, ask the students to list the characters and prepare a short skit. In the whole class' ask the students how they felt as they did the skits. Ask them if they ever felt as if they were in a situation similar to Lot's. Ask them how our situation in the world today is similar to Lot's, and how they feel it is different. In their groups, ask the students to list three ways they agree and disagree with Rabbi Saperstein's commentary on Lot's story and his analysis of our current situation.
M. Questions for Discussion
1) What questions does Rabbi Saperstein ask of the story? What does he ask about people in general? What does he think we need to do? Why? What do you think "wickedness" is?
2) How do you think Lot felt? How do you think the messengers of God felt?
3) Have you ever had an experience when you were told you were in danger and should move quickly but you couldn't for some reason? Have you ever tried to tell someone there was danger and they listened to you only after long convincing?
4)What conditions in your personal life and in the world seem dangerous to you? Why do you think those conditions exist?
5) What action did Lot finally take? What action did the messengers of God take? What does Rabbi Saperstein think we need to do? Why? What action do YOU think we as a society should take? Why? What could support you to take action you want to take? What might make it difficult for you to take action? If you were a magician, name three ways you would transform our society.
6) Your Thinkiny.1 Why do you think "people continue to cling to the way of war?" Do you agree with Rabbi Saperstein's opinion that militarism is profitable and that is why people "linger" in taking action to avert danger? What do you think are the dangers in the world today?
When you hear the word NUCLEAR, what questions come to your mind? What do you think you need to learn to not be confused?
What do you think are the priorities of our society now? Why do you think so? Do you think these priorities need to be changed? Why and why not?
What people in the world today would you characterize as "militarists"? Why do you think they think the way they do? Do you know anyone personally you would characterize as a 11 militarist"? What logic and personal experiences make them take the point of view they take? Do you think of yourself as a militarist? Why and why not? Why do you think Rabbi Saperstein says "We, as JEWS" cannot permit militarists to set priorities for our country and the world."
Midrash: Lingering in Sodom
Rabbi David N. Saperstein
Sodom. Gomorrah. Thriving and prosperous cities of the plain, now lifeless sites on the barren shores of the Dead Sea... The wickedness of these cities drove God to destroy them.
But before the destruction, God sent two messengers to warn Lot, Abraham's nephew who had not been corrupted by the evil of Sodom, so that he could escape to the mountains with his family.
The morning of the impending destruction dawns, the messengers anxiously urge Lot to hurry, saying, "Arise, take your wife and your two daughters, lest you be swept away in the iniquity of the city."
And the narrative continues, "But Lot lingered; so the men took his hand, and the hands of his wife and daughters, and brought them out of the city, the Lord being merciful to him."
Why did Lot linger in Sodom? Messengers from God had been sent to tell him that he must flee immediately, the day of destruction had come, the fire and brimstone that would bring a cataclysmic end to all life in the area were just beyond the horizon.
Lot was in mortal danger; every minute counted. Yet the Bible tells us simply, vayitmamah, "but he lingered."
Various commentators tried to explain his inability to take the necessary action in this moment of destiny. Rashi writes k'dai lehatzil et mamano "he lingered in order to save his wealth." In the moment of peril, Lot was concerned only with the money he would lose by fleeing with his family.
Ibn Ezra, the renowned Spanish commentator, writes shf'chad, v'ayn bo koach livroach," for he was afraid, and had no strength to flee." Lot was paralyzed by fear, and this prevented him from responding to the demands of the crisis.
Sforno, an Italian rabbi, writes matzad aftla v'nefesh niuhalah, "his delay was because of laziness and confusion." In the hour when his fate hung in the balance, he wasn't sure what to do, and so he did nothing.
All of these commentators are trying to explain why (people) who know that the status quo is fraught with danger, and know that they must act to change it, fail to take the decisive action that is required.
My friends, each generation has its own Sodom. Ours is the militarism that has increasingly threatened to engulf our society...
And yet, while we know the danger, we too linger in Sodom, unwilling to abandon the militarism which endangers us all. Why do (people) continue to cling to the way of war?
The first explanation was that Lot lingered in order to save his wealth. And this is one of the most important reasons why we remain wedded to militarism — there is so much money to be made; for many, militarism is so profitable...
