Tikkun Leil Shavu’ot from the Point of View of the Earth

Tikkun Leil Shavu’ot from the Point of View of the Earth

By Anonymous | 10/13/2009

Developed by Rain Zohav
[Zohav is a rabbinical student in the ALEPH smikha program. This plan for Shavuot was developed for the course in Eco-Judaism taught hy Rabbi Arthur Waskow in 2009.]

Idea: Use the attached document, “Ten Commandments From the Earth” as a starting point for discussing what people can do to protect and defend the environment.

Since it is often easier to add something new than change existing custom, you may find this to be a good option, as many congregation have study sessions on the evening of Shavu’ot. Be sure to check with the appropriate committee well in advance of the date.

Steps to take in preparation:
1. Present the idea at the program committee meeting.
2. Write about the idea in the Spring newsletter of the congregation.
3. Approach folks in the congregation who are known to prioritize concerns about the environment to involve them in the evening.
4. Plan ways to incorporate environmental concerns into all aspects of the evening: use durable plates, cups, etc. for any refreshments, find folks who will commit to using organic or local ingredients in refreshments. Make sure to use recycled paper for the handouts.
5. Consider the possibility of forming an environmental concerns committee in the congregation, either before this event, or use the event as a catalyst for the formation of such a committee.

Program itself:

Depending on number of participants:

Possibly begin with a song: Ma Gadlu Ma’asecha Yah by Shefa Gold is one possibility. You can check out her website just by typing her name into your search engine.

Or: My Rainbow Race

Pete Seeger

[Chorus:] One blue sky above us
One ocean lapping all our shore
One earth so green and round
Who could ask for more
And because I love you
I’ll give it one more try
To show my rainbow race
It’s too soon to die.

Some folks want to be like an ostrich,
Bury their heads in the sand.
Some hope that plastic dreams
Can unclench all those greedy hands.
Some hope to take the easy way:
Poisons, bombs. They think we need ‘em.
Don’t you know you can’t kill all the unbelievers?
There’s no shortcut to freedom.


Go tell, go tell all the little children.
Tell all the mothers and fathers too.
Now’s our last chance to learn to share
What’s been given to me and you.



Hand out the Ten Commandments from the Earth.

The Ten Commandments From the Earth
Dictated to Rain Zohav
(Words in italics are directly from the earth, words in plain text are the “practical rabbinics” of the commandment, dictated by the various elements most affected by this particular commandment)

1. I am the Earth, your home, who contains all the elements necessary for your life. I was here before earthlings arrived.

Think about what we would do differently if we really thought about the earth as part of creation rather than our possession.

2. You Shall Have No Other Earths Beside Me. You are not to worship a false, human identified perfection such as a “perfect” lawn, or a fruit that has not been shared with an insect, for I am an impassioned earth, visiting the sins of the parents upon the children, upon the third and fourth generations, but showing loyalty and abundance to those who love me.

If you do not stop using pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers, in the service of the gods of greed, convenience and comfort, your sins will surely be visited upon the third and fourth generations, manifested by poisoned rivers, clogged bays, and imbalances in the natural order that will eventually lead to crop failure. Right now, the bees that pollinate most of your fruit trees, nut trees and grain crops are threatened. Stop using these products on your lawns and gardens. Work with others to get your businesses, schools, towns and states to stop using these products. Buy organic produce. To find out more about how to get help in working locally go to the website for The Center for Health, Environment and Justice at: http://www.chej.org]

3.Do Not take The Name of the Earth in Vain.

Although some plastics are able to be recycled, using plastics is not ultimately an earth friendly activity. They are all made from non-renewable, petrochemical bases and can never biodegrade. Stop using Styrofoam altogether and work to eliminate its use from your businesses, schools, and synagogues. Ask for paper bags at the grocery store, or better yet, bring your own cotton string bags or canvas bags with you. Buy a few good wooden toys instead of the endless plastic you are used to. Don’t call yourself an environmentalist unless you are taking steps to protect the earth for future generations.

4.Remember the Sabbath day of your car. Six days may you drive, but on the seventh you shall walk, bike or take public transportation. In fact, do not do anything on the Shabbat day that changes earth. I, the earth need a rest from your ceaseless activity. It took eons for me to evolve, but you can destroy so much in one generation. By not driving you can help preserve me.

