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New Rabbinic Statement on the Climate Crisis

 

Elijah’s Covenant Between the Generations

to Heal Our Endangered Earth

 

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 will send you the Prophet Elijah to turn the hearts of

the parents to the children and the hearts of children to parents,

lest I come and utterly destroy Earth.”

(Malachi 3: 23-24)

 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 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 co-ops, 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 well-paid 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 carefully vetted steps to restore a climate as life-giving 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 over-manufacture 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. 

Initiating Signers: (Institutions are noted for identification only. In keeping with that understanding, officerships in those institutions are not noted.)

 Rabbi Avruhm Addison

Rabbi Katy Allen, Jewish Climate Action Network

Rabbi Phyllis Berman, ALEPH Mashpiah Faculty

Rabbi Ellen Bernstein, Shomrei Adamah emerita

Dr. Barbara Breitman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Rabbi Sharon Brous, Ikar, Los Angeles

Cherie Brown, National Coalition-Building Institute

Rabbi Daniel Burstyn, Center for Creative Ecology, Kibbutz Lotan, Israel 

Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb, Interfaith Power and Light

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, American Jewish University

Rabbinic Pastor Kate Shulamit Fagan, Ohalah Rabbinic Pastor Program

Rabbi Randy Fleisher, Central Reform Congregation, St Louis

Rabbi Dr. Aubrey Glazer, Panui Institute & Shaare Zion, Montréal

Rabbi Shefa Gold, C-DEEP

Arlene Goldbard, The Shalom Center emerita

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein, Conference of Liberal Rabbis and Cantors, UK

Rabbi Arthur Green, Rabbinical School, Boston Hebrew College

Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, CLAL: National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership

Rabbi Jill Hammer, Kohenet Institute

Rabba Sara Hurwitz, Yeshivat Maharat

Rabbi David Ingber, Romemu

Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Truah

Rabbi Raachel Juravics, Ohalah

Hazan Jack Kessler, ALEPH Ordination Program

Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum,  Beit Simchat Torah, NYC

Dr. Joy Ladin, Stern College, Yeshiva University

Rabbi Michael Latz, Truah & Shir Tikvah, Minneapolis

Rabbi Michael Lerner, Tikkun

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

Rabbi Ellen Lippmann, Kolot Chayyeinu emerita

Yavilah McCoy, Dimensions Inc.

Ruth Messinger, American Jewish World Service

Rabbi Yonatan Neril, Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development, Israel

Dr. Judith Plaskow, Manhattan College emerita

Rabbi Marcia Prager, ALEPH Ordination Program

Rabbi Josh Rabin, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

Rabbi Danny Rich, Liberal Judaism, UK 

Rabbi Jeff Roth, Awakened Heart Project

Rabbi David Saperstein

Nigel Savage, Hazon

Rabbi Shalom Schachter, Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition, Ontario, Canada

Rabbi David Seidenberg, NeoHasid.org

Rabbi David Shneyer, Am Kolel, Washington DC area

Rabbi Daniel Siegel, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal (Canada)

Rabbi Hanna Tiferet Siegel, ALEPH Mashpiah Faculty

Rabbi Susan Talve, Central Reform Congregation, St Louis

Rabbi David Teutsch, Reconstructing Judaism

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Reconstructing Judaism

Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association

Rabbi Levi Weiman-Kelman, Kol HaNeshama, Israel

Rabbi Sheila Weinberg, Institute for Jewish Spirituality

Joey Weisenberg, Hadar's Rising Song Institute

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Masorti Judaism. UK 

Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, Uri L'Tzedek

Rabbi Shawn Zevit, Mishkan Shalom, Philadelphia

SUKKOT: From Earliest Humankind to Our Planetary Crisis

[Rabbi Arthur Green, the authorof the following essay, is founder and rector of the Rabbinical School of Boston Hebrew College. He is a profound scholar of classical Hassidism, having written biographies and masterful translations of several Hassidic rebbes. He was one of the founders of the havurah movement, and is a proponent of neo-Hassidism, drawing on classical Hassidism and reframing its wisdom for a world very different from that of its birth. His newest book is a two-volume examination of A New Hassidism. Even more recently, he has taken steps into the transcendent public issue of the climate crisis, showing how his concerns are rooted in Jewish tradition. 

[When The Shalom Center began urging that we make #Sukkot4Climate Healing into an activist campaign, Rabbi Green sent us this essay. It deeply explores the spiritual meanings of Sukkot, and then joins in urging its wisdom be turned to healing our deeply wounded planet.  Do not miss the sting in the tail of this seemngly gentle exploration! 

[On the day of the Climate Strike, he, my life-partner Rabbi Phyllis Berman, and I all found ourselves in St. Louis to teach at two different synagogues. We spoke together, each of us from a different perspective, on the future of Judaism as we face one of the greatest crises in planetary history, and then we all joined in the Climate Strike demonstration. 

[For further information on #Sukkot4Climate Healing -- see the Home Page of this website -- AW, editor]

 By Rabbi Arthur Green

The two great pilgrimage festivals of the Hebrew Bible, Pesah andSukkot, begin on the days of the spring and fall full moon. Biblical scholars have long understood the origins of these festivals in ancient seasonal rites, tied to the agricultural cycle of spring planting and fall harvest. As presented in the Torah, they are at midpoint in the course of transformation from agricultural season festivals into celebrations of the national saga of redemption, the rituals of a sacred people tied to its collective history, rather than to the land itself.

