Green Menorah Covenant
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
Hanukkah begins Thursday evening, December 10. What do we want the commitment of our community to be, to do, by the last night?
We urge that you, we, together create 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 Mishkan 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. (Exodus 25: 31-39) 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: The Prophet 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 Interbreathing 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 greedy power and the selfish might of carbon Empires that are condemning Earth to fires, floods, and famines.
Then, in a passage just a few lines later, Zechariah asks for a further explanation:
“‘And what,’ I asked [God’s messenger], ‘are those two olive trees, one on the right and one on the left of the light-bearing Menorah? What are the two outgrowths of the olive trees that feed their golden oil through those two golden tubes? Then s/he explained, ‘These two reach out to take their stance to make a lordly connective-link to all the Earth for the shining oil-of-anointment.’” (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 that feed their oil directly into the Menorah, with no human intervention needed. 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.
Hanukkah was created in a time of resisting tyranny and honoring the resistance with a teaching and a practice: “Not by might and not by power, but by My Spirit, says the Breath of Life.” And the proof: One day’s energy, one day’s olive oil, met eight days’ needs! If we resisted tyranny and refused to worship idols, we could learn how to make sure that it would take only a minimum of nature’s energy to serve us.
What can we learn from the Green Menorah of the Temple -- 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. Forever.
Therefore, when Hanukkah comes to a close, we invite you to open your imagination 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?
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.
What then could we promise to each other during Hanukkah?
We could promise to create our own congregational and neighborhood solar energy co-ops. And we could commit ourselves that these co-ops will work to support a national campaign for Federal grants to neighborhood solar-energy co-ops in every neighborhood -- urban, suburban, small town, rural.
In the spirit of Hanukah, we could watch on the evening of December 10 a PBS TV show that asks the question -- Why doesn’t every home in America have solar panels?
Watch Property Brothers star Jonathan Scott explain on PBS Power Trip how we can change America’s energy future together. Bring your questions to a screening and Q+A discussion with Scott and Anya Schoolman, founder and exec of the Solar United Neigborhoods (SUN) program that has solarized many neighborhoods in DC and beyond. The show can be seen anytime with Q and A from 7 pm to 10 pm on December 10. RSVP here today!
That evening is the first night of Hanukkah. We can join by Zoom with family and friends to light the first Hanukkah candle, either at 6:30 pm Eastern Time, before this amazing PBS TV show, or after it finishes at 10 pm Eastern Time.
Federal grants to neighborhood co-ops can bypass state and local officials. The new solar systems radically reduce the costs of electricity; radically increase the rapid spread of renewable energy and its jobs; reduce asthma and cancer rates in neighborhoods near coal-burning plants and oil refineries. Infusing national money into this local transformation would create millions of new “green jobs” in communities now hollowed out and dying. And the new solar systems would greatly reduce CO2 emissions that are scorching and burning our home – our planet.
What’s more, the co-ops themselves would become grass-roots political challenges to the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that are making hyperwealthy profits by burning Earth, sowing the anti-life seeds of enormous floods, hurricanes, droughts, fires, and famines.
I sketch this approach as a model of what a community-based, compassionate, justice-seeking America – simultaneously “global” and “neighborly” -- might look like. I suggest that it could be good practical politics as well as good value politics – appealing as a Green Neighborhood New Deal to people who started out opposing the national program for the Green New Deal, just as Obamacare when it actually went into effect appealed to people who started out opposing it.
For that very reason, it may be bitterly opposed by the same politicians who bitterly opposed Obamacare, and still do. All the more reason for us to vigorously support it!
It's time to start preparing for the eight days of Hanukkah and the twelve days of Christmas (starts Christmas Eve, December 24). When better for a healed economy, a healing Earth?