"Elijah's Covenant" --New Rabbinic Statement on the Climate Crisis

For other materials on how to draw on Jewish and other spiritual/ religious wisdom to deal with the climate crisis of global scorching, see


Elijah’s Covenant Between the Generations

to Heal Our Endangered Earth:

A New Rabbinic Call to Action

On the Climate Crisis

 We Rabbis, Cantors, and other Jewish leaders and teachers,

see ourselves as the heirs of the ancient Hebrew Prophets,

including the last, whose words echo through the ages:

 “I [YHWH] will send you the Prophet Elijah to turn the hearts of

parents to children and the hearts of children to parents,

lest I come and utterly destroy the Earth.”

(Malachi 3: 2324)

 For the first time in the history of Humanity, we are actually moving toward the burning and devastation of the web of life on Earth by human action --  the unremitting use of fossil fuels. Our children and grandchildren face deep misery and death unless we act. They have turned their hearts toward us. Our hearts, our minds, our arms and legs, are not yet fully turned toward them.

Can we more fully turn our hearts to these our children?  It will mean:

1) Studying Jewish wisdom and today’s truest science of Earth-Human relationships;

2) Lifting up old prayers and new, old rituals and new, that celebrate Earth;

3) Welcoming refugees who have fled the storms, floods, and famines that beset their homes because of global scorching;

4) Urging our banks and our politicians to Move Our Money, Protect Our Planet (MOM/POP):  Move away from investments in and subsidies of Carbon Corporations and Protect by investing in renewable wind and solar energy;

5) Persuading ourselves and our congregations and communities to move our own money, create solar-energy coops, establish car pools to lessen reliance on gas, and adopt additional modes of kashrut to include foods and energy sources that heal, not harm, our planet;

6) Joining our young people in urging our governments to legislate a swift and massive program that intertwines ecological sanity and social justice, as they were intertwined in the biblical practice of the Shemittah/ Sabbatical/ Seventh Year. (Lev. 25 and Deut. 15)

7) Shaping all these efforts as expressions of joyful community, not fearful drudgery.

The nearest analog to that ancient Shemittah practice to have brought together the hearts and minds of Youth and Elders today is the “Green New Deal.” Among its urgent demands:

1) Swiftly end the burning of fossil fuels;

2) Provide millions of wellpaid new jobs to install the necessary network of renewable energy for an economy freed from the tyranny of carbon;

3) Sustain those workers whose jobs disappear as we move from the old economy to the new one;

4) Empower neighborhoods of color and of entrenched poverty, indigenous peoples, and other marginalized communities that have already been suffering the worst impacts of fossil-fuel harm and dead-end economic despair;

5) Reforest Earth and defend our natural wildlife refuges;

6) Take careful steps to restore a climate as lifegiving to our grandchildren as it was to our grandparents.

This social transformation is the fruit that can grow only from the roots of spiritual wisdom. We come back to the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, the Interbreath. In planetary terms, that Interbreath is the interchange of Oxygen and CO2 that keeps animals and plants alive. It is precisely that Interbreath that is now in crisis, as the overmanufacture of CO2 by burning fossil fuels overwhelms the ability of plants to transmute the CO2 to oxygen – and thus heats, scorches, burns our common home.

Our sacred task requires affirming not only the biological ecosystem but also a cultural/ social ecosystem   the modern word for how the diverse Images of God become ECHAD. Jews, Indigenous Nations, Christians, Muslims, Unitarians, Buddhists, Hindus, and many others –each community must bring their own unique wisdom to join, in the Name of the ONE Who is the Interbreathing Spirit of all life. Whose universal Breathing is the “nameless name,” the “still small voice” that supports and suffuses all the many diverse Names of God in many cultures and communities. That Interbreathing Spirit supports and suffuses all life on Planet Earth.


(There are three lists of signers below. The first is the list of Initiating Signers. After that is a much longer list of additional signers and then a list of very recent signers whom we have not yet had time to integrate into the alphabetic list of Additional Signers. Below that third list is a link for new signers. If you are looking for a specific signer, please check all three lists. In all three lists, institutions are noted for identification only. In keeping with that understanding, officerships in those institutions are not noted.) 

Two Days Left!

If you care about a planet that is burning, choking and strangling the Holy Interbreathing, the Ruach HaKodesh, the interchange of oxygen and CO2 that keeps all life alive, two days left.

