Tag Archives: action

A Jewish Teaching on Esau’s Birthright and Climate Action

On November 15, 2015, Board Member Susan Frant offered the following d’var (sermon) at a board meeting of Congregation Beth David in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. The Torah portion for that week was Toldot, Genesis 25:19-28:9. In Susan’s teaching, she focuses on Genesis 25:27-34, which centers on Esau spurning his birthright. How does this relate to climate disruption and our need to act? Read on to find out.

Beth David logoWhen Isaac’s twins grew up, Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the outdoors; but Jacob was a mild man, who stayed in camp. Once when Jacob was cooking a stew, Esau came in from the open, famished. Many translate this as “tired” or “exhausted,” not “famished.” And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am” tired. Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” So he sold his birthright to Jacob. Jacob then gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and he rose and went away. Thus did Esau spurn the birthright. (Genesis 25:27-34)

Certainly there were benefits associated with the birthright, but there were also responsibilities. From Rashi we learn that Esau’s exhaustion is more spiritual than physical. He is tired of the obligations of family life, tired of the responsibilities associated with Jewish living, and weary of the limitations placed on him daily by his pledge to the future. Would it not be easier simply to ignore tomorrow and live only for today? And so, with the stew as collateral, Esau abandons his future.

Many commentaries point out that Torah admonishes us not to live exclusively for the moment lest we forget that tomorrow will bring new challenges and new blessings. The Torah portion Toldot highlights the struggle between this instant and the thousands of tomorrows that follow.

I relate this Torah portion to the very serious issue of climate disruption where birthright is a sustainable, livable—that is, inhabitable, G-d given planet. Related to this we could talk about farmers who allow fracking to “save the farm” when fracking leads to contaminated water and earthquakes. We could cite drivers who buy gas guzzling vehicles when driving them leads to an increase in greenhouse gasses that contributes to climate disruption. We could point to eating red meat where it was reported in 2012, that the world’s 1.5 billion cattle contributed nearly 18% of all greenhouse gases, more than cars, planes and all other transportation put together. We could talk about powering our digital, electronic world with fossil fuels where wind and solar power do not emit greenhouse gasses and therefore, the total cost to humankind is much less than burning fossil fuel.  We could go on. But I won’t.

Rather, let me conclude by asking you to raise your hand if you believe you are a contributing member of the society. Look around. We are the people that are referred to in the statement that says: we are the FIRST generations to witness and feel the effects of climate disruption AND the LAST generations to be able to take actions that will have a significant impact on mitigating the magnitude of what is to come. Let me repeat: the first to witness the effects and the last to be able to take significant action.

I hope when our children or grandchildren ask what we did to change the trajectory of global climate disruption, to preserve their birthright of a sustainable, livable, beautiful G-d given world, I hope our answer doesn’t include that we were busy eating stew!   Thank you.


Things to read and to watch:

This Changes Everything* by Naomi Klein

The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Colbert

Merchants of Doubt* by Eric M Conway and Naomi Oreskes

Laudato Si by Pope Francis**

*also a movie

**on YouTube

8 Days of Hanukkah, my True Love said to me:

“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 Continue reading

Compost: The Story of the Heap at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church

Collaboratively written as the Heap completed its first year, by PA IPL members, Barbara Granger of Tikkun Olam Chavurah , Northeast Philadelphia, and Greg Williams, PA IPL board member, formerly of St. Martin’s, now finding a new church home in Central PA.
VIDEO at the end of this post!

While one parishioner was the spark at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, located in the Chestnut Hill NW section of Philadelphia; there was significant tinder within the church community to help composting become an everyday part of church life. After exploration and planning for a compost heap, the combined efforts of the Wednesday Community Supper volunteers, the enthusiastic support of the Treble Choir and their choirmaster, the Church’s Climate Action Team, and the Rector, who was already composting for his garden, initiated an experience of direct action building a compost pile as one part of the church’s efforts to “go green.”

composter-3-bin-2The first step was to make use of the Wednesday night Community Supper (open to the community) near Earth Day (2015) where attendees learned of a new plan — to use the materials and left overs of the evening supper for composting as a celebration of Earth Day. The compost materials from that night would be brought to a local farm used to educate school students. Children from the “Treble Choir” sang at an Evensong before this dinner calling for donations which they determined would go to help an environmental concern about elephants in Africa. Attendees wondered why Supper was using paper plates. Learning that the dishwasher was out of commission, a volunteer from the parish stepped forward to fix it so that dishes could be used (less trash), thus more “green.” It was a great start.