Pesah, combined with the festival of Matzot, has completed that transition as presented in the text; the old festival of slaughtering spring lambs is completely subsumed within the Exodus narrative. Sukkot is just beginning that transition, as presented in the Torah. Amid much talk of the harvest, a single verse says “for I caused your ancestors to dwell in booths as I took them forth from the land of Egypt (Lev. 23:43).”

I have long had a suspicion – for which I can marshal no evidence – that there may be a still more ancient layer of memory behind these agricultural festivals. The transition from the hunter/gatherer period of human history, continuing into the wandering herdsman’s way of life, to that of agriculture and settlement, marked one of the first great changes in human history. Because it took place before written documents, and maybe even before the full development of language itself, we have no clear record of it. But it is reflected in the tale of Cain and Abel, as well as in earlier Near Eastern parallel texts. (The theme of herdsman - or “rancher” - versus farmer is familiar to all of us who grew up watching Western movies.)

 I suspect that the trauma of this change brought about a nostalgia for prior times that somehow needed to be ritually commemorated. Thus were created two great ritual occasions. Beginning on the spring full moon, for a week one ate only the food that was consumed before there were ovens, before humans had learned how to bake bread, a defining feature of settled existence in the West. Matsah, laid out in the sun to bake as best it could, took the place of risen bread. On the fall full moon, one went out and dwelt in huts for a week, just as we had “in the olden days,” when we still wandered with the flocks. The sukkah, or “temporary” home, a kind of bedouin tent, took the place of the real and solidly built farmhouse.

Sukkot is surely a festival that puts us in touch with some of the most ancient of human memories. The hosha‘not or “Save us!” processions around the synagogue, carrying the fruits of the trees, culminating in the “stripping of the willows” rite on the seventh day, Hosh‘ana Rabbah, a day of awesome judgment evoking echoes of Yom Kippur, places us back in the vulnerable mindset of early farmers in an arid climate, living on the edge of a desert, calling out for rain. Our waving of the lulav or palm-branch in all directions on each day of the festival is also surely a vestigial form of rain-dance, urging the blessed water-filled clouds to appear from one direction or another.

Just as Yom Kippur is simply called yoma, “the Day” in Talmudic sources, Sukkot is named ḥagga, or “the festival.” But the root of that word (the same as ḥaj, in Arabic, by the way) really means “circle.” In Temple times, Sukkot was the great annual pilgrimage festival, the time when Jews from throughout the land, and even from abroad, would gather in Jerusalem. The main feature of that celebration were circumambulations around the altar, still copied in the synagogue in the ritual of hosha’not. The palm, willow, and myrtle branches we carry, along with the bright yellow etrog, also carry an awful lot of history within them.

 

All of these things have, of course, long been spiritualized, transformed into rites in which we seek both collective and personal meaning. The early rabbis saw the four species as representing four types of Jews or four vital organs that constituted the moral self. The Hasidic masters speak beautifully of waving the branches in each direction, then coming back to the heart, as an exchange of blessing between the inner self and all the farthest corners of one’s daily life. In their spirit, we too, seeking out a more universalist Jewish spirituality, see the innermost self reaching forth in all directions, extending our love and concern to the four corners of the earth, reaching also up toward the sky and down into the soil, but then bringing that love and concern back into our hearts.

Judaism thrives on its unique way of preserving ancient religious forms and remaining open to their constant re-interpretation. But in this case, I also find something attractive about pausing in our rush to reinterpret, just to enjoy living in the presence of these most ancient of ancestral memories. This historical perspective on our sacred calendar does not diminish the power of the festivals for me, as it does for some refugees from a fundamentalist Judaism (“If God didn’t really command that we do these things, why do we have to do them?”). On the contrary, it deepens and enriches their power, and makes me more want to immerse myself into their full praxis.

This is what I mean by a post-critical or post-modern return to Judaism. The historical dimensions of Jewish religious life, including our many borrowings from various cultural settings amid which we have lived, make the ritual forms all the more interesting and attractive. Certainly, my kavvanah or inner intent in doing them will focus on the spiritual, but the historical and anthropological “baggage” that comes along with that becomes part of the inspiration. The fact that my Sukkot celebrations draw me nearer to the Plains Indian, dressed up for his Rain Dance, or the Masai shepherd in Kenya who is still undergoing the transition from nomadic to settled existence, enhances my sense of partaking in our Jewish version of the great human drama called religion.

There is certainly a profound demonstration of human frailty and vulnerability in the command to “go forth from one’s permanent home to this temporary dwelling.” Although the authorities were lenient in allowing one to leave the sukkah if being there causes suffering, the very fact that you have to leave your true “home” and seeker shelter elsewhere is itself a significant statement. With all the great systems of protection we have – be they residential, medical, economic, or whatever – the truth is that we are utterly frail, vulnerable human creatures. We do not know whether a sudden fall, a heart attack, or an aneurism might cause us to disappear from this world tomorrow. The hastily thrown together shelter in which we are told to dwell for this week serves as a reminder that our vast network of creature comforts and security devices creates nothing more than an illusory bulwark against mortality.