If you care about the ancient wisdom of an earth-based people that was encoded in the Hebrew Bible and can help us learn how to heal our wounded world today, two days left.

Green Menorah Covenant: Planning for Day 8 of #Hanukkah8Days4Climate


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.  

  1. 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. 

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 

Day 7 of #Hanukkah8Days4Climate

Day 7: Hold the Havdalah cerremony ending Shabbat and then a Hanukkah candle-lighting in public space, calling for making a distinction between these times of climate apathy and the coming times of transformative climate healing.

[For other resources by Faryn Borella and Rabbi Arthur Waskow on celebrating Hanukkah that can help us all to heal our wounded Earth, please see the Home Page of The Shalom Center at Faryn Borella is a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern at The Shalom Center. – AW, editor]

“The Sages taught: It is a mitzvah [life-connecting action] to place the Hanukkah lamp at the entrance to one’s house on the outside, so that all can see it. If he lives upstairs, he places it at the window adjacent to the public domain.” Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 21b

It is common practice today to kindle our Hanukkah candles within our homes or places of worship. However, the rabbis of old instructed us that our hannukiot were to be lit and placed outside one’s home in order that they public may see it. And why is this? Rashi explains that the purpose of the Hanukkah lights is to “publicize the miracle,” and there is no publicizing without a public.

Therefore, we invite you for this seventh day of Hanukkah to communally renew the practice of public candle-lighting in order to publicize the miracle: publicize the miracle that resource conservation was possible, is possible, and will be possible. And we call upon you to do this at the close of Shabbat, when we choose to optimize the liminal space of twilight-into-night to separate between what is given us as sacred and what we must choose to make sacred, this time calling for a new separation--a separation between our existing time of climate apathy and the reign of fossil fuels into the coming times of transformative climate healing and a renewable future.

Below are kavanot (intentions) for each of the four blessings of the havdalah ritual that we offer you, to use as an offering at your Public Havdalah and Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony.


Kavanah: Why in Judaism are we so often called upon to bless wine, especially in moments of sanctity and transition? Because wine serves as an instrument to change our consciousness. Wine itself is a product of change. It begins as grape juice with a simple sweetness. Then it ferments, turning sour. And then it changes again, achieving a higher form of sweetness – the one that changes us. (Some among us refrain from wine and change their consciousness without its help.) Therefore, we are invited by wine to trust and to act so that transformation is possible; that  sometimes it can be sour, but can and will bend toward the good if we support it in doing so.

So too the collective consciousness can and will be transformed if we are willing to believe that it is possible and act to make it so. So let this wine serve as a reminder in seemingly dark times that the dark itself is not bad, but a part of the process of transformation--a transformation that we have the opportunity to midwife toward the good. 

Hebrew Blessing: Baruch Atah YHWH [Yahhh / HaShem], Eloheynu Ruach Ha’Olam, Borei P’ri Hagafen.

English Blessing: Blessed are you, Interbreathing Spirit of the universe, who creates the fruits of the vine.

Set aside the wine or grape juice to be drunk at the end of Havdalah.


Kavanah: Why, in Judaism, do we often smell spices at moments of transition? To remind us to breathe, for what is smelling but a form of deep breathe? And what is it that we are breathing? We are breathing out images and understandings of God that are hierarchical -- God as Lord, King, Judge -- and breathing in the true essence of the divine name YHWH--the one that is Breath (as you will sense if you try to pronounce it with no vowels -- YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh. As you smell the spices, breathe out a god that rewards and punishes and breathe in a God that understands the interrelatedness of all being--a God that has a preferential option for its continued sustenance. Breathe out a God of Domination and breathe in the God of the Ecological.

Hebrew Blessing: Baruch Atah YHWH [Yahhh / HaShem] Eloheynu Ruach Ha’olam, Borei m’nai b’samim.

English Blessing: Blessed are you, Breathing spirit of the universe, who creates various forms of spices.

Pass around the spices to be sniffed



We are the generations

That stand between the fires.

Behind us the fire and smoke

That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima, 

Not yet behind us the burning forests of the Amazon,

torched for the sake of fast hamburger.

Not yet behind us the hottest years of human history

that bring upon us

Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.

Before us we among all life-forms

face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,

The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.


To douse that outer all-consuming fire

We must light again in our own hearts

the inner fire of love and liberation

that burned in the Burning Bush.

The Fire that did not consume the Bush it burned in,

The Fire that must never be extinguished.