composter-finished composter-finished-2Over the next several months there was planning among the parties of interest considering the many ways that ongoing composting could work at St. Martins and how to put it into action. A machinist from the community volunteered to design and build a compost container  made up of 3 bins. That is, composting materials are collected, then turned every 3 months – bin 1-1st collection; bin 2 first turnover; bin 3 second turnover; next 3 months take compost from bin 3 and make use in gardens and all that grows around your area.

compost-heap-blessingIn October at the equinox, the first bin was initiated. A celebration, playfully called The Blessing of the Heap,  took place. It included the Treble Choir, special prayers, and incense and holy water. This celebration was videotaped and can be viewed here. The initiation of these compost bins on church grounds began to have an effect on other aspects of the church’s everyday life. For example, the church staff collected their lunch scraps the valuable coffee grounds, and the sextant, who was initially skeptical, contributed grass cuttings and leaves providing critical nitrogen sources. 

People had to learn the practicalities of maintaining the “heap” which meant learning what was in and what was out.  The Wednesday night community supper attendees had to learn how to scrape their plates – that is, left over veggies yes, left over chicken no. There was greater interest in the community suppers where initially there were more women involved in “cooking for the community,” now there were some men stepping up after experiencing the larger mission of these community events. 

In March, there was the next turning, and then this past summer (2016)  the first batch of fully matured compost materials went into the rector’s corn and pumpkin garden outside the rectory. Some found their way to the street trees planted the previous Spring as part of Earth Day Fortnight 2016 celebrations. The practical implications of this one decision to have a compost heap has generated creative spiritual and broad educational experiences concerning “going green” and the personal responsibility we can do to take care of our Earth.

Postscript – Fall of 2016 – As happens in churches, time has passed, the leader who provided the spark that began the composting program has moved, but the heap remains. Composting is still a part of the staff’s every day life. Composting still happens at Supper. New leadership will hopefully emerge to keep the composting fire going and vibrant while they also move on to considering solar panels, weatherizing the church, etc. 

Part 1: Intro to the wonders of composting and the Decomposition Hymn (found at 1:45)

Blessing of the Heap by the Rev. Jarrett Kerbel, using texts from the Book of Common Prayer

Fast for the Climate

Members of PA IPL will join Fast for the Climate December 1, while international climate talks are going on in Paris, and on the first of each month following.  We’re joining national and international organizations, religious and secular.   Register at the link  to be counted, making your fast an act of corporate solidarity, as well as individual spiritual discipline.  Use the “Fasters” link to see some of the leaders who will be fasting with you.

This fast is not bound by specific rules: you may choose how you will fast.   You may choose a food fast, or make yours a carbon fast, giving up a particular use of fossil fuels that day —car, hot water, or stove, for example.   If you are not normally a vegan, eating vegan on the first of each month is both in the spirit of the fast, and good practice for moving toward a lower-carbon diet.   Go to the Fast for the Climate page for more about fasting — food fasting and alternative fasting.

Share your experiences with us via email, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter (PAIPL_US) all with the hashtag: #fastfortheclimate.

Quotes from fasters: 

“It’s a rich personal experience, it gives a sense of revival, and cleansing, and joyfulness.”

“To bring climate change under control we need to exercise self-control, we need to act together, fasting enhances our focus and determination.”

“I feel physically in solidarity with people who are affected by climate change when I fast, it gives us a glimpse of the reality for millions, a feeling of connection and urgency.”

Planning meeting: stopping the dirty energy hub

photo credit: Rev. Jesse Brown ImagesByJesseBrown

photo credit: Rev. Jesse Brown ImagesByJesseBrown

RESCHEULED from 1/24 (weather)
New place and time below.
The coalition that demonstrated outside of the Energy Hub Investors conference (including Philly PA IPL — see Rabbi Malkah Binah Kline  to the left and Rabbi Mordechai Liebling below, and catch glimpses of others you know by linking through to other photos.) at Drexel University on December 5 invites people from that demonstration and interested others to an open strategy session to develop a campaign for a cleaner, greener energy future for Philadelphia.  Planning participants will work out sub-campaigns and next steps.

