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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.

Wine:

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.

Spices:

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

Fire:

Kavanah:

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.

Distinction-making:

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.

Days 5 & 6 of #Hanukkah8Days4Climate

[For 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 <theshalomcenter.org> Faryn Borella is a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern at The Shalom Center. – AW, editor]

Day 5: Support the Green New Deal

Write and call (202-224-3121) your Congresspeople at the US Capitol or visit or call at their home offices during the week of Hanukkah and Christmas, asking for their support for the Green New Deal and the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act. See  https://www.sunrisemovement.org/gnd-for-public-housing.

“One day [the righteous man Choni]  was journeying on the road and he saw a man planting a carob tree; he asked him, How long does it take [for this tree] to bear fruit? The man replied: Seventy years. He then further asked him: Are you certain that you will live another seventy years? The man replied: I found [ready grown] carob trees in the world; as my forefathers planted these for me so I too plant these for my children.” -Babylonian Talmud Ta’anit 23b

As the story of Choni teaches us, we as Jews are called upon to be accountable in creating a livable world for future generations. However, the lives that many of us have been living and the systems of capitalism that we have bought into have done the exact opposite--our lives have supported the creation of conditions that render the world uninhabitable for future generations. And for this, we are being held to account by the younger generations.

The Sunrise Movement has burst onto the scene, a movement led by and for the younger generation that calls upon the global community to stop climate collapse and build for them and the ensuing generations a liveable future. And a core element of the ask they are making is political support for The Green New Deal.

As the Sunrise Movement explains on their website:

We need a Green New Deal to fight the climate crisis at the scale that scientists say is necessary. It’s a plan that would transform our economy and society at the scale needed to stop the climate crisis. It’s our fighting chance to actually stop this crisis -- for some of us, the first we’ve seen in our whole lives.

“We don’t have illusions of passing this with Donald Trump in the White House. He’s made it clear he’d rather do favors for his fellow billionaires than stopping climate change and fighting for working people. In 2019, we’ll build support for the Green New Deal in every corner of the country and cement it as a litmus test for every politician seeking the Presidency. Then, in 2020, we will unite by the millions to defeat corrupt politicians and the fossil fuel billionaires who aid them, and we’ll elect a President and Congress who will make the Green New Deal law in 2021.”

Therefore, for the fifth day of Hanukkah, we are asking you to respond to the call by the younger generation to ask that the Green New Deal and the Green New Deal for Public Housing be a priority on the legislative and campaign agenda by writing letters to and/or calling your representatives and asking them for their vocal and unwavering support.

For more information on the Green New Deal and the asks of the Sunrise Movement, see the resources that they have collected here: https://www.sunrisemovement.org/green-new-deal

Day 6: Power down for Shabbat, just as our forebears did, by limiting use of gasoline, electronics, and electricity for 25 hours.

“Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of YHWH [Yaahhh/ HaShem/ Breathing Spirit of all life]  your God: you shall not do any work—you, your son or daughter, your male or female servant, or your beast, or the stranger who is within your gates. For in six days YHWH [Yaahhh/ HaShem/ Breathing Spirit of all life] made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore YHWH blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

"The seventh day is Shabbat-pausing for YHWH your God; you are not to do any work ,. . .   in order that your male and female servant may rest as one-like-yourself. You are to bear-in-mind that serf you were in the Tight and Narrow Land. But YHWH took you out from there with a strong hand and an arm-outstretched-to-sow-seed.  Therefore YHWH commands you to observe the day of Shabbat.” (Deut. 5: 13-15)

“To set apart one day a week for freedom, a day on which we would not use the instruments which have been so easily turned into weapons of destruction, a day for being with ourselves, a day of detachment from the vulgar, of independence of external obligations, a day on which we stop worshipping the idols of technical civilization, a day on which we use no money, a day of armistice in the economic struggle with our fellow men and the forces of nature. Is there any institution that holds out a greater hope for man's progress than the Sabbath?” (Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Sabbath)

On Shabbat, we are commanded to rest, for two different reasons given by two different ancient teachings:

One teaching says that this day of rest marks the truth that the very creation and continuity of the cosmos rests on the rhythm of Doing/ Making and Resting /Being.

The other sacred teaching is that through the Pause for Shabbat we make sure that no one is enslaved; for to be able to rest means to be free.  And this rest, God makes clear, is not only for us, but for all for whom we assume responsibility and for all whose labor benefits us.

Three thousand years later, Heschel adds many other implications of why Shabbat is crucial, including the celebration of peace among human beings and between Humanity and Earth.

In our day, the complex web of labor is hard to untangle, but one thing is clear -- in order to maintain the lifestyle that people have come to expect in this economy, there is no rest for some people, and there is no rest for Earth. No rest for people means that, as the Deuteronomy text teaches, that some are enslaved. And Earth is enslaved. But both people and Earth rebel against slavery. 