We as Jews cannot permit the militarists to set the priorities for our own country or for the
world... The United States sells over half of all the weapons sold in the world today. Is thi
The second explanation was that Lot lingered because of fear — fear that robbed him of strength to act in accordance with reason. And this is a second crucial factor:... we fear enemies, who undoubtedly fear us just as much... fear has led the American people to delegate enormous power to the military, as if to say, "Here is all the money you need, just make us secure."
The third explanation was that Lot lingered out of laziness and confusion. He was not sure what to do, so he did nothing. Here too is a reason why we have not made more progress toward peace... The issues ARE complex... But they are not so complex that we cannot learn. And learn we must...
Either we begin to combat the forces that profit by militarism, to overcome the fear which feeds it, to transcend the indifference which allows it... or we will remain in Sodom until destruction is showered upon us.
What we need is a transformation of our society, its priorities, and its way of looking at the world. And if this is too much to hope for all at once, we can begin with ourselves. God will grant us peace — if we deserve it.
—Preventing the Nuclear Holocaust, A lewish Response. P. 4142.
ObservingShabbat with Nuclear Age Awarene
A. Sharing About Shabbat
B. Shabbat in the Nuclear Age
To explore the observance and meaning of Shabbat in the context of nuclear
age awareness; to practice communicating about the special meaning of
Shabbat for the nuclear age with non-Jews.
A. Sharing About Shabbat
In a go-round or concentric circles ask the students to say what they did last Saturday and what they usually do on Saturday (other possibilities: one pleasant memory of Shabbat; something they know about the practice of Shabbat; a question they have about Shabbat; some difficulty they have with the practice or idea of Shabbat; ask the students to draw a picture expressing a positive feeling of Shabbat.
Give each student a card with one of the quotations below. Ask them to form groups of three. Ask each student to take two minutes to read the quotation and say any thoughts they have about it. In the whole group, ask the students what it means or would mean to choose not to do certain things and choose to do other things on Saturday. Ask them what this has to do with living wisely in the nuclear age.
"The meaning of the Sabbath is to celebrate time rather than space. Six days a week we live under the tyranny of things of space; on the Sabbath we try to become attuned to holiness in time. It is a day on which we are called upon to share in what is eternal in time, to turn from the results of creation to the mystery of creation; from the world of creation to the creation of the world... Six days a week we wrestle with the world, wringing profit from the earth; on the Sabbath we especially care for the seed of eternity planted in the soul... Six days a week we seek to dominate the world, on the seventh... we allow the world to be as is.
— Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man.
"One must not walk out on the Sabbath with a sword, bow shield, lance or spear... R. Eliezer objects: But these are ornaments. Said the Rabbis: These are a disgrace, not ornaments! "
- Mishna: Sabbath 6:4
"The 39 forbidden acts are: ploughing; sowing; reaping; sheaf-making; threshing; winnowing; selecting; sifting; grinding; kneading; baking; sheep-shearing; bleaching; combing raw material; dyeing; Spinning; inserting thread into a loom; weaving; removing the finished article; separating into threads; tying a knot; untying a knot; sewing; tearing; trapping; slaughtering; skinning or flaying; tanning; scraping; marking out; cutting to shape; writing; erasing; building; demolishing; kindling a fire; extinguishing a fire; the final hammer blow; carrying in a public place. "
"Mashiah will come when the whole Jewish People keeps1remembers Shabbat twice in a row. "
_- Talmud, Shabbat 118b
"Rest in the sense of the traditional Sabbath concept is quite different from "rest" being defined as not working or not making an effort (just as "peace" — shalom — in the prophetic tradition is more than merely the absence of war, it expresses harmony, wholeness)... On the Sabbath... man is fully man, with no task other than to be human."
— Erich Fromm
"Refraining from these activities frees us for other activities, and a day of rest can then say to us: You can slow your life down. You can have the time to rediscover your family and friends. You can take a long walk, sing songs, dance... You can talk, smile, laugh... A yom menuhah frees us in the most basic sense of that word — to discover places inside ourselves that can get rusty without use."