The fire in the heart of every community and all Creation. 

It is our task to make from inner fire

Not an all-consuming blaze

But the light in which we see more clearly

The Rainbow Covenant glowing

in the many-colored faces of all life.

Hebrew Blessing: Baruch Atah YHWH [Yahhh / HaShem] Eloheynu Ruach Ha’olam, Borei M’orei Ha’esh.

English Blessing: Blessed are you, breathing spirit of the universe, creator of the fire’s light.

Light the Havdalah candle. Lift your fingers to see in your own fingernails the inner sparks of holiness, sparks of the Burning Bush we carry within us. And turn to look at each other's eyes to see the holy light within our neighbors.


Kavanah: Why do we distinguish between what is holy (kodesh) and hollow -- waiting to be filled (chol), rather than considering everything of God’s creation as holy? For there are some things that God instills with holiness, while other things for which God asks of us to do that instilling. Though we are often told that chol means “profane,”  to be chol is actually to be like the chalil -- the flute.   To be hollow.

It is not that chol is inherently unholy, but rather that which is chol contains the potential to be holy, but requires of us to make it so. We distinguish between kodesh and chol to remind ourselves of our role as co-creators with the divine -- that the whole world can only emerge as holy if we participate in making it so. To remind us that we are accountable to Earth and responsible for its emergent holiness. And that it is incumbent upon us to fill the hollow with the holy.

Hebrew Blessing: Baruch Atah YHWH [Yahhh / HaShem],  Eloheynu Ruach Ha’olam, hamavdil bayn kodesh lechol bayn or lechoshech bayn yom hashevi’i leshayshet yemay hama’aseh. Baruch Atah YHWH [Yahhh / HaShem, hamavdil bayn kodesh lechol. 

English Blessing: Blessed are you, Breathing spirit of the universe, who makes a distinction between what is given us as holy and what comes to us as hollow open space, waiting for us to choose to fill it with holiness; between the light and dark; between the seventh day and the six days of doing/making. Blessed are You, Breathing One, who distinguishes between the holy and the hollow.

Drink the wine or grape juice and then douse the Havdalah candle in it. Why? Because we thus unite what seem to be opposites – Eysh or Fire and Mayim or Liquid into Shamayyim, that ultimate heavenly state in which opposites can live together in peace.

After doing the ceremony of Havdalah, lift up a communal Hanukkia or welcome the varied Hanniokot brought by members of the community. Light the shamash or initiator-candle and from it light seven candles of the Hanukkia. Invite people to give names or qualities of blessing to each of the seven candles of this evening.

Flu Shots & Loving Songs NOW for Kids in Cages

Holy-Day Love Songs for Children in "Detention" Cages

[Dear friends of all communities of love and Spirit, Hanukkah and Christmas are approaching.  Both holy times beckon us to Light and Love.  In "detention centers" that are really becoming concentration camps of illness and trauma, refugee and immigrant children are suffering -- especially now, when in addition to cold and crowding the US Government is adding refusals to inoculate kids against flu. Already some have died, and more will as winter and crowding produce epidemics.

[In Philadelphia this week, Elder Witness and Friends are singing songs of new words to melodies of these holy times, at City Hall Park from noon till 1 pm on Thursday, December 19. You are welcome to join them! The Shalom Center is sharing with you two songs written in this mode by Rabbi Phyllis Berman.

[We encourage you to visit or call your Senators and Congressperson to demand that they force the Trump Administration to inoculate all these prisoners, children and adults alike,  against flu, NOW. If you can, bring your friends and sing them these songs on the phone or in their offices--  AW, editor]

[Tune to "Silent Night," words by Rabbi Phyllis Berman:]

Unquiet night, nothing is bright --
Children crying, children dying.
No flu shots in a too-crowded space
Frigid cold in a prison-like place
How can grown-ups still ignore
Human needs at their core?

Unquiet night, nothing is bright
Not enough blankets, not enough beds
No toothbrushes or showers with soap
Dismal conditions to cause loss of hope
How can our government still ignore
Human needs at their core?

Unquiet night, nothing is bright
Future dreams have no light.
Immigrants come here for safety,
In common with all humanity
These are children much like yours --
Greet them with wide open doors!

[Tune to the Hanukkah song "Maoz Tzur" and "Rock of Ages"; words by Rabbi Phyllis Berman:]

All our children need vaccines
Without flu shots they suffer
Diseases spread like wildfire
Contaminating each other.