 

Among people, that rebellion takes the forms of both despair and resistance: nightmarish outbursts of addictions, suicides, fascism -- and uprisings of Spirit yearning for Shabbat and freedom, like the Sunrise movement. For Earth, it means plagues like the ones we remember that were brought  on by Pharaoh. 

 

Earth is constantly being mined for resources, and people are being asked to perpetually do that mining. Earth no longer gets a shabbat, even though the precedent for Shabbat is derived from Earth's very creation. Can we use shabbat as an opportunity to divest from consumption? - -to give Earth a brief respite from this labor, and to learn from this brief moment how to free Earth from slavery and release it from the rebellion of disastrous upheavals? And how to free ourselves -- all of us  -- from enslavement to addictive consuming, breathless overwork, and frightening disemployment? 

It has become common practice within Orthodox and Conservative Jewish communities to cease to use technology on Shabbat. And much of this is based on the types of labor that Jewish Law outlaws on Shabbat. It is outlawed to drive cars or turn on and off lightbulbs, for this requires ignition of a fire. It is outlawed to use electricity, for it potentially completes a circuit. It is outlawed to use computers or phones, for it breaks the prescription against writing.

However, there is something deeper to taking a shabbat from technology -- to opting out of the consumption of fossil fuels inherent in technological use. It gives us space to glimpse a world in which our very survival is not dependent upon these mechanisms to the extent that we believe they are. It allows us to see what is expedient vs. what is necessary. It gives us more choice as to how and when we consume -- how and when we utilize resources that Earth will never get back.

So for this Shabbat of Hanukkah, we invite you to try on the practice. Try limiting your use of technology for the day. Choose not to use your car, but rather walk, bike and stay local. Choose to not minimize your use of electricity, and perhaps have your home illuminated by candle-light. Choose not to use your phone and computer, but rather spend time face-to-face with loved ones or communing with the very Earth that undergirds the functioning of all of these things. And see how this practice transforms you.

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.]

Giving Thanks, Arlo Guthrie, & My 1st Yarmulke

A Ritual of Joyful, Thankful  Resistance

Dear friends, Just five minutes before noon today, I will take part in a wonderful ritual. One of the members of a men’s group that began 30 years ago – - Jeffrey Dekro, founder of the Isaiah Fund – will call me and the other men's group members to remind us to turn on our radios. He has been doing this, year after year on Thanksgiving Day, for almost all those thirty years.

And every year, for about a decade, I have been writing you to retell this story. So welcome once again to our Thanksgiving ritual.

Why?

 Every year at noon on Thanksgiving, WXPN Radio in Philadelphia (and many other radio stations around the country) play Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” about a Thanksgiving dinner in Stockbridge Mass. in 1967; about obtuse cops; and about nonviolent resistance to a brutal war.

 And every year, this seemingly non-Jewish set of rituals stirs in me the memory of a moment long ago when my first puzzled, uncertain explorations of the “Jewish thing” inside me took on new power for me. The moment when I came to understand the power of a yarmulke.

By now it is a tradition for me to retell the Yarmulke story every Thanksgiving. It carries deeper meaning this year, as we build a new Resistance, than it has for decades.

In 1970, I was asked by the Chicago Eight to testify in their defense. They were leaders of the movement to oppose the Vietnam War, and they had been charged by the Nixon Administration and Attorney-General John Mitchell (who turned out to be a criminal himself – see under “Watergate”) with conspiracy to organize riot and destruction during the Chicago Democratic National Convention in 1968. 

 I had been an alternate delegate from the District of Columbia to the Convention – elected originally as part of an anti-war, anti-racist slate to support Robert Kennedy. After he was murdered, we decided to nominate and support as our “favorite son” the chairperson of our delegation – Rev. Channing Phillips (may the memory of this just and decent leader be a blessing), a Black minister in the Martin Luther King mold.

 Our delegation made him the first Black person ever nominated for President at a major-party convention. The following spring, on the first anniversary of Dr. King’s murder, on the third night of Passover in 1969, his church hosted the first-ever Freedom Seder. (Its 50thanniversary came this past spring. We held it in a mostly African-American mosque -- probably a first in history! -- and among a dozen transformative speakers was the Reverend William Barber. Now we are at work on a book of many essays by many remarkable authors entitled How to Liberate your Passover Seder: A Handbook. 

 AND – back to 1968 -- besides being an elected delegate, I had also spoken the first two nights of the Convention to the anti-war demonstrators at Grant Park, at their invitation, while the crowd was being menaced by Chicago police and the National Guard. This is what the demonstration looked like, clustered nonviolently in the park: 

Across the street were the police and the National Guard, poised to attack. Scary to watch them.   

 On "Bloody Wednesday," the third night of the Convention, the police – not the demonstrators – finally did explode in vicious violence.

