“Please Heal My Earth”
This year, Christmas and Hanukkah converge for the first time in nearly four decades. Both Christians and Jews will light lights in the darkness tonight, on December 24. Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center suggests a re-visioning of the menorah as a symbol of our ability to do all of what we need with only 1/8th of what we thought we needed, and suggests eight days of actions which we all can embrace. Let them inspire you to action, whether these very actions, or some others, rooted in your own faith, wisdom, and traditions. Reb Arthur:
Hanukkah brings with it again this year three crucial teachings about healing our Mother Earth from the ravages of global scorching.
The Green Menorah, a Tree of Light that is a fusion of human craft and Earth’s growth. On this Shabbat we read the Prophetic passage from Zechariah (2:14 to 4: 12) that emplaces the Temple Menorah as part of a tiny forest of olive trees that give forth their oil straight into the Menorah.
We breathe in what these Trees of Light breathe out; they breathe in what we breathe out. We take new inner strength by breathing in the God Who breathes all life, by opening our eyes to the Source of all Light in this wintry season of our dark foreboding.
We realize that Hanukkah teaches: We humans are not lords of the Earth, but part of the Earth. These trees feed us as we feed them.
The tradition of resistance to Imperial Antiochus and his Empire’s desecration of the Temple –– a resistance crystallized in the teaching by Zechariah: “Not by might and not by power, but by My Spirit [b’ruchi — or even, “by My wind!”]. We take new inner strength to resist the Empires of our day – Big Carbon – that today are burning, despoiling, desecrating the Holy Temple Earth of all cultures and all creatures. We take new inner strength not only to resist harm but to heal and grow the sprouts for our own Trees of Light.
The legend that one day’s worth of olive oil lasted for eight days –a teaching that we ourselves can minimize our use of oil and coal and unnatural gas; can through conservation and the sustainable use of sun and wind reshape our country and the world; can shave off seven-eighths of the fossil-fuel burning that is scorching earth and killing thousands.
That is our own Green Menorah commitment. We ask you – after lighting your menorah each evening – to dedicate yourself to making the changes in your life that will allow our limited sources of energy to last for as long as they’re needed, and with minimal impact on our climate. And for those who celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, we invite you to translate these suggestions from 8 to 12.
Day 1: Hanukkah begins Saturday evening December 24; so we ceremonially say farewell to Shabbat before we light the candle to honor the first day. We take note that the same evening, the Christian community is also celebrating the coming of new light into a world that seems dark. Look carefully at the candle and notice that at its heart there is a spot of dark, like a seed that sprouts into a glow of light.
We might, as we watch the candles flicker, talk about the darkness that has fallen on our country and indeed on our hopes for healing our wounded Mother Earth — and what for each of us it means to rellght the candle of rededication, of commitment, of action.
Day 2: This year, Monday December 26 is a national holiday. If possible, choose today to not use your car at all. Spend some of the day outdoors, enjoying Earth. Choose one day each week when as we move into the new secular year, you will not use your car. Every day, lessen driving: use public transit, bike, walk. Cluster errands. Carpool. Don’t idle engine beyond 20 seconds.
Day 3. Home and workplace: This Tuesday morning, call your electric-power utility to switch to wind-powered electricity. (For each home, 100% wind-power reduces CO2 emissions the same as not driving 20,000 miles in one year.) Urge the top officials of your workplace to arrange an energy audit and switch to wind-powered electicity.
Day 4. National policy. In the morning, call and ask to speak to the Senators for your state.
Urge your Senators to oppose President-elect Trump’s appointments of three rapacious wolves to “guard” the Garden of all Earth, our common home, our common future: Exxon boss Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State ; anti-EPA extremist and denier of climate crisis Scott Pruitt, to be chief of the EPA; and Rick Perry, ex-Governor of Texas who sits on the board of Energy Transfer Partners, developer of the Dakota Oil Access Pipeline, to head the Department of Energy.
Day 5: City/Municipal Policy: Write a letter to your Mayor or City or County Councilperson, urging them to require solarization of all public buildings and to insist on private solarization through building regulations, tax policy, etc. Creating change is often easier on the local level!
Day 6: State Policy: Urge state legislators to reduce subsidies for highways, increase them for mass transit. In states (like Pennsylvania) where high-profit oil/ gas companies are fracking Oil Shale deposits, demand a moratorium until we can get full information on what poisonous chemicals are being poured into the water table and our drinking water.
Day 7. Shabbat. After you light the seven Hanukkah candles and then the candles for Shabbat, read with your friends and with any available children from four years old and up the lovely and colorful illustrated book The Rest of Creation.
Ask the children: “Which of the creatures did you like the best? — The hippopotamus? The peacock? The redwood tree? The humans? Do you think God should have kept on creating? Is Shabbat a good idea, or not?”
The story gently and delightfully asks an important question: When is it important to pause from OverDoing, from OverWorking Earth and each other? Ask yourself: How do you feel about this whimsical tale of how and why God created Shabbat? If you were pausing to celebrate the Earth instead of “improving” it, what would you do?
Then read The Looooong Narrow Pharaoh and the Midwives Who Gave Birth to Freedom. We are facing a new Pharaoh, ready to bring plagues upon the Earth and attack “outsiders” as the biblical Pharaoh enslaved the “foreigners” and immigrants of his day. This lovely illustrated book can teach us the joy of resistance.
Day 8. Say farewell to Shabbat*. Light all eight candles. It’s also New Year’s Eve. Sing “Auld Lang Syne.” (I once heard Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi use the shofar to sound out the melody of the traditional song for New Year’s Eve, bringing together the Jewish and the Western New Years.)
January 2, the 8th Day, is again a Federal holiday. Ask your friends and neighbors to get together with you to talk about creating a neighborhood solar-energy co-op. Find some basic to get some basic information for the meeting here and here. This is a major action of resistance you can take together that brings to birth a new world from the burning of the old.
May your Hanukkah bring you blessings of light in a time of dark; active hope and hopeful action in a time of doubt!
*People from other traditions will enjoy learning about the rituals and meanings of Shabbat, and might reflect on the ways in which they might make their own lives —personally and ecologically — more sustainable with the practice of a holy pause. There is lots written on the topic if you want to reflect with others. This article is written for non-Jews who have been invited to a Shabbat dinner with a Jewish family; this one goes into more detail. Tiffany Shlain is a great place to start thinking about a weekly unplugging.