Sukkot comes at the moment of seasonal transition. In the Land of Israel, the endlessly sunny summer is over, and the much-needed rains are about to begin. At the conclusion of Sukkot, we will pray for rain, and will begin to ask for it daily in our winter ‘amidah. But in our four-season climate, too, this is the week when we end our summer of outdoor living, knowing that we will need shelter from the rain, snow, and frost to come. That we first enter into this frailest of all structures is a way of recognizing the frailty of all our efforts to protect ourselves. It is only by entering the true inner sukkah that the Kabbalists call “the shade of faith” that we will really find ourselves protected.

It is almost ironic that this demonstration of vulnerability is given to us in the context of the single festival that is liturgically designated as zeman simḥatenu – “the season of our rejoicing.” The joy is in celebration of the fact that we are still here, even in the face of all that vulnerability. The psalms of Hallel, chanted throughout the festive week, are very much in that spirit. They are not proclamations of simple joy, but of the special gratitude for having been saved from the seemingly arbitrary clutches of death. “I shall not die, but live, and recount the deeds of God.” ”For you have saved my soul from death, my foot from stumble, my eye from tears, my foot from stumble.” “The dead praise not Y-H-W-H, nor those who go down into silence. But we” – the living – “shall praise YaH from now and forever!”

There is a sense here of proclaiming immortality, not by defeating the inevitable, but by a sense of continued existence in the ongoing community of the faithful, who will forever continue forward in their songs of praise. That defeat of death represents a special quality of joy.

This sort of celebration is, of course, entirely appropriate to the season. The harvest is in; the fields are empty. Soon they are to be devastated by winds and rain – in our case, covered with snow. Some of us, as individuals, will also be harvested or culled from the flock in the course of this harsh season, and will no longer be here when the spring comes. But there will be a spring, and there will be a community singing Hallel once again. The passing of the fall full moon means that the spring full moon is now less than half a year away.

As we engage in this demonstration of vulnerability, it is not surprising that our remotest ancestors, desert wanderers that they were, show up for a visit. The original ushpizin, spiritual “guests” we welcome into the sukkah, are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. Greeting those ghostly guests (and hopefully their female counterparts), along with all the real flesh-and-blood guests who show up with them, is an essential part of this celebration, where bounty and vulnerability are tied together. Harvest time – there is suddenly more than we could possibly eat (think of the price of zucchini in September!), and it won’t keep very well. So let’s invite our poorer neighbors in. They have been having a hard year, but we know full well that it could be we who will be struggling next year.

There is a sense here that we are all bound together – all of us in our farming community, studded with these little huts – but also all of Israel, all of humanity, all of nature - face the same threat of mortality, and are thus called upon to share. The patriarchs – and now the matriarchs - and other heroines of Jewish history who have decided to join them in these visits – are here to remind us of all that.

As the produce is gathered in from the fields, so are we gathered, and sometimes crowded, into our tightly-packed sukkah. We can only make room for yet another guest by loving each other a little more, as a Hasidic saying would have it. That too is why the sukkah is called by the Zohar tsila di-mehemenuta, “the shade of faith.” It is our faith – in Y-H-W-H and in the human community with whom we share so much  – that shades and protects us from the hot sun beating down on us, here perhaps a stand-in for the pressure of mortality. We will wither under it, if we stand out there alone. Here, being together under these frail branches, we find a bit of shade. Dwelling in the sukkah, together with guests both real and imagined, is a statement of our collective survival in the shade we share.

That consolation, however, is not enough to shield us any more. Sukkot, with its combined celebration of the harvest’s plenty and awareness of life’s frailty, is a festival that calls out to be transformed once again.

As we made the move from the fall full moon festival to the memory of our ancestors’ wanderings, then on to commemorating the Temple rites long after they were gone, the inner voice demands yet another step in this celebration’s long history.

Sukkot is a time to acknowledge that today our planet, including all its future harvests and all our ensuing generations, is under dire threat, much of it caused by the intentional and irresponsible blindness of the society in which we live, especially by our so-called “leaders.” As lovers of God’s created world, we cannot be guilty bystanders to its rampant destruction by forces of human greed.

 In times like these, our gathering around the sukkah table should contain an element of strategic planning alongside the celebration. What can we do, in this longer winter season ahead, to thwart the plans of those who consistently put short-term profiteering above protection of our shared natural legacy? What can we do this year to bring their wicked plans to naught?

Think of Rabbi Akiva and his friends sitting all night at the seder table on Pesah. Were they indeed, as some have claimed, planning the Bar Kokhba rebellion against the Roman Empire? How can we, following God’s call to our generation, become sukkah revolutionaries?

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:

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ushpizin-welcoming-guests/.

  • 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:

Action Guide for #Sukkot4ClimateHealing --Part 1

[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. What follows is Part 1 of the Action Guide. Part 2, which offeers more deatil on the ritualss of Sukkot and their signifocance, will follow tomorrow. -- AW, editor]

Pre-Action

1.Building Relationships

The most essential aspect of organizing an effective direct action is being in relationships of trust with those with whom you are taking action. Take time to get to know and build relationships with your team.

Assigning Roles:

Figure out who will be playing what roles leading up to the execution of the action. Such roles include:

Activist, Organizer, Coordinator, Campaigner

Fundraisers

Researchers: to learn about the target and gather facts for the campaign.

Scouting the site or route

Outreach and organizing

Logistics and support

Meeting facilitator

Ritual Prep

Artists, Painters, Sewers to make props, signs, banners, political theatre, etc.

Media outreach: Send out media advisory and media release

Media kits: write, gather and photocopy contents.

