Return to the home of your soul.

PA IPL’s 2018 Annual Conference was in Pittsburgh, on Saturday, October 27th, across the river from Squirrel Hill.  The terrible news broke just as the first people were arriving.  Most people heard the news at the conference.  We made space for prayers together, and songs and prayers already planned took on different significance.

Filmmaker Kirsi Jansa was there, and captured the audio from the song “Return Again” by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, led by Barb Ballenger, and sung by all present.  She set the audio to scenes from the following hours and days.  Despite what the screen below says, the video link will work well, it just will take you to Kirsi’s vimeo page.

Return Again from Kirsi Jansa on Vimeo.
Return again, return again
Return to the home of your soul
Return to who you are
Return to what you are
Return to where you are
Born and reborn again.

The song followed a shared litany that had the repeated line “We have forgotten who we are.”

Comments by the president of the national IPL network, the Rev. Susan Hendershot, and some further reflection about connections can be found on our Facebook page, where you are welcome to join in the conversation.

Bike 2018: Blessing of the Philly Riders

The Philadelphia-originating riders were blessed with this travelers’ prayer, and sent of with the blast of a shofar!

Tefilat Hadereh/Traveler’s Prayer

May it be your will, Sheltering One, our God, God of our ancestors,
that you lead us on the road in peace,
and protect our footsteps,
and enable us to reach our destination,
alive and well, happy and safe.
Protect us from all harm and mishap on the road,
and grant us favor, kindness, and compassion,
in your own eyes and the eyes of all who may behold us.
May you hear our voice of prayer.

A prayer for the journey
We could say it every day
When we first leave the soft warmth of our beds
And don’t know for sure if we’ll return at night
When we get in the trains, planes and automobiles
And put our lives in the hands of many strangers.
Or when we leave our homes for a day, a week, a month or more –
Will return to a peaceful home? Untouched by fire, flood or crime?
How will our travels change us?
What gives us the courage to go through that door?

A prayer for the journey.
For the journey we take in this fragile vessel of flesh.
A finite number of years and we will reach
The unknown, where it all began.
Every life, every day, every hour is a journey.
In the travel is the discovery,
the wisdom, the joy.
Every life, every day, every hour is a journey.
In the travel is the reward,
the peace, the blessing.

Matzo Meditation — a liturgical interfaith seder at Earth Hour

This post was originally published here.  Reposted with permission
Marisa Guerin, PhD.

Original event/calendar post.  The downloadable MLK + 50 Freedom Seder created by the Shalom Center, which was a great resource in creating the Earth Hour seder.

Photos from the Seder were taken in low-light.  We are grateful to have them!  Thanks to Neysa Nevins for the visuals.

This reflection is inspired by the beautiful interfaith Seder that I participated in recently, jointly prepared and led by two women religious leaders, a rabbi and a minister (and that in itself was a gracious experience for this Catholic woman). The evening ceremony was focused on the theme of climate justice, and it was scheduled to coincide with “Earth Hour”, when electric lights around the world are turned off for one hour to shine a light on the need for climate action. The Seder was sponsored by Pennsylvania Interfaith Power & Light. In the beauty of candlelight, we commemorated the ancient traditions and living faiths of Judaism and Christianity.

During the service, Rabbi Malkah Binah Klein spoke of the symbolism of the matzo bread on each person’s plate. It is unleavened – that is, not puffed up, but plain, made with few ingredients and quickly-baked. Like our essential selves stripped of ego-puffiness, it is a bread that reminds us of what is basic and true. It is a bread of poverty, and also the bread that symbolizes freedom. It reminds us that even when what we have is humble and simple, we have enough. I could meditate on this for weeks.

