We are approaching Rosh Hashanah, when we ourselves blow the Shofar -- puffing a small breath of air into the small end of the ram’s horn to come out the other end as an outcry of four distinct notes: alarm, broken-heart, grief, and awe-filled transformation.
Close to the end of this Shalom Report, we will suggest five actions that will turn the symbolic Shofar into our active reality.
Why must we do this? Because in just the past four weeks, the world itself has cried out four far more powerful separate soundings of the Shofar.
All four soundings of alarm share the same danger: that those whom we exclude from “our” society can in despair become a danger to the society that excludes them, and that responding to that danger with still more exclusion brings on more violence to contain the danger.
There is only one response that in the long run works: inclusion, connection, or to use the short and embarrassing word – – love.
The first Shofar blast was sounded at Charlottesville, and became even more shrill when the White House commented on what happened there. It called on us, "Awake!" to the resurgence of violent white supremacism, white nationalism, Neo-Nazi-ism no longer at the margins of American society but now with sympathizers and defenders and believers at the very peak of American power in the White House and the presidency itself.
More deeply, it called out the pain and despair of some “old Americans” who feel severed economically, culturally, and spiritually from a new transnational, multicultural world.
A second Shofar blast was sounded by the hurricane that shattered many parts of Texas. Far fewer Americans could also hear the same Shofar crying out from Asia, in the floods that killed thousands in Nepal, India, and Bangla Desh. These storms called on us, "Awake!" to the truth of global scorching caused by the corporate greed of Big Coal, Big Oil, Big Unnatural Gas, now vigorously made the “Law of Greed is God” by the White House.
Here it is the Earth itself that those who rule our society try to exclude and subjugate -- pretending that all the Earth is not an ecosystem and that what we do to rip and tear its interwovenness does not come back to harm us.
Third, the Shofar blast of a Hydrogen Bomb and long-distance missiles tested successfully by the government of North Korea, echoed by war-like threats of “fire and fury” from the US government -- together with the announcement that the White House will seek Congressional authorization of a trillion-dollar budget to ”upgrade” and “strengthen” the US arsenal of thousands of H-Bombs. This is the Shofar blast of The Bomb reawakened, after almost thirty years of comfortable neglect as we thought the genocidal danger had been parked in a musty barn, unvisited.
The trillion dollars proposed for making fancier H-Bombs could instead be spent on removing a trillion tons of CO2 from our planet’s atmosphere, Then our children and grandchildren could take joy and sustenance from a climate as life-giving as that which sustained our parents and grandparents, with a level of eco-social justice that many of our forebears did not experience.
Fourth: The Shofar blast of efforts to wreck the lives of Dreamers and other immigrants, documented or not. We hear the wailing of heartbreak and sorrow in worsening deportation sweeps of these last few months, and in the cancelation of the DACA exemptions from deportation of the Dreamers who came as little children to the United States. These actions not only cruelty shatter immigrant families, but are also inexorably moving toward wounding the civil liberties and freedoms of many others.
In all four of these Traumas, there is the possibility of Transformation.
- We could bring together the different segments of working-class and lower-middle-class Americans of every race and gender and ethnicity in a joyful amalgam, a New New Deal of sharing.
- We could affirm our interconnectedness with all of our planet’s life-forms, and take action to heal and restore a livable climate.
- We could move swiftly to carry out the Treaty to abolish all nuclear weapons that was recently adopted by the United Nations, freeing us all from the threat of nuclear holocaust. And we could take legal, political, and economic steps to welcome North Korea into the comity of nations, even though we do not like its government.
- We could rework our entire approach to immigration. We could not only welcome into citizenship all migrants in our midst, but with a new “Marshall Plan” we could revitalize the economies and polities of Mexico and Central America. Then their citizens would not feel flight from poverty, violence, and despair is their only choice.
In short, in each dimension of these echoing Shofar-outcries we could respond not with more repression but with Transformative inclusion -- Love.
Jewish tradition teaches that God' s own self will blow the Great Shofar to herald the coming of Messiah and the days of healing, peace, and justice. As one ancient rabbi said, "May Messiah come, indeed, indeed .-- And may I not live to suffer through the turmoil that will accompany the Coming!”
We are hearing the Breath of Life, YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, blowing the still small Voice into the small end of our planet’s Great Shofar, sending a flood of sound into our ears and hearts.
On Rosh Hashanah we can only emulate the Great Shofar, to show that we are joining in the great outcry of Transformation.
While The Shalom Center has responded with action-suggestions to all four of these Shofar-soundings of alarm and transformation, we have chosen to focus most of our work on the existential threat to human civilization and to many other life-forms that arises from the climate crisis, from global scorching.
We have chosen that for three reasons: (a) The danger is greatest; (b) The organized Jewish community has been much slower to respond to that danger than to other important issues like hostility to immigrants and refugees, religious bigotry, racism, and gender bigotry; (c) The Hebrew Scriptures are the spiritual expression of an earth-based people, and have a rich treasury of wisdom for shaping a loving relationship between human earthlings and the Earth -- but that wisdom has mostly been ignored, and could now be drawn upon to inspire strong religious action for the earth.
We suggest five actions you could take immediately, to begin the year with Transformative Action:
(1) Click here to donate to TEJAS -- Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services. (<http://tejasbarrios.org/a-just-harvey-recovery-fund/>
They are front-line folks in the Latino community who have had poisonous Big Oil thrust down their throats for years, who have suffered even more than most Texans from the hurricane, and who have already been conscious and active about the dangers of the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs to their own lives. So a donation supports both immediate relief and longer-range organizing against the real danger.
(2) Prepare for Rosh Hashanah by clicking to
<https://theshalomcenter.org/content/rosh-hashanah-we-turn-heal-earth> (Many of these prayers express the visions and commitments not only of Judaism but also of other spiritual and religious communities So those of other communities should feel free to draw on them.)
(3) As part of a Rosh Hashanah or another gathering, invite congregants or neighbors to discuss organizing a solar-energy co-op as an act of healing, a Birthday present for the Earth, . To begin the discussion, print out and share the explanation at
(4) Invite congregants to a study group –- perhaps the same people who create the solar co-op -- focused on the following vision: Taking action not only to end new CO2 and methane emissions, but also for a public policy to withdraw a trillion tons of carbon dioxide from Earth’s atmosphere.
The goal of this policy is that our children and grandchildren can take joy and sustenance from a climate as life-giving as that which sustained our parents and grandparents, with a level of eco-social justice that many of our forebears did not experience. Invite scientists, leaders of religious and ethical thought, and political activists to explore this vision with you.
(5) Gather your friends and congregants into a “sustainers covenant” to help The Shalom Center keep doing this work. There are many ways we could sustain these efforts with Transformation Tool-kits, but only if you sustain us with the money it takes to prepare them.
With blessings for shalom, salaam, paz, peace for Earth and all of us -- Arthur