Writers: write materials, flyers, media kit contents, web site, etc.

2. Building alliances

The communities most impacted by climate change are the ones that are already marginalized and disenfranchised, and these communities have often also been on the cutting edge of climate justice struggles. Therefore, who can you build alliances within this action? What groups in your area are already engaged in climate justice work? What are interfaith organizing coalitions with whom you can partner? What are the indigenous collectives in your area, and how can you encourage their leadership?  

3. Identifying your Target

What congressperson is your target, and why? What is their record on climate justice initiatives? Where is there local office, and what do you need to know the effectively pull off an action at that location? Make sure to effectively scout the location.

4.Devising an Action Plan

What do you want to happen during your action? Where do you want to begin, and where do you want to end? Do you want to remain outside the building,  or do you want to go inside, either the office or the lobby? What is your main tactic? Picketing? Locking down? Sit-in? What is your demand? What level of risk are you willing to take?

 5. Outreach

Who do you want to take part in this action? Is it open to the public, or will it be carried out by a smaller group of trusted allies? Will only Jews be participating, or will you be inviting participation and leadership of other interfaith and indigenous groups?

6.Ritual Design

What do you want your specific Sukkot Ritual to look like? What ritual items do you want to bring with you? Will you have a traditional lulav, or one made from the materials of your local environment? See our list of ritual resources later in this document for ideas.

7. Assign roles for each person during the action, as well as roles that need to be held after the action is completed.  Such roles could include:

 DuringAction:

People risking arrest: intending to risk arrest and commit civil disobedience

Direct Support People: risking arrest by staying with those locked down as long as possible and necessary and providing a human shield to those locked down

Ritual Leaders: Who will be leading chant? Leading song? Giving speeches? Benching lulav and etrog.

Police Liaison: maintains communication between police and demonstrators.

De-escalators: another “layer” of human shield protection for the demonstration, specializing in nonviolent de-escalation techniques.

Media spokesperson: delivers crisp, 6-second sound bites to hungry reporters.

Media outreach: stays back in the office faxing press releases and making outreach calls.

Communication team: helps “clusters” of affinity groups stay in touch.

Demonstrators/Sign-holders/Chanters/Singers/ Hand out literature etc.

Videographer(s): to document the action and provide images to media.

Still photographer: to document the action and provide images to media.

Live Streamer: to livestream the action to Facebook/Instagram/etc. While it is happening.

Medic/EMT/Medical Team: deal with emergency health issues of participants.

Legal Observer(s): observes the police action, paying close attention to police violence.

Jail Support Contact person: the person on the “outside” who we call to update.

For lock-downs: an off-site key holder 

 

Post-action:

Legal Support to help the people in jail and coordinate with lawyers, if necessary

Lawyer: provides support and information about our choices, if necessary.

Documentarian/Historian/Archivist: keep track of the paperwork and footage.

Fundraisers: To raise money to pay for legal fees, if necessary

Public speakers: to be in contact with the media after the action.

 8. Contacting the Media

Let the media know what is happening, and when and where to be. Write a press release to be released during the action.

9. Collect supplies

What ritual objects do you need to effectively pull of this action? Do you want to have an art build to make posters, signs and banners prior to the action? And how do you want to transport all your supplies to the action? Example supplies include:

  • Lulav and etrog
  • Other ritual objects
  • Megaphone and/or portable sound system
  • Song/ritual sheets
  • Flyers about the action to hand to passers-by 
  • Banners and Signs
  • Any supplies you might need to execute a higher-risk tactic (lockboxes, chains, etc.)

 Action

  1. Meet at a central gathering place, potentially your local synagogue, its sukkah, or the park. Engage in grounding rituals to bring everyone together
  2. March to your target destination. Depending on your action plan, either set up inside, outside or both.
  3. Engage in your action script. This should include Sukkot ritual, such as building a temporary sukkah, benching lulav and etrog, inviting in the ancestors, chanting Hoshanah, petitions for intervention, and more (more information on these rituals below.) It could also include theater, songs, chants, making demands, and refusing to leave the premises.
  1. Throughout this time, you should try to have someone/people leading the ritual, someone livestreaming, someone taking photo, someone taking video, someone/people deescalating angry customers, staff, someone liasing with the media and someone liasing with the police, if present (see roles above).
  1. If you are refusing to leave, announce this intention.
  2. Make sure the action ends in a way that people feel unified, with a closing song or ritual together.

 Post-Action

  1. If people were arrested, contact your legal team and keep them updated on the situation.
  2. Find which station those arrested were brought to and make sure people are there, with snacks, for when they get out.
  3. Raise money for legal funds.
  4. Make sure to de-brief with your whole team. What went well? What can you celebrate? What did you learn for next time?
 
PART 2 of this Action Guide will follow tomorrow. It will focus on the specific ritual aspects of the Sukkot action.

The Highest “Crime & Misdemeanor”: Burning Earth.

 To Seek the Remedy: #Sukkot4ClimateHealing 

Surely of all the possible “high crimes and misdemeanors” for which we should Impeach a President, the highest crime is deliberately acting to choke and burn our Mother Earth, our “common home” and only source of nourishment for Humankind and all life-forms.

As impeachment of Mr.  Trump proceeds, we should make sure that the Bill of Impeachment includes this charge. To name this crime is crucial to guiding the future actions of every leader of the United States and indeed of every nation, every corporation. 