CHORUS: We who once were strangers
                  Must welcome those in danger
                  With medicine, clean clothes, and food
                  And loving care to brighten their mood.
                  Medicine, clean clothes, and food
                  And loving care to brighten their mood.

Separating parents from kids
Is cruel and traumatic for them all
Leaving home is hard enough;
Why would we want to build a wall?

CHORUS (same as above)

Detention is no place for kids
Withholding books and toys and care;
Frightened with or without their folks --
Harsh responses cause despair.

CHORUS (same as above)

[In addition, The Shalom Center has been providing day-by-day resources for the Eight Days of Hanukkah, to draw on the spirit of conserving energy as in the remarkable story of how one day's sacred oil met eight days' sacred needs. Our suggestions move from transforming our households to our communities to our country   -- at each level, how to turn away from destructive addiction to Carbon and fossil fuels, turning instead to the energy of sun and wind. See articles on our Home Page at https://theshalomcenter.org] --  AW,  ed.]

Days 2, 3, & 4 of #Hanukkah8Days4Climate

[The Shalom Center has been developing resources for making Hanukkah -- the festival of learning from the Clarity of Light in the midst of the Mystery of Dark and the festival of celebrating the conservation of energy, into a framework for addressing the climate crisis and strengthening joyful communities rooted in the Spirit. These suggestions for the first half of Hanukkah were brought together by Faryn Borella, a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern for The Shalom Center. See also other articles on Hanukkah on our home page. --  AW, editor]

 Day 2 - Switch your utility provider from coal or oil to renewable

One must distancea tannery… fifty cubits from the city. One may establish a tannery only on the east side of the city, because winds usually blow from the west and the foul smells would therefore be blown away from the residential area. Rabbi Akiva says: One may establish a tannery on any side of a city except for the west, as the winds blowing from that direction will bring the odors into the city, and one must distance it fifty cubits from the city.” Bava Batra 25a

In this Mishna, the rabbis set a precedent that polluting industries must not be established within cities, but rather well outside of cities, and not placed in any such way that the pollution produced therein could have negative impact on the inhabitants of the city.

However, in our day and age, not only do we find agents of pollution right within our cities, but even polluting industries located outside of cities to provide the electricity for our cities are having a negative impact, on both urban and rural populations, for the pollution they are producing not only has dire health impact on those directly exposed, but secondary impact on the entire human population, for these polluting industries are largely to blame for global climate collapse. The Shalom Center has been developing resources and suggestions for making Hanukkah, the festival that celebrates conservation of energy and deep learning from the Clarity of Light and the Mystery of Dark, into a framework for addressing the climate crisis.

Therefore, in the spirit of the rabbis of old, we call upon you to cease to support these polluting industries. While electricity is a seeming necessity in our day and age, where it comes from is increasingly a choice. You now have a say in whether your power from the grid is from coal, oil, natural gas, or renewable energy. We are calling upon you to take advantage of this choice and opt into renewables. Sources such as Arcadia Power help you to locate ways to switch to renewable energy without opting out of the main power grid, and they help you to do so at the least financial cost. So on this third day of Hanukkah, we encourage you to research the options in your area, and make the change today.

Day 3: Go 100% LED light bulbs at home & Jewish & other religious or communal gathering-spaces.

The third night of Hanukkah this year happens to fall on Christmas Eve, a day in American society where the public sphere takes a Shabbat. Take advantage of this day of familial and communal rest to gather your community for a new form of Hanukkah ritual.

In the Talmud, there was debate as to how we should light the Hanukkah candles. Some said one candle should be lit per household, some said one per person per household. However, Rabbi Hillel said you should light one candle on the first night, and with each night add a candle, for holiness can only increase.

Lighting one candle on the first night indicates a tendency toward resource conservation, and a trust that if we preserve and conserve, God -- the Ruach HaKodesh, Holy InterBreathing that unifies all life -- will provide fuller abundance in the future, but if we use all of our resource at once, far less will be available for our children and our children’s children in the future.

Therefore, we call upon you to enact a new ritual on the first night of Hanukkah. After you light your Hanukkah candles, go room-to-room in your house or Jewish communal home, changing all your bulbs to LED, and as you begin the process with the first bulb, recite the bracha:

Baruch atah YHWH [Yahh, HaShem, Breath of Life] Eloheynu ruach haolam asher kidshanu b’mitzvot vitzivanu lo tash'chit.