 

Although the main official investigation of Chicago described it as a “police riot,” the Nixon Administration decided to indict the anti-war leaders. So during the Conspiracy Trial in 1970, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, Abby Hoffman, and the other defendants figured I would be reasonably respectable (as a former delegate) and therefore relatively convincing to the jury and the national public, in testifying that the anti-war folks were not trying to organize violence but instead were the victims of police violence.

 As the trial went forward, it became clear that the judge – Julius Hoffman, a Jew – was utterly subservient to the prosecution and wildly hostile to the defense. (Some of us thought he had become possessed by the dybbuk of Torquemada, head of the Inquisition. --- How else could a Jew behave that way? We tried to exorcise his dybbuk. It didn’t work.)

 Judge Hoffman browbeat witnesses, ultimately literally gagging and binding Bobby Seale, the only Black defendant, for challenging his rulings – etc. Dozens of his rulings against the Eight were later cited by the Court of Appeals as major legal errors, requiring reversal of all the convictions the prosecution had achieved in his court.

 So when I arrived at the Federal court-house in Chicago, I was very nervous. About the judge, much more than the prosecution or my own testimony.

 The witness who was scheduled to testify right before me was Arlo Guthrie. 

 In Grant Park, among the antiwar demonstrators pictured above, Arlo had sung “Alice’s Restaurant,” a joy-filled, funny song about resistance to the Vietnam War and to the draft, and about the perverted priorities of "justice" in America. In 1968 the song was only a few a few years old, but millions knew it. 

 Why did the defense want to call Arlo as a witness? To show the jury that there was no incitement to violence in it.

o William Kunstler, z’l, the lawyer for the defense, asked Guthrie to sing “Alice’s Restaurant” so that the jury could get a direct sense of the event.

 But Judge Hoffman stopped him: “You can’t sing in my courtroom!”

 “But,” said Kunstler, “it’s evidence of the intent of the organizers and the crowd!”

 For minutes they snarled at each other. Finally, Judge Hoffman: “He can SAY what he told them, but NO SINGING.”

 And then – Guthrie couldn’t do it. The song, which lasts 18 minutes, he knew by utter heart, having sung it probably more than a thousand times – but to say it without singing, he couldn’t. His memory was keyed to the melody. And maybe Judge Hoffman’s rage helped dis-assemble him

 So he came back to the witness room, crushed.

And I’m up next. I start trembling, trying to figure out how I can avoid falling apart

I decide that if I wear a yarmulke, that will strengthen me to connect with a power Higher/ Other than the United States and Judge Hoffman. (Up to that moment, I had never worn a yarmulke in a non-officially “religious” situation. I had written the Freedom Seder in 1969, but in 1970 I was still wrestling with the question of what this weird and powerful “Jewish thing” meant in my life.)

So I tell Kunstler I want to wear a yarmulke, and he says – “No problem.” Somewhere I find a simple black unobtrusive skull-cap, and when I go to be sworn in, I put it on.

For the oath (which I did as an affirmation, as indicated by much of Jewish tradition), no problem.

Then Kunstler asks me the first question for the defense, and the Judge interrupts. “Take off your hat, sir,” he says.

Kunstler erupts. – “This man is an Orthodox Jew, and you want – etc etc etc.” I am moaning to myself, “Please, Bill, one thing I know I’m not is an Orthodox Jew.” But how can I undermine the defense attorney? So I keep my mouth shut.

Judge Hoffman also erupts: “That hat shows disrespect for the United States and this Honorable Court!” he shouts.

“Yeah,” I think to myself, “that’s sort-of true. Disrespect for him, absolutely. For the United States, not disrespect exactly, but much more respect for Something Else. That’s the point!”

 They keep yelling, and I start watching the prosecutor – and I realize that he is watching the jury. There is one Jewish juror. What is this juror thinking?

Finally, the prosecutor addresses the judge: “Your Honor, the United States certainly understands and agrees with your concern, but we also feel that in the interests of justice, it might be best simply for the trial to go forward."

 And the judge took orders!! He shut up, and the rest of my testimony was quiet and orderly

It took me another year or so to start wearing some sort of hat all the time –- a Tevye cap or a beret or an amazing tall Tibetan hat with earflaps and wool trimming, or a multicolored Jamaican cap with a zippered pocket (probably originally for dope; I used it to play Yankee Doodle with my grandchildren: "Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni!"). Or a rainbowy yarmulke, like this:

 And whatever its shape or color, the hat continues to mean to me that there is a Higher, Deeper Truth in the world than any judge, any boss, any Attorney-General, any President, or any Pharaoh.

 It’s my – our – “Alice’s Restaurant.” Or maybe “Alice’s Restaurant” is Arlo’s yarmulke. And not only Arlo’s, but the yarmulke for all of us.