It is fitting that Impeachment comes to the fore as we are about to gather on Rosh Hashanah. The festival is a Time of Transformation, turning ourselves again from our misdeeds toward the Holy Interbreathing Spirit of all life. The festival is called “Hayom harat olam, The World’s BirthDay or ReConception Day.” The Shofar calls out, "Sleepers, Awake!"

Exactly two weeks later, we will celebrate Sukkot – of all the Jewish festivals, the one most open to Earth, traditionally the one that seeks a prosperous harvest for all the “seventy nations” of the world. 

Yet this year we know that all Earth and all peoples are facing a great crisis. Earth is crying out, “I can’t breathe!” The build-up of surplus CO2 is choking, scorching, and burning the home we humans share with all the other species in the great web of life.  Forests are burning, trees are dying, some crops are failing in unheard-of droughts, unprecedented storms and floods are drowning other crops, fish are vanishing as the oceans turn acid. 

Can we take Sukkot into public space to call for public policies that will heal our Earth, our asthma-haunted neighborhoods, our forgotten and disempowered workers, our farms and cities consumed by flood or fire?

 To heal Earth we will need to weave together scientific knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and political effectiveness. Among the spiritual resources we have are the festivals that were born from Mother Earth and her rhythmic “seasons of our joy.” Today we need Earth’s children --  the festivals -- to serve as sacred instruments for loving, saving, and healing their Mother Earth.

 The Shalom Center seeks to shape the celebration of #Sukkot4ClimateHealing and other festivals like Hanukkah, Tu B’Shvat, Pesach, and Tisha B’Av this year and in the future into a series of activist Earth-healing sacred practices. Our sacred goals: ending the climate crisis; healing Earth and Humanity from the ravages of global scorching; reversing the social injustice and oppression that Corporate Carbon Pharaohs and their governmental enablers impose on all of us,  especially on the most vulnerable among us; restoring for our grandchildren the life-giving climate that our grandparents joyfully lived in; and at the root of all these, learning to love  Earth rather than subduing it, subjugating it. 

 IMAGINE:

All across America, Jewish congregations or existing interfaith organizations invite others to join in multireligious Sukkot vigils at a local home-district office of a Senator or Congressmember.

The vigils gather on Wednesday, Thursday, and/or Friday, October 16, 17,  and 18 -- the third, fourth, and fifth  days of Sukkot --  each a weekday, when these offices will be open. 

 We stand in vigil outside or even inside the office, carrying signs like “Burning Earth: The Highest Crime and Misdemeanor.” 

We wave the Four Species (branches of myrtle, willow, and palm, plus the lemony etrog – or perhaps branches and fruit more familiar in North American ecosystems) in the seven directions of the universe.

 

We chant prayers old and new, songs, psalms, in Hebrew, English, Spanish, other languages, all in celebration of a healthy, healing Earth. By waving fruit and branches we affirm that no one of these offices, no Senator or Congressmember, no human being, could exist without these trees to breathe them into life. 

 We demand that one of the Bills of Impeachment name the acts of Mr. Trump to worsen threats to the web of life on Earth, including human life. His acts to worsen the emissions of CO2 and methane from autos, coal plants, fracking. To multiply oil wells and pipelines in our already troubled oceans and in our precious national parks. To weaken the protection of endangered species.

At the deepest level,  the choice we face is to subjugate Earth and human earthlings, or to love each other. At its deepest level, impeachment is necessary to turn our most powerful officials away from a campaign of abusing their power in order to subjugate immigrants and refugees and especially their children, Blacks, Muslims, Jews, women, the free press, the Congress, the Constitution – even Mother Earth herself, who nourishes us all. 

Impeachment is intended to turn those officials away from subjugation to democracy. And at the deepest spiritual root of democracy is love for human beings and life-forms of every sort and background, all of us pieces of the Grand Jigsaw Puzzle – pieces that we must fit together into a Beloved Community, a Sacred Unity.

If we wish to urge a program beside ensuring that Burning Earth is listed among the Highest of High Crimes, we can support the Green New Deal. Why that?  Because it has so far gathered the broadest support for a modern analogue to the Biblical teaching of the eco/social-justice practice of the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year in which Earth rested, human beings freely shared its bounty, and debts were annulled (Lev. 25 & Deut. 15).

Then Sunday October 20, the seventh and last day of Sukkot, known as “Hoshana Rabbah,” the culmination of its prayers and practices, would be the perfect day to gather in sukkot to celebrate and plan for outreach to broaden the community willing to take the next spiritually rooted action to heal Earth. Perhaps the next foray could be on the Friday after Thanksgiving and again during Hanukkah/ Christmastime in late December.   

No one person, organization, or community can do this alone. So The Shalom Center welcomes the sharing of such resources as songs, Hoshana prayers in English and Hebrew, designs for placards, and posters for the sukkah itself, all focused on carrying out the goals of the #Sukkot4ClimateHealingcampaign. To share them, please click to and respond to a brief survey  -- it will take only three minutes – at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XJCXS7R .

With blessings that this year ahead be one of sweet Transformation in our own individual lives, in the life of our nation and all nations, and in our sacred relationship with Earth and the Interbreathing Holy Spirit of all life – Arthur

From Ancient Prophet to the Climate Strike: Youth & Elders Heart-Connect

From last Thursday till Sunday night Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I were in St. Louis, on the invitation of the Central Reform Congregation and its two leading Rabbis, Susan Talve and Randy Fleisher. On Thursday night, the two of us and Rabbi Art Green, rector of the Boston College Rabbinical School and one of the great scholars and interpreters of Hassidism, spoke at the Jewish Federation on our visions of the future of Judaism.