Blessed are You,  Breathing Spirit of the world, our God, for making us holy with ways of affirming our connections with all life  -- among them the connection of consciously refusing to waste and destroy.

When you have finished, affirm this joyful "first" in your life by reciting:

Baruch atah YHWH [Yahh, HaShem, Breath of Life] Eloheynu ruach haolam  -- sheh-hechianu v'kimanu v'higianu lazman hazeh!

Blessed are You,  Breathing Spirit of the world, our God, Who fills us with life, lifts us up, and carries us to this moment!

[Read further for additional suggestions on how to draw on Hanukkah traditions to heal Earth and Humanity from the cclimate crisis.]

Hanukkah & Climate, Day 1: Torah Study on Energy & Earth

#Hanukkah8Days4Climate -- Day 1, Torah Study

A Prefatory Note by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 

director of The Shalom Center and 

Member, Visioning Team, Earth-Based Judaism track 

Of the ALEPH Ordination Program

Followed by a Torah Resource Page woven by 

Rabbinical Student (RRC) Faryn Borella,

The Ira Silverman Memorial Intern of The Shalom Center 

[In the Shalom Report we have suggested a Hanukkah Trajectory related to the climate crisis for the eight days of the festival. We suggest beginning on the first night (Sunday evening, December 22) with communal gatherings to light the first candle, share Hanukkah foods, and share participatory study of Torah passages that bear on the meanings of Hanukkah – especially its connection with Earth and with conservation of energy.

[Our bare-bones chart suggesting observances connected with the rhythms of the Moon for Days 2 through 8 appears in an article on the Home Page of our website at https://theshalomcenter.org/hanukkah8days4climate   In the next few weeks we will be sending Shalom Reports with more detailed suggestions for Days 2 through 8. --  AW] 

We begin below with a prefatory note that briefly outlines the history and relationship of some major Hanukkah-related texts, followed by the texts themselves.

We begin with the Talmud, which tells us that Hanukkah is a holiday created to commemorate the miracle of conservation of energy when one day’s oil to relight the sacred light-bearing Menorah, necessary in order to rededicate the Temple after its time under occupation by the imperial army of Hellenistic Syria, was enough to keep the Menorah lit for eight days.

In historical factuality, the Book of Maccabees (which was written much closer to the events) says the reason was to celebrate the eight days of Sukkot, which they had not been able to celebrate while the Hellenistic army had control of the Temple.  In all anthropological likelihood, the eight-day celebration of light when the Moon and Sun are darkest goes back even further into the religious history of communities in the eastern Mediterranean. 

Many modern scholars believe that the ancient Rabbis deliberately directed future attention away from the Maccabees because they did not want to encourage violent uprisings against imperial powers. For in their consciousness, the Maccabee-like revolt of Bar Kochba in 135 CE ended in utter disaster for the Jewish people, as Rome smashed the Jewish population of the Land of Israel. 

The ancient Rabbis decided to use words from the Prophet Zechariah as the Haftarah (prophetic passage) to be read in synagogues on the Shabbat during Hanukkah. Like the legend of the eight-day bottle of one-day oil, it directed attention away from the Maccabeean guerrilla-band revolt, cresting with “Not by might and not by power…”

So after the Hanukkah-defining passage from the Talmud, we focus on Zechariah’s prophetic vision. He wrote or proclaimed it after the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonian Empire, and is envisioning a new Temple with some important differences from the one that had been destroyed  -- especially a radical vision of olive trees next to the Menorah.

Zechariah’s focus on the Temple Menorah reinforces the Rabbis’ focus on its connection with the reason for Hanukkah. We include Rashi’s interpretation of the strangest part of Zechariah’s ecstatic vision.  Then – to deepen our understanding of the Menorah that has become so central -- we go back to the Torah’s earliest definition of the Menorah in the portable Shrine in the Wilderness, and therefore ultimately in the Temple in Jerusalem.

A special note on translating “YHWH.”  Like the great Bible translator Everett Fox, rather than substituting the false translation as “LORD” I transliterate the Name.  I also “translate” it as “Breath of Life, Interbreathing Spirit of the world” because I think “pronouncing” it with no vowels brings forth the sound of a breath  -- ruach. And I think in our era that is a far better, more truthful metaphor for God than “King, Lord.” It betokens an ecological rather than hierarchical understanding of the world.

