"Exhilarated, empowered, exhausted!" was what Dr. Barbara Breitman, faculty of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, said was how she felt at the end of yesterday's powerful March for a Clean Energy Revolution.
I think she was speaking for thousands -- perhaps 10,000 -- who gathered at Philadelphia's City Hall and then marched to the Liberty Bell to greet the Democratic National Convention and all our leaders, officials, and candidates with our demands for a Clean Energy Revolution.
The March began with a prayerful ritual in which the practitioners of many religious and spiritual traditions spoke. We began with a smudging and invocation by the Lenape Native Community, on whose earth we were gathering. Then I spoke on behalf of the Jewish community, wearing the Rainbow tallit that for me symbolizes our commitment to each other to prevent the Flood of Fire that threatens to decimate all life on Earth.
Here, along with photographs of the March, are the words I prepared. (Because of the sweltering heat, I omitted some of them when I spoke.) -- Blessings of shalom, salaam, peace, Earth! -- Arthur
We gather to walk in the footsteps of those who gathered 3,000 years ago to resist a Pharaoh who turned workers into slaves, immigrants into pariahs, and brought plagues -- all ecological disasters -- upon the Earth. We are walking, as did they, toward the creation of what Martin Luther King called a Beloved Community.
We gather to walk in the footsteps of those who gathered 2,000 years ago to resist Caesars and create two different forms of Beloved Community.
We walk in the footsteps of those who 1400 years ago struggled against the power elite of Mecca in order to create a Beloved Community.
We walk in the footsteps of William Penn whose statue is atop the City Hall where we are gathered, and who with other Friends strove 350 years ago to create here a Beloved Community free of slavery and war, a community mindful of the Jubilee that frees not only humankind but also all the Earth from overwork and exploitation: “Proclaim liberty throughout the land to all the inhabitants thereof,” says the Bell toward which we walk that quotes the Jubilee passage of the Bible.
We walk in the footsteps of Martin Luther King and Abraham Joshua Heschel, who 50 years ago said that in that walking, their legs were praying, and who called out to this nation the fierce urgency of Now.
(Photo by Nigel Savage)
Chant (using the melody by Joey Weisenberg for “Nishmat kol chai”):
The breath of all life
Praises Your Name
For Your Name Itself
Whispers Breathing of Life.
The breath of all life
Praises Your Name
For Yahhhh is Your Name,
One of the most ancient biblical Names of God is Yahhhh –-- a Breath. It enters English through the word “Halleluyah!” which is really taken from two words in Hebrew: “Hallelu-Yah -- Let us praise Yah, the Breath of all life. “
So let us begin this prayer by pausing simply to Breathe: -----------------------------
Now let us turn our attention to where our breath comes from and where it goes:
We breathe in oxygen that the trees breathe out;
The trees breathe in carbon dioxide that we breathe out.
We breathe each other into Life.
Let us breathe again, following your breath as it comes from the trees and grasses near you, and as it leaves you to become the Breath of All Life, the Interbreathing of All Life.
This Interbreathing of Oxygen and Carbon Dioxide is what makes life possible on Planet Earth.
This Interbreathing is now in deep disorder, for some powerful human institutions – modern Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that bring plagues upon the Earth -- insist on mechanically breathing out more CO2 into our air than the trees and grasses can breathe in and transmute into oxygen. And so our Mother Earth begins to choke and burn.
And the coal dust and gasoline fumes that fill the air in many of our neighborhoods as we burn these fossil fuels make our children choke and wheeze. One-fourth of Philadelphia’s children suffer from asthma. All Earth chokes, and so do our city’s children.
What we call the climate crisis is a crisis in Yahhhh, the Name of God.
This Breath is the still, small Voice the Prophets heard.
This Breath, this Name of God, is what everyone can hear and no one can say.
You Who are the wounded Interbreath of Life, Help us to shape our breath with lips and tongue into words to heal You -- words that aim toward wisdom -- words that can persuade, words that can challenge, words that can sing, words that can love.
You Who are the Interbreath of Life, breathe life into our hands, our legs, that we may touch each other in community, that we may walk with prayerful vigor to protect and heal You in this moment, the fierce urgency of Now.
You Who are the Interbreath of Life, we pause to Breathe You.
[Time to Breathe ------------]
Ah-meyn, Ah-min, Amen!
(Photo by Mirele Goldsmith)