Then on Friday morning I was invited by the young organizers for the Climate Strike in St Louis to be the featured speaker – accompanied by the outcry of the shofar -- at a gathering of about one thousand people at City Hall. The video of my talk is here –-  https://youtu.be/ys0pqlbem3I

and I welcome you to watch it now.

 Through the rest of the weekend, Rabbi Phyllis and I spoke for CRC on our own experience and the teachings of Torah on the refugee/ immigrant crisis and on the climate crisis.  On Sunday, CRC held a multiracial, multireligious gathering to explore religious responses to the existential threat of the global “burning” – not “warming,” a word that contradicts the real crisis by sounding comfortable.

After the Sunday program, one of the most devoted and respected Christian leaders in the nation-wide work for social justice came up to me. She said, “I am always searching for ways to inspire our work with religious language and spiritual passion, not secular words alone. You just gave me more of the language that I seek.”   

That fusion of deep spirituality and vigorous activism

Spread over All of Us the Earth-Healing Power of Sukkot

Last week I sent you a recipe for #Sukkot4ClimateHealing.

Like all recipes, it was intended to invite forth your own imagination – some cinnamon here, sprinkle of lime essence there.

The basic idea is that we turn the Harvest Festival of Sukkot into a melodious instrument for healing our wounded Mother Earth from which Sukkot as a festival was born in the first place.

We suggested holding vigils at Senatorial Congressional home-district offices and/ or  branches or cash machines of Wells-Fargo  Bank, waving  in the seven directions of the world the traditional Four Species --  branches of myrtle, willow, and palm, and the lemon-like fruit of the etrog or citron. (Four species that grow in North American eco-systems might also be appropriate.)   

Watching the unrestrained joy of this child now, waving the Four Species, keep in mind that 30 years from now, whether this child lives in joy or misery depends of whether we act NOW to heal the climate.

These vigils might demand support for the Green New Deal and an end to loans and Federal subsidies to Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that are burning our planet and choking our kids with asthma.

For the full recipe of #Sukkot4ClimateHealing, please see--

https://theshalomcenter.org/content/inviting-you-join-sukkot4climatehealing

Please help us with your own ideas and suggestions about carrying out this #Sukkot4ClimateHealing  campaign. We invite you to sign up for whatever sacred sources, old or new, you could create or share that would spiritually and politically enhance the sacred movement #Sukkot4ClimateHealing
to save all Earth and all Humanity from disaster: plans for a vigil, prayers, Hoshanot, sermons or
midrash, songs.

Please click here and respond to a brief survey  -- it should take only three minutes – at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XJCXS7R Thanks!

Within two weeks we will share with you and our wide readership an action plan for communities to use and modify, and links to resources that we harvest.  Meanwhile, we are sending a song that you could use either in the midst of a communal prayer service or in an activist vigil at a Wells Fargo branch or a Congressional/ Senatorial office.

With blessings that our commitment take root “Like a Tree that’s planted by the water” --- Arthur

Inviting You to Join in #Sukkot4ClimateHealing

Inviting You to Join in #Sukkot4ClimateHealing

Sukkot, the week-long Jewish harvest festival that begins the evening of October 13, is of course in its essence a festival of interconnection among Earth and human earthlings. (I use this odd word for human beings to echo in English the way that Hebrew teaches in language the truth of the intertwined relationship – with the words adamah (Earth) and adam (human).

The Shalom Center intends to make the celebration of #Sukkot4ClimateHealing this year and in the future one of a series of Earth-connecting sacred practices. Through them, Jews and those of other spiritual, religious, and ethical communities can join to pursue these sacred goals: ending the climate crisis, healing Earth and Humanity from the ravages of global scorching, and restoring for our grandchildren the life-giving climate that our grandparents joyfully lived in.

How do we plan to do this?

The celebration of Sukkot by our community can be transformed in several ways:

1) Jewish tradition teaches that through Sukkot we seek the just sharing of Earth’s abundance not only for the Jewish people but also for the “70 nations of the world” – that is, all the communities of humankind. We propose to make this vision real by sharing with other spiritual, religious, and ethical communities the prayers and actions that can work to heal what Pope Francis called our common home, all Earth.

2) We can direct the traditional symbols, prayers, songs, and practices of Sukkot to make explicit our determination to actively work for eco/ social justice and healing.

  • Traditionally, for this week we build a “sukkah” –a fragile, temporary home, a hut with a leafy, leaky roof --  open to sun, wind, rain. We eat there, pray there, some might live there.
  • We invoke the blessings of the sacred Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, Ruach Ha”Olam, as we wave the fruit or branches of Four Species of trees in the seven directions of Earth, bringing us close to the touch and sight and feel and smell of our different trees and breezes.
  • We chant Hosha-Na (Please Save!) prayers that ask the One Interbreathing Spirit of all life to save all Earth and Humankind from locusts, drought, insects, and other plagues. 
  • We can chant a  Rosh Hashana prayer that  even ends, “Please save this planet, suspended in space!” – written long before anyone had taken the iconic sacred photo of Earth suspended in space.

