How did we get to the brink of an unconstitutional, world-shattering war against Iran, almost certainly far worse for the United States than the self-destructive war against Iraq?

And how did we get to the moment when the US Border Police started detaining and interrogating Iranian-Americans and confiscating their passports -- --  mostly US citizens, many US-born -- who were returning to their US homes after a major Iranian pop music concert in Vancouver? 

Four years ago, history seemed to be going the other way. In January 2016, The Shalom Center celebrated the peaceful achievement of an extraordinary agreement among the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Germany, the European Union, and Iran that put an absolute end to any effort Iran had been making to make nuclear weapons.

The essay we wrote is at, along with this note from Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky thanking us for mobilizing Jewish leadership to support the agreement despite the efforts by AIPAC (in accord with the Netanyahu government of Israel) to get Congress to torpedo the agreement.

The process by which the agreement was achieved pointed to the wisdom of one of the most powerful teachings of Jewish tradition about peacemaking. Traditionally, every evening Jews pray that YHWH, the Breath of Life, the Interbreathing Spirit of the world, the Wind of Change, will “Ufros alenu sukkat shlomekha  --  Spread over us the sukkah of Your shalom.

Why a sukkah  of shalom --  a Sukkah,  the flimsy hut with a leafy, leaky roof that is open to rain and wind -- rather than a fortress, a  palace, even a solidly built house?

Precisely because the Sukkah is so vulnerable. The tradition is teaching that one way to peace is for everyone to recognize that all of us are, each of us is, vulnerable. In order to choose the nuclear agreement, the Great Powers decided they were vulnerable to a possible Iranian nuclear arsenal. And the Iranian government decided their country was vulnerable to sanctions by the Great Powers. By sharing their vulnerabilities, they could agree on how to give all the parties shalom.

The agreement worked. Deeply intrusive inspections in Iran, agreed to by Iran as part of the agreement, showed Iran was adhering to its rules.

But a new US President, elected Constitutionally but undemocratically by a minority of the people, decided to smash the agreement. He may have been motivated by rage against former President Obama, both out of his own racism and because Obama had publicly humiliated him in a White House Correspondents’ dinner. Or by wanting to support Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, both of whom feared and hated Iran. Or by his own preference for bullying people into submission rather than negotiating with them. Or all three.

Result: After a year of trying to reestablish the agreement with European help, Iran began acting as if it didn’t exist. Reopening its nuclear facilities. The US jammed draconic sanctions down Iran’s throat, punishing its people for having elected a peace-seeking government and having thrown out a war-wishing political faction.  Iran responded by increasing its pressure in and on Iraq.

At home, Mr. Trump was experiencing more and more political pressure.  Impeachment is no joke. One of the most famous of political maxims came into play: “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” (Samuel Johnson, said in April 1775 just as King  George’s troops were preparing the attacks that became the battles of Lexington and Concord). When the scoundrel finds his political fate still worsening, the ultimate advice comes into play: “War is the very last refuge of a scoundrel.”

Mr. Trump and his allies are already trying to make this reckless killing justification for opposing an open, impartial, and fact-based impeachment trial. But the opposite response would be wiser: That this unconstitutional, illegal act of war is another example of this President’s abuse of power.

 General Suleiman was no ordinary grunt, just following orders in the trenches. He had planned attacks on enemy soldiers and mercenaries, including Americans.  He may have been more violent than some important generals of other governments. He was certainly no worse than the Saudi Crown Prince – Mr. Trump’s pal -- who personally ordered the murder of a dissident journalist and politically has ordered the killing of tens of thousands of Yemenites, while crucial US help was being given by Trump despite Congressional efforts to end all US involvement.

And one of the main "charges" against General Suleiman -- that he commanded and organized the killing of hundreds of American soldiers -- seems to be about attacks on the US Army that President George W. Bush sent to invade, occupy, and conquer Iraq. Certainly a nonviolent resistance to that occupation would have been far preferable to what General Suleiman planned, AND --  the bloody hands responsible for the deaths of those American soldiers belong in the first case to Mr. Bush, who sent them to die in a war built on lies.