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Resources for Torah Study, 

1st night or day of Hanukkah

Woven by Faryn Borella

Shabbat 21b, Talmud Bavli

מאי חנוכה דתנו רבנן בכה בכסליו יומי דחנוכה תמניא אינון דלא למספד בהון ודלא להתענות בהון שכשנכנסו יוונים להיכל טמאו כל השמנים שבהיכל וכשגברה מלכות בית חשמונאי ונצחום בדקו ולא מצאו אלא פך אחד של שמן שהיה מונח בחותמו של כהן גדול ולא היה בו אלא להדליק יום אחד נעשה בו נס והדליקו ממנו שמונה ימים לשנה אחרת קבעום ועשאום ימים טובים בהלל והודאה

The Gemara asks: What is Hanukkah, and why are lights kindled on Hanukkah? The Gemara answers: The Sages taught in Megillat Taanit: On the twenty-fifth of Kislev, the days of Hanukkah are eight. One may not eulogize on them and one may not fast on them. What is the reason? When the Greeks  [Syrian Hellenistic imperial army] entered the Sanctuary they defiled all the oils that were in the Sanctuary by touching them. And when the Hasmonean monarchy overcame them and emerged victorious over them, they searched and found only one jar of oil that was placed with the seal of the High Priest, undisturbed by the Greeks. And there was sufficient oil there to light the Light-bearing Menorah for only one day. A miracle occurred and they lit the Light-bearing Menorah from it eight days. The next year the Sages instituted those days and made them holidays with recitation of hallel and special thanksgiving in prayer and blessings.

Impeachment: Constitutional, Moral, or Spiritual?

The American people and the human race are facing profound moral and spiritual crises -- so profound that they shake our political systems and take the form of a Constitutional crisis. They force us to face the meaning of government, law, and democracy. In US history, a similar crisis led to the most important and consequential effort to impeach and remove a President of the United States –- an effort that failed. Today a profound moral and spiritual crisis – in some ways rooted in that historic failure -- has brought us to the same moment.  

In this essay (in two parts) I will sketch the history and ethics that lead me to this belief, and then will end by suggesting the actions that this crisis calls forth.

What we call “politics” and “constitutions” embody the spirituality of a whole society, even the whole human community. Sometimes it is a demonic spirituality, as in Hitler’s Germany. Sometimes it is a sacred spirituality, as in the three Constitutional Amendments after the Civil War that outlawed slavery and attempted to end racial inequality in the US.


Those Amendments tried to create what would have been a Second Constitution of the United States. They emerged from a moral and spiritual effort to end the original sin – notice the “spiritual” word -- of slavery and racism in the original US Constitution and social system, and to bring about real racial equality. For almost a century, they mostly failed. Not till the grass-roots upheaval of the Black-led freedom movement in the 1960s did the courts give some of those amendments reality. 

The first sign of that century of failure came in a failed effort to use the impeachment provisions of the Constitution to remove from office President Andrew Johnson. The House of Representatives in 1867 brought charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors” against him. By a single vote, the Senate failed to remove him.

The House had impeached Johnson for (a) firing an activist Secretary of War, appointed by President Lincoln, who was ready to have the US Army ensure racial equality in the South, and (b) claiming

Action Guide for #Sukkot4ClimateHealing : Part 2, Ritual Resources

[At https://theshalomcenter.org/content/inviting-you-join-sukkot4climatehealing is the basic unfolding of our spiritually rooted strategy for engaging a wide variety of religious and spiritual communities in healing Earth and Humankind from climate disaster. This report follows the Guide to Sukkot Action, Part 1,  accessible at https://theshalomcenter.org/action-guide-sukkot4climatehealing-part-1. That report lays out the step-by-step process of organizing a Sukkot action to heal Earth.

[This Guide to an activist celebration of #Sukkot4Climate Healing was written by Faryn Borella. She is a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern at The Shalom Center. The Guide is intendedd to support groups of Jews and memberss of other religious, spirituaal, and ethical groups who joiin in celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish Harvest Festival tht traditionally welcomes participation by all communities that seek to honor, protect, and justly share Earth's abundance. In our generation, this includes insisisting on public policies to heal Earth and Humanity from the climate crisis. AW, editor]

Ritual Resources:

For a classic book on the history, spiritual meaning, and practices of the flow of the Jewish festivals, see Arthur Waskow’s  Seasons of Our Joy. The third edition, published by the Jewish Publication Society, is available from the publisher at  https://jps.org/books/seasons-of-our-joy/



General Sukkot Ritual Practices:


Below is a list of rituals traditionally practiced on Sukkot.Any one of these rituals could be used as part of your action. Here, they are summarized. Below, find amended versions of the rituals that tailor them toward the goal of Climate Healing.