3) Some of us can also choose to take Sukkot prayers and practices beyond the walls of synagogues, churches, mosques, temples  -- beyond even the  fragile spaces of our sukkah-huts --  into public and commercial spaces to demand our governments and businesses change their policies so as to heal our Mother Earth, not poison and burn her.

What might this look like? Please understand that the imaging of possible action that follows will, we assume, be modified by local communities as befits their own circumstances.

The Film of a Future: #Sukkot4ClimateHealing

 All across America, hundreds of local clusters of people gather in synagogues or other houses of prayer and Spirit, perhaps in a communal sukkah. They are of varied religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions and communities who have been invited to join in an activist celebration rooted in Jewish tradition. They walk together to a local "home district" office of a US Senator or Congressperson

These processions carry the traditional Sukkot life-symbols of palm, willow, and myrtle branches and the lemony etrog /citron (or some version of these Four Species that are rooted in the varied ecologies of North America).  Perhaps they also carry a very simple version of a sukkah --  a thatched-roof hut carried on four posts.  

 They gather on Wednesday, Thursday, and/or Friday, October 16, 17,  and 18 -- the third, fourth, and fifth  days of Sukkot. (The first two days are for many Jews especially holy days in which they would not travel other than by foot, would not spend money, etc.) And it is important to gather not on Saturday or Sunday or on the near-by American holy-day of Columbus Day/ Indigenous Peoples Day,  but on a weekday when Congressional offices are open.

At the bank or office, some picket outside, some enter --  carrying signs like "Endorse the Green New Deal," "Burning Earth is the Highest Impeachable Crime," “Stop Funding Deadly Fossil Fuels, Start Funding Energy from Sun & Wind,”  "Burning Carbon => Asthma Epidemics & Environmental Racism"

They keep waving the Four Species in the seven directions of the universe. They keep chanting songs, prayers, psalms, in Hebrew, English, Spanish, and perhaps other languages, all in celebration of a healthy, healing Earth. 

They demand that the leading officials in the places where they are chanting appear and sign a pledge to support the Green New Deal as an act to heal Earth and bring both life and justice to endangered and marginalized human communities. (Why the Green New Deal?  Because we believe it is the closest analgue for a modern society to the Biblical teaching of the eco/social-justice practice of the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year in which Earth rested, human beings shared its bounty, and debts were annulled.)

 These Earth-Affirmers join with others – peoples of the Indigenous Nations, Christians, Muslims, Unitarians, and many others -- in the Name of the ONE Who is the Interbreathing Spirit of all life, Whose universal Breathing is the “nameless name” that supports and suffuses all the many diverse Names of God in many cultures and communities, Whose Interbreathing of CO2 and Oxygen preserves all life and is now gravely wounded by the production of more CO2 than all Earth’s vegetation  can transmute to Oxygen. 

Then on Sunday October 20, the seventh and last day of Sukkot, known as “Hoshana Rabbah,” the culmination of its prayers and practices, would be the perfect day to gather in sukkot to celebrate. That might also be a time to plan for outreach to broaden the community willing to take the next spiritually rooted action to heal Earth. Perhaps the next foray could be on the Friday after Thanksgiving and again during Hanukkah/ Christmastime in late December.   

Before Sukkot and afterward, in congregations and interfaith gatherings all across America among sermons and as part of prayer services and public teach-ins, there are discussions of the dangers facing Earth and what we need to do to return Earth to the healthy climate that our grandparents enjoyed and that we intend to leave to our grandchildren. 

Resources #Sukkot4ClimateHealing campaign Will Need and The Shalom Center will Gather and Share

Model sermons to prepare people for this Sukkot campaign, for delivery on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Jumaa,  Shabbat,  and Sabbath services just before and after. 

Model sermons and services for Sukkot and celebration of Earth and Harvest in other traditions.

Texts and translations and melodies for prayers, old and new, for Earth and human earthlings under these stressful conditions.

Information on the most important institutions that are now preventing climate healing, and the most effective ways for faith communities to change their behavior or redirect their energy.

The Shalom Center and I welcome your comments on this proposal for a campaign and your offers to provide and share resources like those described above. Within two weeks we will share with you and our wide readership an action plan for communities to use and modify, and links to resources that we harvest.

Please help us with your own ideas and suggestions about carrying out this #Sukkot4ClimateHealing campaign. Please click to and respond to a brief survey  -- it should take only three minutes – at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XJCXS7R Thanks!

Arrested! While Blocking ICE in Philadelphia

This past Wednesday, my beloved fellow-rabbi and life-partner Phyllis Berman and I were arrested, along with two other people, while blocking the entrance to the ICE offices in Philadelphia. We were arrested by the Federal Dept of Homeland Security police, not the Philadelphia police -- and were each harged with two Federal offenses (with whopping fines if we don’t stand trial and the possibility of prison time if we do). 

Our Grandchildren Call Us: Join the Climate Strike!

Our Grandchildren Call Us: Join the Climate Strike!

On Friday, September 20, there will be a world-wide Strike for Climate Action. To see where and when in your own town there will be a gathering in support of the strike, you can click to  https://globalclimatestrike.net/    and plug in your town or zip code.

If you join in the Climate Strike, feel free to use the graphic and the slogan just above.

The Climate Strike began with young people in Europe, then with the Sunrise Movement in the US, then with groups like 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and groups rooted in faith and in the Spirit -– carrying out the call of the last of the ancient Hebrew Prophets (Malachi 3 ) that the hearts of the parents and children must turn to each other to prevent the utter destruction of Earth.