The recent oil train derailment has underlined the urgency of this work.

Interfaith Service and a Call to Action on Dr. King’s 86th birthday

Our friends at Interfaith Moral Action on Climate  have held public events calling for climate justice on Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday (the actual one, not the federal holiday).  This year, that date coincides with a 3-day party retreat for Republican Senators and Representatives from Washington.  That retreat is at Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA.

A Call to Action on Dr. King’s 86th Birthday
“We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today.
We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.
In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.
This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”

—Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Interfaith Moral Action on Climate leaders plan to hold a public interfaith service outside of the Hershey Lodge, followed by a spiritual procession around the building. We will call upon those inside to remember what day it is, the day of Dr. King’s birth, and to reflect upon what they must do with their Congressional power if, like him, they are to be about justice, love and concern for “the least of these.”

2015 will be a year of unprecedented opportunity, with international climate talks set to conclude with an agreement in Paris in December.  The United States must lead the international community in dealing with the climate catastrophe we have done so much to create, and Congressional support for responsible climate policies here at home is an important part of that needed action.

We will invite retreat participants to join with us and the many millions of Americans who want to make a fast, fair transition from the profligate combustion of the 19th and 20th centuries, toward energy conservation, efficiency and renewable energy from the sun, wind and water.

In Pennsylvania fracking is a particular concern as massive methane leakage is intensifying our climate impacts here.  Fracking of PA shale stresses communities, endangers our drinking water and the air and land of those living near fracking wells, pipelines or compressor stations, and fracking of North Dakota “Bakken” shale produces the particularly caustic oil that is traveling in unsafe rail cars the length of the state.

Faced with the dangers posed by continued reliance on fossil fuels, our climate justice movement will continue to grow, with or without Republican Congressional support for, as Dr. King said, “we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

This party retreat is an ideal time to remind Republicans that they can be good Republicans and seek decisive, positive action to limit climate change and step boldly toward a clean energy future.  We invite them to stand with Dr. King and millions of morally concerned Americans.

For more information about participating in this action and/or to endorse this Call to Action, please go to http://www.interfaithactiononclimatechange.org, or contact Cindy Harris at  imaclimate@gmail.com

Review PA IPL’s statement on fracking here:

Read more about Dr. King, poverty, and the environment in this piece by Rabbi Daniel Swartz.

UPDATE: Parking, meeting up, and signs & banners

Additional information from IMAC, reposted here: Meet outside the main entrance of Lodge (also Forebay Lounge entrance) – 325 University Drive.   Look for grassy area with gazebo and pond just outside the main entrance.

From University Drive, turn into Lodge entrance on Briarcrest Drive. 

Parking is legal and free where ever you can find a space at the Lodge.  We are told that it may be full (although there were spaces available today).   If the Lodge parking is full, we suggest you drive back on Briarcrest Drive, and cross over University Drive to the other side of Briarcrest.  On the right side of the street, there is a shopping mall with spaces.  You can also drive on Briarcest Drive to Centerview Lane.   Turn right and park on the street, OR turn left and park at Briarcrest Apartments.   Today there were many parking spaces not marked for residents.

All these places are a short walk to the Lodge entrance.

Regarding Signs:   IMAC will be bringing some banners and posters.  If anyone wants to bring a sign, general is better, such as Climate Change is a Moral Issue.   Signs that reference scripture and faith wisdom are also a great idea.

NEW: Invite Senator Toomey and your Congressman.
(Jump down below the directions to learn about the event)
How to send the invitation:

  1. Click to download the attached Word document: INTERFAITH MORAL ACTION ON CLIMATE
  2. Look up your Congressman using the link on the letter.  If he* is a Republican, copy his name in the appropriate blanks on the letter.  (The conference outside which the service will take place is a Republican Party Conference.)
  3. “Sign” the letter by typing your formal name and home address.
  4. Remove all highlighting, and save as a PDF.  Email it to Mr. Toomey’s scheduler, and to your Republican Congressman’s scheduler (Google to find right name) if applicable, using the formula first.last@mail.house.gov.
  5. Set a calendar alert to get yourself to the Hershey Lodge, or pause to pray from your own office at the appointed time.
  6. Shoot us an email to let us know you sent an invitation!

*Pennsylvania’s representation in Washington is now all male, so there is no need for inclusive language, alas.