Inviting You to Join in #Sukkot4ClimateHealing
Sukkot, the week-long Jewish harvest festival that begins the evening of October 13, is of course in its essence a festival of interconnection among Earth and human earthlings. (I use this odd word for human beings to echo in English the way that Hebrew teaches in language the truth of the intertwined relationship – with the words adamah (Earth) and adam (human).
The Shalom Center intends to make the celebration of #Sukkot4ClimateHealing this year and in the future one of a series of Earth-connecting sacred practices. Through them, Jews and those of other spiritual, religious, and ethical communities can join to pursue these sacred goals: ending the climate crisis, healing Earth and Humanity from the ravages of global scorching, and restoring for our grandchildren the life-giving climate that our grandparents joyfully lived in.
How do we plan to do this?
The celebration of Sukkot by our community can be transformed in several ways:
1) Jewish tradition teaches that through Sukkot we seek the just sharing of Earth’s abundance not only for the Jewish people but also for the “70 nations of the world” – that is, all the communities of humankind. We propose to make this vision real by sharing with other spiritual, religious, and ethical communities the prayers and actions that can work to heal what Pope Francis called our common home, all Earth.
2) We can direct the traditional symbols, prayers, songs, and practices of Sukkot to make explicit our determination to actively work for eco/ social justice and healing.
- Traditionally, for this week we build a “sukkah” –a fragile, temporary home, a hut with a leafy, leaky roof -- open to sun, wind, rain. We eat there, pray there, some might live there.
We invoke the blessings of the sacred Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, Ruach Ha”Olam, as we wave the fruit or branches of Four Species of trees in the seven directions of Earth, bringing us close to the touch and sight and feel and smell of our different trees and breezes.
- We chant Hosha-Na (Please Save!) prayers that ask the One Interbreathing Spirit of all life to save all Earth and Humankind from locusts, drought, insects, and other plagues.
We can chant a Rosh Hashana prayer that even ends, “Please save this planet, suspended in space!” – written long before anyone had taken the iconic sacred photo of Earth suspended in space.
3) Some of us can also choose to take Sukkot prayers and practices beyond the walls of synagogues, churches, mosques, temples -- beyond even the fragile spaces of our sukkah-huts -- into public and commercial spaces to demand our governments and businesses change their policies so as to heal our Mother Earth, not poison and burn her.
What might this look like? Please understand that the imaging of possible action that follows will, we assume, be modified by local communities as befits their own circumstances.
The Film of a Future: #Sukkot4ClimateHealing
All across America, hundreds of local clusters of people gather in synagogues or other houses of prayer and Spirit, perhaps in a communal sukkah. They are of varied religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions and communities who have been invited to join in an activist celebration rooted in Jewish tradition. They walk together to a local "home district" office of a US Senator or Congressperson
These processions carry the traditional Sukkot life-symbols of palm, willow, and myrtle branches and the lemony etrog /citron (or some version of these Four Species that are rooted in the varied ecologies of North America). Perhaps they also carry a very simple version of a sukkah -- a thatched-roof hut carried on four posts.
They gather on Wednesday, Thursday, and/or Friday, October 16, 17, and 18 -- the third, fourth, and fifth days of Sukkot. (The first two days are for many Jews especially holy days in which they would not travel other than by foot, would not spend money, etc.) And it is important to gather not on Saturday or Sunday or on the near-by American holy-day of Columbus Day/ Indigenous Peoples Day, but on a weekday when Congressional offices are open.
At the bank or office, some picket outside, some enter -- carrying signs like "Endorse the Green New Deal," "Burning Earth is the Highest Impeachable Crime," “Stop Funding Deadly Fossil Fuels, Start Funding Energy from Sun & Wind,” "Burning Carbon => Asthma Epidemics & Environmental Racism"
They keep waving the Four Species in the seven directions of the universe. They keep chanting songs, prayers, psalms, in Hebrew, English, Spanish, and perhaps other languages, all in celebration of a healthy, healing Earth.
They demand that the leading officials in the places where they are chanting appear and sign a pledge to support the Green New Deal as an act to heal Earth and bring both life and justice to endangered and marginalized human communities. (Why the Green New Deal? Because we believe it is the closest analgue for a modern society to the Biblical teaching of the eco/social-justice practice of the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year in which Earth rested, human beings shared its bounty, and debts were annulled.)
These Earth-Affirmers join with others – peoples of the Indigenous Nations, Christians, Muslims, Unitarians, and many others -- in the Name of the ONE Who is the Interbreathing Spirit of all life, Whose universal Breathing is the “nameless name” that supports and suffuses all the many diverse Names of God in many cultures and communities, Whose Interbreathing of CO2 and Oxygen preserves all life and is now gravely wounded by the production of more CO2 than all Earth’s vegetation can transmute to Oxygen.
Then on Sunday October 20, the seventh and last day of Sukkot, known as “Hoshana Rabbah,” the culmination of its prayers and practices, would be the perfect day to gather in sukkot to celebrate. That might also be a time to plan for outreach to broaden the community willing to take the next spiritually rooted action to heal Earth. Perhaps the next foray could be on the Friday after Thanksgiving and again during Hanukkah/ Christmastime in late December.
Before Sukkot and afterward, in congregations and interfaith gatherings all across America among sermons and as part of prayer services and public teach-ins, there are discussions of the dangers facing Earth and what we need to do to return Earth to the healthy climate that our grandparents enjoyed and that we intend to leave to our grandchildren.
Resources #Sukkot4ClimateHealing campaign Will Need and The Shalom Center will Gather and Share
Model sermons to prepare people for this Sukkot campaign, for delivery on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Jumaa, Shabbat, and Sabbath services just before and after.
Model sermons and services for Sukkot and celebration of Earth and Harvest in other traditions.
Texts and translations and melodies for prayers, old and new, for Earth and human earthlings under these stressful conditions.
Information on the most important institutions that are now preventing climate healing, and the most effective ways for faith communities to change their behavior or redirect their energy.
The Shalom Center and I welcome your comments on this proposal for a campaign and your offers to provide and share resources like those described above. Within two weeks we will share with you and our wide readership an action plan for communities to use and modify, and links to resources that we harvest.
Please help us with your own ideas and suggestions about carrying out this #Sukkot4ClimateHealing campaign. Please click to and respond to a brief survey -- it should take only three minutes – at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XJCXS7R Thanks!