Like matzo, the communion bread Continue reading Matzo Meditation — a liturgical interfaith seder at Earth Hour

Eichah: The urgency of “How?!”

daniel swartz and marjorie bermanco-authored by Rabbis Marjorie Berman and Daniel Swartz

Judaism marks a number of minor fasts, but only two that run from one sunset to the next: Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and Tisha B’Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, which commemorates the destruction of both the first and second Temples in Jerusalem, as well as later catastrophes. [artwork] (Tisha B’Av starts on the sunset of July 31st this year.) Yom Kippur gives individuals the opportunity to reflect on their actions over the past year so that they can do “t’shuvah,” that is, turning to their better selves in the coming year.

Because Tisha B’Av seems on the surface to be centered on mourning ancient losses, many people fail to recognize that it too is about T’shuvah.  But in the case of Tisha B’Av, the turning we need to accomplish is not individual but societal.  The Book of Lamentations, traditionally read on Tisha B’Av, begins with a question, “Eichah?”  How?  “How can it be that she sits alone, the city that was once great with people?” (Lamentations 1:1)  And this question implies others:  How did this come about? In what ways are we responsible?  What can we do differently to prevent such tragedies from recurring?How does the city sit alone? LM_PAFA_Panel_05

According to traditional Jewish understanding, one of the root causes of the destruction of the First Temple was that people turned from worshipping the God of all creation and instead worshipped gold and silver, power and wealth.  By the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, the problem was no longer idolatry but sinat chinam, baseless hatred.

But the early sages do not stop there.  They take the Jewish historical experience of the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem and universalize it in both time and scope.   For them, the holy Temple in Jerusalem also served as a reflection of the broader holiness of the whole earth.  And as for that cry of Eichah, we read in Midrash Bereishit Rabbah 19:9 (a homiletical commentary on the Book of Genesis) that the first Eichah was actually addressed to Adam and Eve, when they violated the Garden of Eden: “You transgressed My commands. I decreed exile and I lamented: ‘Eichah?’ How?” (The sages are using wordplay here – the text in Genesis literally says that God calls out Ayekka – where are you – but the spelling in biblical consonantal Hebrew is identical to Eichah)

The sages of Bereishit Rabbah are using this pun to make a point: the experience of destruction and exile is not just about the Temple in Jerusalem.  It has been with us since the Garden, that is, since the beginning of civilization.  And, just as in the days of the Temple, we too cause destruction through the worship of riches and power and through baseless hatred.

photo credit: Cristobal Hernandez/Reuters
photo credit: Cristobal Hernandez/Reuters

Today, humanity as a whole is violating the Garden that is our beautiful, blessed world.  We are quite literally giving rise to fires of destruction through greed and casual disregard of others.   Through the wasteful and unsustainable burning of fossil fuels, we threaten the very future of civilization and of countless species all across the global Garden.  And if we do not turn away from this behavior, the havoc that climate change will wreak will give rise to howls of Eichah far more desolate than any that have ever been uttered.

But Tisha B’Av teaches us that when we remember and listen to the lessons of history, when we mourn that reality, we can be inspired to change.  The second to last sentence in the Book of Lamentations reads:  “Return us to You, Eternal, and we will turn.  Renew our days as of yore.”  In other words, if we really take in the urgency of “how,” if we truly face up to what we have done, we can change.  We can shape a future with justice for everyone and sustainability for countless generations to come. We can make our world into a new Eden, a sacred Temple once again.

source
source

(Authors’ Note: the ideas of this essay have grown out of more than 20 years of conversation about Tisha B’Av with Rabbi Arthur Waskow.  We are deeply indebted to his teachings.)

Religious Leaders Condemn Trump’s Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement

President Trump’s announcement on June 1, 2017 that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement has inspired a diverse chorus of condemnation from religious leaders and organizations in the U.S. and across the globe. If your tradition or denomination has issued a statement that you don’t see listed below, please let us know. And if your tradition or denomination has not yet released a statement, ask your leaders to do so—and send them this page of religious statements for inspiration!

COP21Religious Statements Condemning U.S. Withdrawal from Paris Agreement

But wait…there’s more! Religious Statements in Support of Paris Agreement and/or Climate 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