Many generals do their bloodshed with care not to explode an uncontrollable war that will kill tens of thousands and wash blood for decades into the future.  Sometimes clever generals even order disruptive action short of killing, as when Iraqi militias responded to US attacks that killed 25 of their soldiers with demonstrations at the US Embassy in Iraq that burned buildings but killed no one, and then withdrew.

The whole war system needs to be treated and cured as a lethal disease of humankind. But impulsive violent bullying is not the way to do that.

Impulsive violent bullying is what Trump did. 

He ignored the Constitution and the law requiring the permission of Congress to begin a war – let alone the United Nations Charter, treaty law that the Constitution says is also “the law of the land.” His Secretary of State is citing an alleged urgent danger that the Iranian general was plotting an attack against Americans. Thousands of them.

Really? What’s the evidence? As “truthful” as the lie that Iraq was hiding nuclear weapons, the lie that killed and maimed a million Iraqis and thousands of Americans? Where were and are these thousands of endangered Americans? Even SecState acknowledges this alleged plot was not to attack anyone on American soil. And various military officials are telling the US press that evidence of an impending attack was unclear and uncertain. There would have been plenty of time to take protective --  not aggressive -- action.

A story from 65 years ago: In graduate school at the University of Wisconsin, in a seminar led by Professor Howard K. Beale, we were studying the foreign policy of President Theodore Roosevelt, including his decision in 1907 to intimidate Japan by sending the US Navy – the “Great White Fleet” -- uninvited to its shores. Professor Beale asked us in his seminar, “What do you think was Japan’s response?”

I answered, “Pearl Harbor, almost 40 years later.” 

He whirled on me, astonished, even angry. “That is what my study of the Japanese archives shows. But you –- how did you know that?!”

“It just makes sense,” I said.  “No country, no government, likes being humiliated. Even if it takes 40 years –- "

 Now what? Iran threatens retaliation. By attacking oil tankers in the Gulf, disrupting the global economy as Iran’s economy has been disrupted?   By seeking to fire hundreds of missiles into Israel or Saudi Arabia, Trump’s allies? By slowly unfolding years of terror attacks against Americans without an Iranian label  -- perhaps cyber-attacks against American water supplies, electric power?  By assassinating, say, Prime Minister Netanyahu or Crown Prince MbS? By holding its anger tight and redoubling its work to create a nuclear arsenal? 

 Will the American people support this killing as “patriotic”?  And reward it by reelecting the President who ordered it? Or denounce it as unconstitutional, murderous, self-destructive, far too risky of many many deaths in a bully’s gamble for power?  And punish it by electing a President who will try to restore the denuclearization agreement with Iran – far harder to do now, after fear and distrust have been so intensified?

The answer, my friends, is “blowing in the Wind.” That sacred Wind, that Breath of Life, that comes alive when a great community, a steadfast People, breathes into life the Wind of Change.

By breathing its thoughts, our thoughts, out loud, and concerted. Just now, a phone call to your Senators and Congressperson would do that: 1202-224-3121. Your own feelings, your own words. Perhaps along these lines: "My name is Xxxx Yyyy, and I live in Qqqq. I am a constituent of yours. [If you have a defined religious or civic role in the community, you might mention it.] I am calling to urge that you speak out and vote to rebuke Mr. Trump for committing an act of war and risking a disaster far worse than the war against Iraq, without even consulting Congress, without obeying the Constitution and the law and the UN Charter. I urge you to demand public hearings on the claims that try to justify this act. And I urge you to take vigorous action to prevent a war against Iran. "

Says Psalm 34, “Seek peace and pursue it. Turn away from evil; do good.” The rabbis interpret: “Not only seek peace but pursue it, especially when it is running away from you. Not only turn away from evil, but take vigorous action for good.”  That wisdom rests on each of us, not only Congressmembers.

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace -- sohl [“Peace” in Farsi, the language of Iran]  --  Arthur

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

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

Elijah’s Covenant Between the Generations

to Heal Our Endangered Earth:

A New Rabbinic Call to Action

On the Climate Crisis

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

see ourselves as the heirs of the ancient Hebrew Prophets,

including the last, whose words echo through the ages:

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

parents to children and the hearts of children to parents,

lest I come and utterly destroy the Earth.”