  • Building and dwelling in the Sukkah
  • Ushpizin: A ritual to welcome our “sacred guests” into the sukkah with us. We perform a short ceremony to welcome the ushpizin (Aramaic for “guests”). The full text of the ritual invites them to join us, including prayers that our fulfillment of the mitzvah of sukkah will be worthy of Divine favor. Then, on the first day we say, “I invite to my meal the exalted guests, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. May it please you, Abraham, my exalted guest, that all the other exalted guests dwell with me and with you – Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David.”

In many communities, women ushpizot have been added. One approach to naming them is based upon the seven women prophets named in the Talmud: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther. Other lists connect with the deep understandings of the spiritual aspects of various biblical women, especially the Four Foremothers, Miriam, Hannah, and Esther..

And in some communities, heroic men and women of later eras and other-than-Jewish communities are welcomed as sacred guests: for example, Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou Hamer; John Muir and Rachel Carson.

  • On each day, a different one or two of the seven or fourteen is singled out, in order. [Check Ritualwell or Open Siddur for roster of uspizot] For more information, see here
  • Hallel: chanting Psalms 113-118, songs of joy and thanksgiving. The full text can be found here:


  • Benching Lulav and Etrog: Waving the lulav and etrog, in the seven directions ---  six outward – Left, Right, Front, Back, Up, Down – each time bringing the lulav inward to touch your heart --  the seventh direction,accompanied by blessings.
    • Take up the lulav and etrog.
    • Say: May my thoughts be holy, in token of the abundance of blessing that is mine from heaven and earth. With these fourspecies, I reach out to the Interbreathing Spirit of all Life, whose Presence is with us in all directions and all ways.
    • Wave the species in the seven directions and recite the blessing (below listed first in the masculine, then in the feminine.
    • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יָהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת לוּלָב   
    • Barukh Atah Yah, Eloheynu ruakh haolam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvot v'tzivanu al netilat lulav.
    • בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ יָהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְשַׁתְנוּ בְּמַצּוֹתֶיהָ וְצִוַתְנוּ עַל נְטִילַת לוּלָב
    • Brukhah At Yah Eloheynu ruakh haolam asher kid'shatnu b'mitzvot v'tzivatnu al n'tilat lulav.   
    • Blessed are you, Yah, Breath of Life, who makes us holy us with Your commandments [or “connections”] and has enjoined upon us the mitzvah of the lulav.   
    •   בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יָהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה
    • Barukh Atah Yah, Eloheynu ruakh haolam, sheheheyanu v'kiy'manu v'higiyanu lazman hazeh.       
    • בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ יָהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָתְנוּ וְקִיְּמָתְנוּ וְהִגִּיעָתְנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה   
    • Brukhah At Yah Eloheynu ruah haolam sheheheyatnu v'kiy'matnu v'higiatnu lazman hazeh.   
    • Blessed are you, Yah, Breath of Life, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.
  • Torah: On the first day of Sukkot, the Torah portion Emor (Leviticus 23:33-44) is read, which includes the instructions to dwell in booths. The Haftarah, the special selection from the prophetic books that accompanies Torah readings on Shabbat and holidays, is from Zechariah 14:7-9, 16-21. The Torah is read on every day of the festival, including the Shabbat that falls during Sukkot. On this Shabbat, the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is read.
  • Hoshanot: prayers recited each day of Sukkot, asking the divine for salvation. For more information, see here
  • Hoshanah Rabbah: The seventh and final day of the intermediary days of Sukkot, prior to Shemini Atzeret, on which it is said the judgement of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur draws to a close and the world is judged for how much rain it will receive. Seven Hoshanot are recited as we circle the bimah seven times. For more information, see here.
  • Simchat Beit Hasho’evah: An ancient ritual of water-pouring, recently revived, in which the act of water pouring is used to induce the rains from the heavens. For more information, see here and here.


Alternative Sukkot Prayers/Practices for Climate Healing:


More information on Climate Catastrophe and Just Response:


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