— The Jewish Catalog
"The proper application of Sabbath values would help end environmental pollution. The Sabbath teaches that we should not be constantly involved in exploiting the world's resources and amassing more and more possessions. On that day we are to realize our dependence on God and our responsibility to treat the earth with care and respect.
—Richard Schwartz, Judaism and Global Survival.
Ask the students to form groups of three. Ask each group to transform at least three of the 39 acts forbidden on Shabbat into modern urban industrial acts that if forbidden on Shabbat would contribute to personal and global peace.
In the whole group, ask each person to speak for a minute in a go-round (a person may pass) about anything that was interesting to them. Go-around often deepens the sense of community in a way that random sharing does not.
B. Shabbat in the Nuclear Age
Follow the sequence on page 3, "Interaction Strategies." Use the key word: SHABBAT IN THE NUCLEAR AGE
In groups of three, ask students to list three ways in which the nuclear age is different from other ages. Ask them to list three ways in which Shabbat might be particularly important in the nuclear age.
In the whole group, discuss: What can we learn from the practice of Shabbat that would be useful to us in the nuclear age? Together look at traditional services in the context of nuclear age awarenesses. Find places where nuclear age awareness could be infused. (See Amidah, p.37)
Ask the students: What does the story that Messiah will come when all the Jews in the world have celebrated Shabbat in the way that it should be celebrated for two Sabbaths in a row mean in the nuclear age?
Communicating About Shabbat
Role-Play: Ask the students to form pairs and role-play a Jew who is sharing with a non-Jew her/his own experience of Shabbat and understanding of its particular relevance in the nuclear age. After about two minutes, switch roles. After about five minutes, pairs can come together in groups of four to continue the conversation, two people being non-Jews and two people Jews. Ask the students to share thoughts in the whole group.
SONG: Close with a song, e.g., "Oseh Shalom".
"And the Skies Will Shut" by Sheila Peltz Weinberg
Menorah Jan-Feb, 1983 (excerpts)
I was asked to tell a story. I'll go to the oldest told story I know, and look at it with eyes and ears of this day.
Today is Sabbath — seventh day of Creation — day of pause, rest, and mostly, awareness of Creation. The last note before we begin the next weekly octave of our lives...
Today is Sabbath Ekev — the second Sabbath of consolation. We read from a scroll of Torah that has been inscribed by hand in ink by a scribe with a quill. He is not permitted to use a metal instrument, for metal instruments are instruments of war — and the Torah is the Book of Life.
This morning I had the honor of chanting a passage of Torah reading — the melody as ancient as the words.
I would like to share my sense of what that passage is telling you. It is from Deuteronomy, Moses' concluding address to the children of Israel. Moses speaks in the name of Adonai — the One of Being. At the end of his talk, Moses goes up to the mountain to die. He is summarizing the essence of the past and distilling instructions for the future. He says:
"If you really listen to my directions that I am giving you today, to LOVE Adonai Eloheichem and work for Adonai, with all your hearts and souls, your land will have rain in its seasons, early and late... Take care not to be lured away to serve other gods and bow to them. For Adonai's anger will be kindled against you and THE SKIES WILL BE SHUT ... And you will quickly perish and disappear from the good land Adonai has given you...
To me, the best commentator... to tell us what these words mean to us, is Jonathan Schell. In The Fate of the Earth he says, "Only a generation that believed itself to be in possession of final absolute truth could ever conclude that it had reason to put an end to human life, and only generations that recognized the limits to their own wisdom and virtue would be likely to subordinate their interests and dreams to the as yet unformed interests and undreamed dreams of the future generations, and let human life go on."
In the chanting of today's Torah portion, one word has a unique note. The word is Ahavah, Love. It is a pulsating beat. LOVE: Love for Self, Love for others, Love for Creation, Love for Creator, Love for Past, and Love for Future.
We read, "Love Adonai!" How do we understand this? To love Adonai is to love life — to love all space and time. To love SPACE in the infinitely subtle, complex and beautiful intertwined web of co-existence of which we are a part. And to love TIME: the past -learn it and cherish it; the present — be fully present to it; the future — this is your reward and your obligation.
Love Adonai and Work for Adonai's purposes. Work for the preservation, survival, enhancement of life...