(Malachi 3: 2324)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1) Swiftly end the burning of fossil fuels;

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

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

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

5) Reforest Earth and defend our natural wildlife refuges;

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

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

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

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

Two Days Left!

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

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

Green Menorah Covenant: Planning for Day 8 of #Hanukkah8Days4Climate


Gather in community to devise a Green Menorah Covenant, binding the community together in continued climate justice action in the coming year. Write us what you are planning, at

[By Faryn Borella, the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern for The Shalom Center, and Rabbi Arthur Waskow]

Hanukkah begins tonight. Jews and their friends and allies will light one candle to serve as the kindling-candle shamash for the first candle of the first night. It is an important time to look ahead to the last night of Hanukkah, next Sunday night, when the shamash will light eight candles. What do we want the mood, the action, the commitment of our community to be, by that last night?

We urge that it be the creation of the Green Menorah Covenant  -- a local group in your own community that will grow connections with Jews around the nation and the world. Green Menorah Covenanters will celebrate the Tree of Light that was the Menorah in the Temple, for the sake of protecting the Tree of Life and the Interbreathing of Life everywhere.  Healing our wounded Mother Earth and ourselves from the climate crisis.  

First of all, the original Temple Menorah was shaped like a tree -- branches, buds, flowers. At the heart of Hanukkah is this Tree of Light, connecting Earth with the handiwork of human earthlings. This medieval portrayal makes the point, as does our generation's symbol for the Green Menorah Covenant:

Each year for the Shabbat of Hanukkah, we read a breathtaking passage from the Prophet Zechariah that goes even deeper to connect Earth with Humanity:  Zechariah imagines two olive trees beside the Menorah in a yet-to-be-rebuilt Temple – already a radical departure from the Torah’s original ground-plan of the Holy House. The Haftarah explains the meaning of this prophetic vision: “Not by might and not by power but by My Breathing Spirit/Wind of Change, says YHWH [Yahhh/ the Breath of life].” Let us remember this wisdom at the heart of Hanukkah, as we face the power and the might that are condemning Earth to fiery death.

Then, in a passage just a few lines later, Zechariah asks for a further explanation:

‘And what,’ I asked him, ‘are those two olive trees, one on the right and one on the left of the light-bearing Menorah?’ And I further asked him, ‘What are the two outgrowths of the olive trees that feed their gold through those two golden tubes?’ He asked me, ‘Don’t you know what they are?’ And I replied, ‘No, my lord.’ Then he explained, ‘They are the two aspects of the shining/pure oil-of-anointment, who take their stance for the lordly connective-link of all the Earth.’” (Zechariah 4:11-14)

So from the Prophet Zechariah, we learn of the self-renewing miniature ecosystem that sustains the eternal burning of the Temple Menorah: two olive trees--one to its right and one to its left--that feed their oil directly into the Menorah. The Temple Menorah, keeper of the Eternal Flame, is to never be extinguished. And what allows for it to be eternally alight with sacred fire? Trees that, springing directly forth from Earth, directly provide the resource necessary for the Menorah’s functioning. Trees, who spring from the Eternal Breath of Life and interweave their breath with all Earth’s animals and so sustain the human beings who fashion the Gold Menorah. And so the Eternal loop of Light and Life and Love that lights our way in the gusts of Winds of change.

What can we learn from the Green Menorah of the Temple Courtyard -- one that is sustained indefinitely by cooperative relationship with the ecology of its surroundings? That we are reliant on the resources of our Earth around us and within us, and that we need to create social systems that not only sustain us, but allow for us and the Earth we’re harvesting  to mutually sustain one another. From the Green Menorah, we learn of the importance of Longevity. Eternity.

Therefore, as Hanukkah comes to a close, we invite you to open from thinking immediate to thinking long-term. What continued action can you commit to over the coming year? What covenant will you enter into with your community to ensure that Hanukkah’s lessons on resource conservation last all year?

Below, we provide four potential options for your Green Menorah Covenant to support you and your community in continued climate justice action throughout the next year to enter into covenantal relationship with each other and with Earth, which cradles all of us each day. And will continue to nurture us – IF we act to make sure our own mechanical out-breath of CO2 does not poison and burn the planet.  

