Transformative Judaism and our Planetary Crisis
Since human action has endangered the web of life on earth, human action can heal it.
And the religious and spiritual communities of our planet have the wisdoms and the tools to do the healing.
Judaism is especially relevant because, unlike most world religions, we preserve the teachings of an indigenous people in the biblical tradition –- the spiritual wisdom of shepherds and farmers. And yet as a world people, we can now apply the earthiness of our origins to the Whole Earth.
That does not mean simply repeating the ancient practices. For instance, the ancient code of kosher food does not take into account that we now “eat” coal and oil and crucial minerals like lithium. Is there an “eco-kosher” way of eating them, as well as caring for vegetables and fruit and kosher animals in ways traditional kashrut did not? Can we shape our ceremonial ways of celebrating Sukkot and Pesach and Tu B’Shvat and life-cycle ceremonies so that they embody social action to heal our wounded Earth as an aspect of spiritual deepening?
For The Shalom Center (see https://www.theshalomcenter.org ), this transformation in our reality calls for action in four aspects of reality:
1. Spiritually, the creation of new forms of prayer, meditation, and celebration that draw us into fuller awareness of the interweaving of all life: for instance, “pronouncing” and understanding the Sacred God-Name “YHWH” as YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh, the Interbreathing of all life – Ruach Ha'Olam — rather than Lord or King, Melech Ha'Olam.
2. Intellectually, the absorption of ecological science into what we teach and learn as sacred Torah, just as Maimonides absorbed the best science and philosophy of his day into Torah. Ecology takes seriously both each distinctive niche of each life form and the flow that connects them into an ecosystem. It does what Kabbalah yearns toward: reintegrating what seem to be the two Trees of Eden — the Tree of Flowing Life and the Tree of Distinction-making — into One.
3. Relationally, our recognition of the varied ethical, religious, and spiritual life-paths as necessary and valuable unfoldings of the varied “organs” of human civilization and planetary life – as different from each other and as equally necessary to each other as the brain, liver, heart, and lungs in a single body. Just as the bodily organs not only “dialogue” with each other but actually work together, we need to move beyond interfaith dialogue into the pursuit of interrelational work among the different communities.
4. Vigorous action to confront the modern Carbon Pharaohs that are bringing plagues of drought, flood, war, and famine on the Earth and all Humanity – action that might include lobbying, voting, rallies, vigils, nonviolent civil disobedience, organizing counter-institutions like coops, organic farms, etc., and economic action to Move Our Money/Protect Our Planet (MOM/POP) – moving our money from corporate investments and banks that endanger Mother Earth to companies, banks, coops, etc. that protect and heal her.
As we move forward in all these aspects of the world, we create a Judaism that heals and transforms itself in order to heal and transform the world. We learn anew what ancient Torah teaches: – “Sh’sh’sh’shma! Hush’sh’sh’sh and Hear, all you who wrestle with the Ultimate — Hear the still small voice of almost-silent breathing: the Breath of Life is ONE!
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