How do we understand the phrase about being lured away to bow down to other gods?... It is a matter of setting our interest, dreams, profits, beliefs, ideologies and "isms" above the concern for the preservation of creation — the survival of space and time...
Torah tells us to impress these words on our HEART, the place of feelings and art, music, prayer, and poetry; bind them on our HAND, (the place of action, organization, building and labor) and set them as a symbol before our FOREHEAD (the place of thought, education, science, research).
All our human functions and enterprises should legitimately be engaged in the struggle for preservation... The Torah makes a special effort to tell us to teach this instruction to our children — that we and our children may endure. The message is about the next generations —generation to generation...
In a world astride a million potential Hiroshimas, this teaching1promise needs to be seen as made to the whole earth... On this Sabbath, Remembrance Day of Creation — we read the deep truth of an old story at its universal level. And we know it's true ... We alone can keep the promise and the promiser alive ...
On this day between Hiroshima Day and Nagasaki Day — we think, we feel, we do.
Ask the students to sit in groups of four and read aloud in turn Sheila Weinberg's commentary, "And the Skies Will Shut." Ask students as they read to keep in mind the phrases that particularly strike them. After reading, allow a few moments of quiet. Ask students to share in pairs the phrases that struck them. Share the phrases and questions in the whole group.
How can the idea of pause, rest from doing, appreciation of the world, be of particular relevance in the nuclear age? How are the directions that Adonai gives to Moses related to our predicament today?
Ask the students to remember a moment when they were aware of Creation. What does this mean? Why is this awareness important?
Why is it so important that the Torah not be written with a metal instrument?
Why is the title, "And the Skies Will Be Shut?"
How does quoting Jonathan Schell and thinking about the survival of the species deepen the Sabbath? How does it go against the traditional Sabbath observance or interfere with Sabbath peace? In what way do you agree with Weinberg that Schell is a good commentator on this passage? In what way do you disagree? Is it okay to think about the survival of the species on the Sabbath?
Do you think the message of Adonai was only for the Jewish people, or to humanity, as Weinberg suggests? What does it mean to you to LOVE Adonai?
Celebrating the Holidays with Nuclear Age Awarene
Purpose: To explore how nuclear age awareness has been infused into the practice of holidays and life-cycle celebrations; to gain experience in infusing nuclear age awareness into these celebrations; to reflect on the juxtaposition of contemporary and traditional themes in order to deepen the learning and guidance for contemporary life and to increase awareness of our power in the nuclear age as individuals and as groups.
I. REVIEW EXAMPLES OF NEW OBSERVANCES
Ask the students to read the "new observances"
for the appropriate holiday in pairs. Share reactions to these in the whole group. Ask the students how they feel about these as part of traditional holiday observances. Suggest that by infusing the holiday and life cycle with nuclear age awareness, we can shift our awareness and renew our practice in ways harmonious with the tradition and powerful for our lives. We can use the tradition for guidance in this crisis.
II. CREATE NEW OBSERVANCES
A. Ask the students to review major themes of nuclear age awareness. For example:
1.Awareness of human power to destroy the planet.
2.Responsibility for preservation of the world.
3.Need to face the pain and despair — feelings.
4.Security is in our connectedness with each other.
5.Power to and with, not power over.
6.Find alternatives to violence and military
strength to resolve conflict.
7.Awareness that nuclear bombs are not weapons in
the old sense.
8.One person can make a difference.
9.People together can make a difference.
10. Relationship in just community.
11.Relationship to law, government.
B. Ask the students to review related Jewish themes and values.
1.Responsibility for the generations, past, present and
2. Responsibility to the community — Jewish and human.
3.Tikkun Olam — repair of the world.
4.Stewardship and caring for nature.
5.Repentance is possible — teshuvah.
6.Question authority — Abraham arguing with God.
7.Action, behavior is important.
C. Make a Jewish Holidays web chart. Then, list with the students different kinds and qualities of power expressed in the holidays. Ask them how these types of power are related to creating conditions of peace. For example:
Rosh Hashonah- the power of creation.
Yom Kippur— the power of turning and returning. the power of forgiveness.
Sukkot— the power of survival.