And just as the interwoven Breath of Life nurtures us into the future, we need to keep the Green Menorah Covenant alive into the future. Not just for the eight nights of Hanukkah.

One more thought about timing: Some who read this may feel that the notion of gathering to create a Green Menorah Covenant makes sense, but there is not enough time in the next week to organize the meeting. Fine. Start planning now to meet the Sunday of Martin Luther King weekend, on January 20. Or on Sunday, February 9, in honor of Tu B’Shvat, ReBirthDay of the Trees, which begins that Sunday evening.

What then could we promise to each other on the eighth night of Hanukkah? We offer four possibilities. Your community could adopt just one or two. Your community could create your own.  

  1. Organize a campaign against the energy powers-that-be in your community. Is the local oil refinery poisoning the air in your city? Demand that it be shut down and reparations be made for its negative health impact. Does one energy corporation have a monopoly over energy access and distribution in your city, region or state? Demand the monopoly be broken up and local, renewable energy companies be created in their stead. Is there a bank in your community complicit in propping up the fossil fuel industry? Demand that they instead invest in renewable energy -- Move Our Money to Protect Our Planet. 

2. Convene a neighborhood council to plan the formation of neighborhood emergency preparedness plans, resource pooling and solar energy cooperatives. Climate collapse is global, but manifests locally. And it is the coerced individualism of consumerism that has caused this catastrophe, so the only appropriate response is to push back together. How can your local community both collectively prepare for the worst while taking immediate action to reduce? The pressure on the planet?  And how can this site of resistance and resilience also be a site of community building and mutual support?

3. Collectively commit to a beef-free home and community. It is widely known that the beef industry is responsible for greenhouse gas emissions beyond what is normal for an agricultural industry. Between both the methane that the cows produce and the inefficient land usage that raising cattle requires, the costs of the beef industry outweigh its benefits. However, the beef industry does not seem to be going anywhere any time soon, because demand for beef is too high. Often, creating a more just and sustainable world for all requires that those with power, privilege, and resources give something up. Immediate and constant access to beef produced by unethical agribusiness practices is something that those of us with access and resource can choose to give up for our earth and for future generations.

 4. Campaign to ensure that the Green New Deal is a primary agenda item in the upcoming Presidential Election, as well as on the legislative agenda. In the form of the Sabbatical/ Shmita year, where in times of old the Israelites allowed for both rest for the land and access to the resources of the land for those historically without access, ancient Judaism inextricably linked justice for humans with justice for the earth. So too does the Green New Deal today.

 The Green New Deal understands that racial and economic justice are interwoven with ecological justice, for those most directly and immediately impacted by climate change are often those also targeted in systems of poverty and white supremacy. Therefore, mitigating the impact of climate change necessarily creates a safer and more just world for all. This is why we so desperately need a Green New Deal at all levels: locally, regionally and nationally. How can your community ensure the success of the Green New Deal and a safer future for the next generation?

Please let us at The Shalom Center know what you are doing, how and when, about the Green Menorah Covenant. You can write us at

-- We have provided resources for you to shape Hanukkah into a way of healing Earth and saving many lives. Please help us keep doing this kind of work by giving The Shalom Center a life-saving (and tax-deductible) Hanukkah gift  --  by clicking on the “Contribute” button in the left-hand margin.

Thanks and blessings of Light for Clarity and Dark for Mystery at this sacred time of turning for our planet. – Faryn and Arthur 

Day 7 of #Hanukkah8Days4Climate

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Pass around the spices to be sniffed



We are the generations

That stand between the fires.

Behind us the fire and smoke

That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima, 

Not yet behind us the burning forests of the Amazon,

torched for the sake of fast hamburger.

Not yet behind us the hottest years of human history

that bring upon us

Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.

Before us we among all life-forms

face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,

The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.


To douse that outer all-consuming fire

We must light again in our own hearts

the inner fire of love and liberation

that burned in the Burning Bush.

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

The Fire that must never be extinguished.

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

It is our task to make from inner fire

Not an all-consuming blaze

But the light in which we see more clearly

The Rainbow Covenant glowing

in the many-colored faces of all life.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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 <> 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

“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:

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] --  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.] 



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