Sustainable Sukkot: Harvest Wind & Sun, Not Carbon

Traditionally the first action Jews would take after breaking the fast of Yom Kippur was to act for change – to hammer the first nail toward building a sukkah, the fragile hut with a leafy, leaky roof that is the central symbol of Sukkot, the harvest festival.

That fragile hut is a calling to live lightly on the Earth, so beginning to build it is a commitment to compassion for all life-forms as well as for all human beings.

So in this letter I want to share a possible “template” about Sukkot. I am hoping we can at this point reach out to congregations and leaders to encourage this to happen this coming Sunday. Please feel free to forward this note, to help spark such actions.

In Philadelphia, on the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 22, The Shalom Center and one of our vibrant and creative congregations — Mishkan Shalom — will co-sponsor a celebration of the Earth and a call for more vigorous action toward achieving and protecting a sustainable climate, in a celebration at Mishkan Shalom’s sukkah. Members of all faith traditions and all who are committed to healing our planet will be welcome.

That day comes during the Sukkot festival. Traditionally, Jews during that festival celebrated and prayed on behalf of the abundance and prosperity of all the archetypal “70 nations” of the world. So it seems especially appropriate to take action during Sukkot to protect the climate system that indeed serves the prosperity of all peoples and the web of all life-forms on our planet.

This moment in Jewish time also links with an action urged by the world-wide climate-healing organization 350.org. 350.org has called for actions on Saturday, Sept 21, aimed at “Drawing the Line” against the Tar Sands Pipeline and for positive action to prevent worsening of global scorching and the climate crisis.

That day is Shabbat, and for many Jewish congregations and groups, action of this kind seems more appropriate and equally possible on the Sunday in the midst of Sukkot.

So I invite you to take this announcement about Philadelphia as also a suggestion to celebrate Sukkot in this way around the nation and the world. If you decide to do this, please let us at The Shalom Center know.

We intend to celebrate with the traditional waving of the lulav and etrog, and also include some action — for example, letter-writing directed to the President and/or other public officials — calling for rejection of the Tar Sands Pipeline.

We will also make the connection with the dangers of fracking and of all other “extreme extractions” of oil, gas, and coal from the Earth. Tar Sands (exploiting the dirtiest , most carbon-intensive oil), Mountain Destruction (for coal) & Fracking (for unnatural gas) are all examples of deeply damaging local communities while also endangering all Earth.

Extreme Extractions Bring On Extreme Weather Events and Extreme Climate Danger.

Here is a template of what we will be doing. You are welcome to draw on it and of course to change it as you like .

Welcomes by congregational rabbi and Shalom Center leader, with comments on Sukkot, the 70 Nations, climate, and bensching lulav.
Bensch lulav , sharing with whoever is there.
Brief talk connecting Extreme Carbon — Tar sands, fracking, mountain destruction, Arctic oil drilling
Letter-writing by those present, to Pres Obama and other officials.
Contemplative visualization on Adam/ Adamah .
Closing song or chant “Ufros alenu”

Meanwhile, we encourage those individuals around the country who are drawn to take part in actions on September 21. Many are listed on the 350.org website.

May the wisdom of Yom Kippur enter deeply within all of us and the actions of Sukkot reach out beyond us, to heal all the life-forms who live upon our planet — kol yoshvei tevel.

Member since 2010
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Ph. D., founded (1983) and directs The Shalom Center https://theshalomcenter.org In 2014 he was honored by T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights with their first Lifetime Achievement Award as a “Human Rights Hero.” In 2015 he was named by The Forward one of the “most inspiring” American rabbis. Beginning in 1969 with writing the original Freedom Seder and continuing with his seminal work as editor of New Menorah magazine and author of Godwrestling (1978) and Seasons of Our Joy (1982), he has been a leader of the movement for Jewish political and spiritual renewal. Waskow pioneered in the development of Eco-Judaism in theology, liturgy, daily practice, and activism -- • through his books Seasons of Our Joy; Godwrestling – Round 2; Down-to-Earth Judaism; Trees, Earth, & Torah: A Tu B’Shvat Anthology; and Torah of the Earth: 4,000 Years of Ecology in Jewish Thought; • as author of a pioneering essay on “Jewish Environmental Ethics: Adam and Adamah,” in Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics and Morality (Elliot N. Dorff and Jonathan K. Crane, eds.; Oxford University Press, 2013); • through the Green Menorah organizing project of The Shalom Center; • through the Interfaith Freedom Seder for the Earth and a number of climate-focused public actions drawing on and transforming traditional liturgies for Tu B’Shvat, Passover/ Palm Sunday, Tisha B’Av, Sukkot, and Hanukkah; • as a candidate for the World Zionist Congress on the Green Zionist Alliance slate; • as a participant and speaker in the World Interfaith Summit on the Climate Crisis called by the Archbishop of Sweden in Uppsala in 2008; • as a founding member (2010-2013) of the stewardship committee of the Green Hevra (a network of Jewish environmental organizations); • as a member of the coordinating committee of Interfaith Moral Action on Climate; • and as a practitioner of nonviolent civil disobedience who has been arrested in climate protests in the US Capitol, at the White House, and has undertaken civil disobedience at Philadelphia conclaves of fracking corporate leaders.
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