Chanukah— the power of standing up for one's beliefs; the power of faith; the power of gratitude
Purim— the power of speaking the truth
Pesach—. the power of risk-taking and courage—leaving the known for the unknown
Shavuot—.the power of receiving the responsibility of the law
Tisha B'Av—.the power of deep grieving and release.
As a whole group, discuss for about 10 minutes how nuclear age awareness might be included in the observance of different holidays.
Review the holidays on the web and then form pairs or small groups by holiday. Each group can work on a way of integrating nuclear age awareness themes into the holiday observance. Provide resources of holiday books for the students to work with. Ask the students to add lines, or make up lines to infuse nuclear age awareness and action into the observance.
Ask the students to write in their journals about new insights or feelings which came up during this class.
IV. TAKING ACTION.
Share the observances. Decide how to actually put them into practice and share them more widely during the year.
Holiday Themes Relevant to Nuclear Age Awarene
ROSH HASHANAH/YOM KIPPUR:
Renewal of the seasonal cycle, appreciation of the natural order of life; beginning of the world, affirmation of commitment to sustain the world; celebrate creation, realization of connectedness with past and future; personal renewal, action to slough off outmoded ways of thinking; return and change, experience of at-one-ment with community and self; change of name; reconciliation; remembering the dead and facing death; contributions for tzedakah.
Fulfillment, joy in the harvest, shalom, harmony in the world; temporary fragile huts, in the safety of a loving world; intense celebration and season of our joy; celebration of all the 70 nations; seven guests; waving of lulav and etrog: all six directions; tree of life.
From seeming death comes profound new energy for life; dancing and singing: the joy of learning, congregation-wide affirmation of Torah; seven days of creation: reading, solidarity with Soviet Jews.
Turn toward light from moment of darkness and despair; The power of a small group of people against the state; importance of self-respect as Jews/assimilation; a great miracle happened there; national liberation movements/the exercise of political power; Haftarah: Zechariah: "Not by might, but by My spirit..."
New Year of the Trees: flow of life renewed; tree of life with roots in heaven; Seder: 3 kinds of fruit representing action, formation, creation; Planting trees - Torah: even if one decides to make war against a city, its trees must be protected (Deut 20:19); protect the natural world.
Courage and tenacity of Mordechai and Esther; speak truth to power; Jewish self-defense groups: repaying the anti-Semitic enemy; focus on tzedakah; laughter and merriment.
Peoplehood of Israel; liberation from oppression; non-violent resistance: midwives; faith: stepping into the Red Sea; Elijah: redemptive work turning the hearts of the generations towards each other; rebirth of the earth and springtime life; spiritual rebirth of the individual.
Counting of the omer: building up to receiving the Law; festival of first fruits; every Jew in every generation was at Sinai; Ten Commandment
Bum-out in summer; twice destruction of the temple; Shechinah went into exile. This holiday falls near Hiroshima Day and several liturgies have been developed to make the connection.
PASSOVER - THE ULTIMATE PHAROAH:
(from The Shalom Center )
FACING THE DANGER:
The Haggadah reminds us of Laban and his desire to destroy us all, in order to point out that the danger of Pharaoh recurs in every generation. Immediately after the lines about Laban, the following can be inserted:
And in this generation, search and demand to know about those who shape the fire of the sun to murder nations and all humankind; for at last those who rise up against us, to annihilate us, make no distinctions of race or belief, but plan to destroy us all, without exception. May the Most Holy, blessed be You, deliver us out of their hand again!
The Haggadah teaches that Passover should be a time to experience our own liberation, not only to remember the liberation of our forebears. As it says, "In every generation, every human being shall look upon himself, herself, as if we ourselves come forth from slavery." After this, the reader can say:
In our generation, there is only one slavery that every human being faces: the danger that we all will die together in a nuclear holocaust. So tonight let us make a covenant with each other: that each of us, with God's help, will act to free ourselves from this slavery. I pledge myself to...
RECEIVING TORAH: MEDITATIONS FOR THE NIGHT OF SHAVUOT by Burt Jacobson (Menorah, May/June, 1984)
ve-hiv-di-la-nu min ha-to-im,
ve-na-tan la-nu To-rat 'e-met
ve-cha-yei o-lam na-ta be-to-chei-nu
Blessed is our God, who has touched us with divine glory, separated us from error and given us a Torah of truth, implanting within us eternal life.