What is the goal of the strike? Most broadly, to have the Climate Crisis formally recognized as a national crisis by every government. Beyond that, various groups will have varied intentions. For me, the goal is enactment of some version of the Green New Deal. That approach comes closest to the biblical commitment to connect social justice with eco-sanity. You can read the Congressional GND resolution sponsored by Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman AOC,  at

 https://news.brightest.io/green-new-deal

I’ve been asked for advice about how Jews and other religious folk can join in these events while making publicly clear the spiritual, religious, and /or ethical covenant/ commitment that for many of us is at the heart of our passionate insistence on healing Earth from the climate crisis.

My suggestions: First, most obvious, especially for Jews, the Shofar (the ram’s horn, an earthy sacred instrument for calling out sorrow, alarm, and transformation). During Elul, the Jewish month before Rosh Hashanah, the tradition teaches us to blow the Shofar every day except on Shabbat, to reawaken us to the need for transforming our lives. September 20 this year will be the 20th of Elul, and Jewish groups taking part in the Strike could make a point of publicly blowing the Shofar to remind us of our obligation to love Mother Earth and heal her.

Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other communities could also carry posters or banners that use the graphic at the top of this letter, or this one -- slightly more grown-up-- with the text above or this text beneath:

 

 

 The text could read:  “JEWS [or Xxxx] JOIN NOAH TO SAVE ALL LIFE ON EARTH ”

or whatever your own heart or group desires.

 The weekend that begins on September 20 will have at least two notable Jewish experiences that bear on the Climate Crisis.  One is the reading of a passage of Torah that begins (Deut. 26: 1-3) by celebrating the first fruits of abundance that come from Earth’s bounty, God’s bounty, the bounty that in scientific fact as well as spiritual insight comes to us through the Interbreathing of all life --  whether you name the Interbreathing “YHWH,”  or the interbreathing of CO2 and Oxygen that makes life possible upon this planet. .

 Later in the portion (Deut 28: 20-24), the Torah recites the consequences of not following the teachings of YHWH, the Breath of Life, the Interbreathing Spirit of the world, about the ways of loving and respecting Earth.

 Those consequences  --“scorching heat,”  drought” – sound very much like the consequences that climate scientists have been warning about for the future and have  now become real  in the present.

 Notice I said “consequences,” not “punishments.” The nature of the Interbreathing that all life shares is that each act has consequences. A very different theology from one that understands God as King, Lord, Judge Who rewards and punishes. 

 In my view, we humans will not be able to heal Earth and ourselves so long as we insist on a hierarchical worldview. We will come out of this crisis fully alive only if we grow to affirm an ecological worldview in which all the differences and uniquenesses of life and society are crucial because, like the unique pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, they fit together into a magnificent Whole, a ONE. 

For this reason, I think –- but it is certainly not necessary to do this in order to join in supporting the Climate Strike --  that it is time for us to drop the “King, Lord, Judge” metaphor for God, to stop substituting the words “Adonai, Lord, “ for YHWH and instead to “pronounce” it truthfully, without vowels -- – just by breathing ”YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh.”  Or to translate it truthfully as “Breath of Life.”

The second special aspect of the weekend September 20-22 is that on that Saturday night, traditionally, Jews gather for Slichot – beginning the process of “Forgiveness” that is a crucial part of the oncoming High Holy Days.

One “ceremony” or “spiritual exercise” that has in some communities become a mark of Slichot: The community gathers around a large bowl of clear water, Each person receives a piece of paper and a pen with water-soluble ink. After some songs and prayers, each person writes a misdeed they have done on the paper and slowly, as the community watches, one by one its members plunge the paper into the water and watch the words dissolve. 

Without knowing what each person’s misdeeds are, the community deeply understands that each person has taken the first steps of recognizing their own misdeeds, and the community as a whole can take the first steps of forgiveness.

Not till the recognition of misdeed has taken root can each person do tshuvah, “turning” – action to repair the damage already done and to stop mis-doing the misdeed.

What does this have to do with the Climate Strike? The Strike should be not only a demand that large institutions change but also a “strike” of one’s own – taking steps to stop what we ourselves are doing that brings on Earth-wide disaster, just as in a labor strike the workers stop contributing their own labor to their own oppression.

Those who take part in Slichot can encourage each other to think this way.

This will not happen all at once. People who say that almost all of us are "oiloholics" -- addicts of Carbon Burning – are right. Kicking the habit is not easy,, because it takes social change as well as individual change. .  But nicotine addicts joined with others in challenging the Tobacco Drug Lords – and won legal and policy changes that have reduced the level of addiction.  The Climate Strike offers the same opportunity, even to oiloholics, to challenge the Carbon Drug Lords and force them to change.  Slichot can help at the individual level, as the Strike does at the whole-society level.

Our outlook on the Climate Strike is like our approach to all aspects of the Great Turning tht Earth and Humanity need today: The “spiritual” and the “political” cannot be severed from each other. A new politics of planetary survival must be rooted in an “old” spirituality of love – made new.

The Shalom Center and I welcome your comments on these thoughts, and your reports and suggestions on what you think Jews and other religious communities can do in relation to the Climate Strike on September 20. Please write us! (Climate@theshalomcenter.org) If you are willing, we’ll circulate your ideas to our broad readership and membership.

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