Let us face the truth – This Thamksgiving, we have In theWhite House itself a rhetoric and policy rooted in white nationalism. It has poured a fire of hate across America. Latinx, Blacks, women, Muslims, Jews, GLBTQ people, refugees, news reporters, even the Earth itself, have felt the fires.  In California, the fires have been physical, and murderous. Elsewhere, the fires have been words that beckoned murder – as in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. 

 That combination -- racist hate in major speeches, incitements to street violence -- has a well-known pedigree. When a society has lost its way, when its accustomed imperial army is failing and yet is eating up the country's own substance like a cancer, when a rising proportion of its people feel left out economically and culturally, and when demogogues define as traitorous enemies "the wetbacks," "the slant-eyes," "the kikes," "the niggers," "the ragheads," “the nasty, uppity women,” “the fake-news press,” the “lying scientists,” the "human scum" of Congressional leaders -- we are in the presence of a neo-fascist movement.  

 It will take concerted resistance and the sprouting of a new America of joyful solidarity to meet this challenge

 Resistance to what? Carbon Pharaohs. Billionaire election-buyers. Racist politicians. Hate-mongers in the White House, sending the Army to fire on bedraggled refugee families.

 And what is a New America? From the bottom up: 

 Neighborhood solar-energy coops. Public gatherings of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists -- Black, Hispanic, Native, Asian, Euro -- to pray, sing, meditate, and vigil together. Sanctuaries for refugees. Schools, colleges, and universities that celebrate Black songs, Black poetry, Black wisdom, Black visionaries. Release from prison of nonviolent drug offenders, and active groups working for the full rehabilitation of "returned citizens." The Dreamers. Hundreds of Jews going to jail explicitly on a Jewish holy fast day, Tisha B'Av, to defend refugees and immigrants from White house cruelty.  Sanctuary cities. Indigenous communities defending ther sacred lands and teaching the rest of us about nurturing the sacred Earth -- and at last, being listened to, after centuries of being ignored. High-school kids defiantly sitting-in at the office of the Speaker, demanding an Earth that will not kill them. Cities and states that enforce a $15 minimum wage, with automatic cost-of-living increases. #MeToo as women take on an ingrained rape culture that has its hero in the White House, and as hundreds of women run for public office for the first time – and win. “Fusion politics” and a national campaign for moral renewal by the Poor People’s Campaign. Boycotts of global corporations that escape US taxes by pretending to "move" overseas. Demands for Medicare for All. Massive civil disobedience in the very halls of Congress to demand public financing of election campaigns.

At the "top" of the pyramids of power, it is the worst of times. At the grass-roots "bottom," it is the best of times. 

 So the Arlo Guthrie story speaks today in a stronger voice than it has for decades.

 So I invite you to celebrate Thanksgiving (or if you are too busy today, tomorrow -- on the “second day of the Festival”) by thanking the Spirit that calls us to resist those who wound our world and to celebrate those who work to heal it; by lifting your own spirit and encouraging your own commitment to freedom, peace, laughter, and nonviolence. 

For Arlo’s recording of “Alice’s Restaurant” for our own generation with an audience joining in, click to 

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=B_tMzSxvoeA&list=RDAMVMB_tMzSxvoeA

 And if you take joy and sustenance in the work The Shalom Center does –- including this way of celebrating ritual as joyful social action and turning social action into joyful ritual –- then please make a (tax-deductible) donation by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” banner just below.

Thanks!  And blessings of a joyful Giving Thanks not only today, but as we keep moving, building a multifaceted movement to create a new and deeper, fuller, democratic America. ---   Arthur

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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.

*** *** 

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.

#Hanukkah8Days4Climate

[Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Rabbinical Student Faryn Borella are working together on the year-long Shalom Center program of #Holy Days4Climate. Faryn is the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern for The Shalom Center. For the next several weeks, as we approach the darkest days of the ear,  we will focus on #Hanukkah8Days4Climate  -- the Festival of Lights.]

We hope to inspire Jewish activism on the climate crisis in tune with the festival cycle. The next Festival is #Hanukkah8Days4Climate, which begins with the first candle Sunday evening December 22 and runs through the evening of Monday Dec 30. (The eighth candle is Sunday evening.) 

We light those eight candles to honor the ancient legend that enough Oil for one day’s sacred use to heal the desecrated Temple lasted for eight days. “A Miracle!” says the story in the Talmud:  “God conserved energy to meet the sacred needs of God’s people to heal God’s Temple.”

Learning from this legend, how do we meet our sacred need to heal our desecrated Temple Earth?  By conserving sacred energy in our own way. By lighting and warming our own lives with wind and sunlight.

 How do we draw on the symbols and practices of Hanukkah to do that?

 We suggest drawing on the Eight Days of Hanukkah like this:

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