There is a fire that could burn the earth to ashes. It burned at Auschwitz, and it burned at Hiroshima. Tonight we are lighting another kind of fire, the fire of the spirit, the fire of love.
May the fire we light here at this celebration in honor of the giving of our Torah help lead the way to universal light, light to see beyond our wars and differences,
For the Torah is the light through which we see Light.
Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha'olam asher kid'shanu Fmitzvotav v'tzivanu 1'hadlik ner shel Yom Tov.
SUKKAT SHALOM/SHELTER OF PEACE
Two Blessings in the Sukkah
(Leader) Mi sheberach avotenu Avraham, Yitzhak, v'Yaakov
v'imotenu Sarah, Rivka, Racheyl, vLeah — You who have blessed our mothers and fathers for many generations with courage, with wisdom, with seichel, with a thirst for peace and justice and freedom, with the love of their children and their children's children that we are harvesting today -
(All) Bless us with their courage and their wisdom;
(Leader) Bless us that we also love our children and our children's children — love them so strongly that we = to give them a world to live in, not a nuclear holocaust to die in;
(All) Bless us that we choose life, that we and our children may live.
(All) Bless those of us who choose to pray and celebrate for peace and life.
(All) Bless those of us who choose to write and demonstrate, for peace and life.
(Leader) Bless those of us who choose to write our representatives for peace and life, who choose to say aloud to them: "Shma! All life is one!"
(Another leader) Bless those of us who choose to journey in the wilderness, to live in Sukkot to face the sands where machines of holocaust are tested — for the sake of peace and life.
(All) Spread over us, we ask you, the Sukkah of Your shalom.
(Leader) Welcome as ushpizin, holy guests into Your sukkah, all who work for peace and life.
(All) And help us to spread above each other the sukkah of shalom.
(All) Sukkat Shalom!
(Halves of the group to each other!) Shalom aleichem -aleichem shalom!
II. Tonight we welcome holy guests into the Sukkah those who speak the 70 tongues of earth. No matter what our angers,
our quarrels, and our fears, tonight we welcome here into this sukkah those who speak Russian and English, German and
Bengali, Spanish and Arabic, Hindi and Swahili, Chinese and Hebrew, Portugese and Zulu, Amharic and Afrikaans, Tagalog and Polish, Magyar and French, Quechua and Khmer.
We welsome you, your holy guests,
—to share with us this frail and open hut;
—to share with us the wisdom this hut teaches: that in the nuclear age all life lives in a sukkah vulnerable to a rain of fire;
—to share with us the only security that is possible in our generation — the security that comes not form steel, or concrete, or lasers, but from sharing our insecurity;
— to share with us the security that comes from caring for each other.
You who are the Shelter of the World, spread over us the Sukkah of Shalom. Ufros alenu sukkat shlomekha. (Song)
You Who make harmony in the farthest reaches of the universe, teach us to make peace maong ourselves and with all who dwell on earth. Oseh shalom bimromav hu yaasei shalom alenu Val kol yisrael Val kol yoshvai teyvel. (Song)
Lif e-CycleEvents in the Nuclear Age
A. Brit Milah/Naming Ceremonie
B. Bar/Bat Mitzvah
To learn how nuclear age awareness has been infused into life cycle ceremonies.
A. Brit Milah/Naming Ceremonie
Ask the students to tell about a birth or new baby they know. Ask them in pairs to say three ways in which the Brit Milah or naming ceremony seems important, and three ways in which it does not seem meaningful or necessary to them.
Ask the students to work in groups of three and read the following article. Ask them as a group to write on big paper three points in the article that "struck" them or were interesting to them. In the whole group, look at what each group wrote and discuss.
In the same groups, ask the students to write a prayer or statement for one of those ceremonies which would infuse nuclear age awareness of danger and opportunity.
"The Bomb, the Rainbow, and the Bris"
The H-bomb is utterly new to human beings. The Torah is one of the oldest documents of human culture. So it might seem impossible to learn how to deal with the H-bomb by studying Torah... How to connect the two?
