Tisha B’Av Resources: Lament & Hope for our Holy Temple, Earth

Tisha B'Av Resources: Lamenting for our Holy Temple — Earth;
And Glimpsing the Rebirth of Active Hope

Several people have asked me about liturgies for Tisha B’Av (this year, Aug 4-5, just before Hiroshima Day) that focus on dangers to the Earth as the Holy Temple of all cultures and all species, in our generation deeply wounded.

And not only on danger, but — like Eicha itself — ending with "Chadesh yamenu k'kedem, Make our days new as they were long ago!" and a commitment to tshuvah.

There are a dozen essays on Tisha B'Av, including a full liturgy for an Earth-oriented observance with an Eicha for the Earth written by Rabbi Tamara Cohen, plus passages of hope renewed and covenant recommitted, on our website at https://theshalomcenter.org/treasury/116 .

The notion of thinking about Tisha B’Av in this way as a universal, not only a Jewish, teaching, was set forth not only in our generation but in ancient rabbinic midrash. One Rabbi asked, “When was the first Eicha?" and answered: Ayyekka!" — the ‘Where are you?’ that God speaks to Adam & Chava in Gan Eden.

The first exile is universal, primal — and it emerges from what can be seen as a story of eco-destruction. In that story, YHWH – speaking on behalf of all life, all reality – says: “There is wonderful abundance. Eat of it in joy! But show just a little self-restraint: From just one tree, don’t eat!” But they do not restrain themselves, and as a consequence the abundance vanishes.

It is a story of human transgression against the Earth — adam betraying adamah. And the result – disaster. We are living through many such transgressions, now turned global.

One is the story of the oil blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico. (The photo just below is like a graphic chapter in the Eicha of that traumatic tragedy, just as the emblem just above is a graphic version of "Hashivenu — "You Who are the Breath of Life, turn us toward You — and we shall return.")

For video of an observance of Tisha B'Av as a protest on Capitol Hill after the oil blow-out in the Gulf, click to


In addition, especially relevant this year in this dreadful time of war, is a hopeful, joyful midrashic tale by Rabbi Phyllis Berman & me, “The Last Tisha B’Av,” on how Mashiach builds the Third Temple — in a messianic mode, as might be expected. Or at least hoped.

That story could be read at the unique Mincha on Tisha B’Av afternoon when tradtionally we put on t’fillin, or if that is not a likely part of your communal davvening, as an up-beat finale during the evening service. (Or even on your own, to lift your spirits.)

It is in the same collection of essays on Tisha B’Av at


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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