For me, the way has been to ask the Torah, with an open mind and heart and spirit, 'Where can I find a teaching about the H-bomb?" And to pause. To let the stillness, the "white fire" of the spaces on the parchment of the Torah as well as the "black fire" of the letters on the parchment, flame up at me. To see what comes...
The Torah teaches us that stories of the past are not enough to teach us — that experiences in our own lives are necessary. The aLQrx of the Akedah is not enough... The Torah is so concerned that in EVERY Jewish father there may lurk the impulse to kill EVERY Jewish son, that the Torah teaches us to do a miniature Akedah in every generation of the Jewish fan-dly. That miniature Akedah is the Bris, the ritual circumcision.
In the Bris, each father lifts the knife above his son, as if to say, "You are helpless, I could murder you, but I will not. Instead I will hallow the genitals through which you will generate life in the next generation."
And perhaps it is that actual experience that purges fathers of the murder impulse...
The Torah does not seem to be afaid that mothers may want to murder their children; and it is noteworthy that Sarah is utterly absent from the Akedah.
Perhaps the Torah is telling us that if we want to forestall any danger of killing the next generation, Sarah must be fully present.
Today, the mothers of humanity and the feelings that are motherly in men must be fully present in making the decisions that will choose between life and death...
Ramban (Nahmanides) saw a connection between the Rainbow and the Bris. Both, he said, turned weapons of anger and strictness, rigor, into instruments of loving kindness. For in the Bris the knife is turned from death to life.
And God gave the Rainbow by taking the bow of war — the bow that had aimed arrows of destructive rain upon the earth — and turning it upside-down. "See," said God; "I have turned my bow around. It can no longer shoot from Heaven. It is my sign of peace, and love, and hope."
So from these images we can take learning. We must build the earth into an Ark, we must permeate all aspects of our lives with the effort to prevent a thermonuclear holocaust, we must try to experience — not just to tell the story — what it means to share and save the earth...
— THE BOMB, THE RAINBOW, AND THE BRIS by Arthur Waskow, Menorah.
B. Bar/Bat Mitzvah
Ask the students to form groups of three and read the traditional Amidah. Ask each group to work with three of the 19 prayers and infuse nuclear age consciousness into them. Use one of the following as an example. After the students have developed their own, share them. Ask the students to decide if they want to include these in their own Bar/Bat Mitzvah, or in a regular Shabbat service.
Rabbi Sheila Weinberg has developed a ceremony built around the weekday Amidah of 19 prayers. The first three and last three (see below) could be used in connection with the Bar-Bat Mitzvah service on Friday evening or Shabbat morning. (See The Shalom Report #11, June 1987 for the full ceremony) The text draws on the traditional patterns and order of prayer; each prayer keeps the traditional chatimah or "seal," the conclusion. The body of each prayer, however, is focused on peace.
1. We deepen our connection with our ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Rachel, Leah. As we draw strength from their truth, may that strength help us protect the truth that abides with us. We praise You, God, Guardian of Abraham, Help of Sarah.
2. We affirm the compassionate power within ourselves, within groups and within governments, that lets the love of life triumph over the urge to prepare for death. We praise You, God who wrests life from death.
3. We acknowledge as sacred the connection among all life on our planet. We praise You, God, ultimate sacred mystery.
(intentional break ... )
17. We believe that prayer and worship can be a force for unity, not divisiveness. We praise You, God whose Presence forever radiates from Zion.
18. We are grateful to our parents for their faith and love and for teaching us that life is a miracle which we must acknowledge and protect. We praise You, God whose touchstone is goodness. To pray to You is joy.
19. We believe it is possible to eliminate nuclear weapons from this planet. We promise to work for peace while we pray for peace, to God, the eternal source of peace. We praise You, God whose blessing is peace.
II. Taking Responsibility
Ask the students to brainstorm for 5-10 minutes about things they might do to affirm the Brit HaDorot, the Covenant between the Generations: "their own desire to live to even fuller maturity, along with planet earth..." Ask them to brainstorm for another 5-10 minutes on actions they would like to ask their parents and other adults to take "to make sure that their teenage children and that entire generations can live to their parents' age." Some examples:
A. Young People:
1. D'VAR TORAH: In the talk, or D'var Torah, the Bar/Bat Mitzvah could include nuclear age awareness and rela