If you find that there is no grocery, cleaners, barber shop, pizza place, bank, video rental store, day care, bank , etc. in walking distance to your house, you may need to work with others to change the zoning laws in your neighborhood to allow such businesses to exist. Cars are the single most destructive consumer product that you use, being a huge factor in sudden, unpredictable global climate change. Check out the website:http://Walkscore.com to see how your location compares to others as a good walkable location, or to investigate where you might want to move to.

5. Honor Your Mother Earth and Your Father Sky, that You May Long Endure on the Land which the Universe is Giving You.

One way to honor the earth is to plant trees. During its lifetime, the average tree absorbs enough CO2 to offset the amount produced by driving a car 26,000 miles. (However, if we do not drastically reduce our output ofCO2, Americans would have to plant 4,500 trees per person to absorb all of the CO2 we put into the atmosphere). Another way to honor the earth is to plant a variety of flowers, herbs and trees that are native to the area where you live.

If you would like to begin to see what kind of “carbon footprint” you are leaving on the earth, go to:http://www.fightglobalwarming.com/carboncalculator.cfm or go to American Forest :www.americanforests.org plant some trees and compare a different carbon calculator.

6.You Shall Not Murder Other Species.

Rain forest destruction is the biggest destroyer of species happening at the moment. Don’t buy products made from tropical hardwoods such as teak and mahogany. Don’t eat beef grown on former rain forests. It is possible to find out where your food comes from. Switching to a vegetarian diet, or reducing your meat consumption also helps reduce pollution of rivers and bays, thus saving marine species, helps conserve water and contributes to a larger grain supply to help feed the world’s hungry people. Yes, grain surpluses do occasionally reach the Third World. Check out www.Hazon.org to see if there is a local, Jewish Community Supported Agriculture
( CSA) project near you

7.You Shall Not Be Unfaithful in Your Marriage to the Earth.

What really would this look like? All of the above and all of the below and anything else you can think of to love, cherish and protect the earth. What are you already doing and what is one more thing you can commit to doing for the earth?

8. You Shall Not Steal From the Earth.

When we use up non-renewable resources and when we use up renewable resources at a rate that is faster that can be replaced, we are stealing from the earth. About 25% of the earth’s mineral resources and nonrenewable energy is used by the United States, which only comprises 4.6% of the world’s population. One proposed solution to this trend is to include the full cost of using these materials in the price. Full cost includes a calculation regarding limited supply and environmental destruction. Conservation methods are a way of stealing less from the earth. Don’t run the water when you are brushing your teeth. Hang up laundry on sunny days. Use recycled products. Recycle paper, glass, aluminum, plastic. Encourage people at work and at school to recycle. Using renewable energy sources is another option. Investigate using a solar panel for your hot water. Some people have even been able to sell electricity back to the electric company. Find out how to eliminate your junk mail at:

9. You Shall Not Bear False Witness Against the Earth.

In the United States there has been a huge disinformation campaign regarding global warming and other environmental crises. This campaign has been paid for by major polluters and users of nonrenewable resources, or users of renewable resources at unsustainable rates, such as oil companies, mining companies, the timber industry, automobile manufacturers, etc. There actually is no major disagreement about environmental issues in the general world-wide community of scientists. If you see or hear a scientist saying that the threat of global warming has been exaggerated, for example, it would be wise to find out who is paying his grant money. Don’t repeat this misinformation that leads to complacency.

10. You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s Planet. You Shall Not Covet Your Neighbor’s House … or Anything that is Your Neighbor’s”. This includes your neighbor’s sports utility vehicle (a huge gas guzzler), Your neighbor’s three story high vaulted ceiling (another huge energy waster), your neighbor’s power lawn mower, leaf blower, saw, or lush green lawn grown with chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

In the words of Kurt Vonnegut: “Stop thinking your grandchildren will be OK no matter how wasteful or destructive you may be, since they can go to a nice new planet on a spaceship.” To listen to one child on this topic, go to: http://media.causes.com/510213?p_id=33740543 .
Even if each of you only chose one thing to change, together, we could make a difference. For instance, between 1972 and 1992, the estimated percentage of rivers and lakes in the United States that have become fishable and swimmable rose from 36% to 62%, thanks to enactment and enforcement of water pollution laws.

(Much of the environmental material in this document was culled from the textbook, Environmental Science, G. Tyler Miller. Wadsworth Publishing Company, Belmont, California, 1997.
The original inspiration was of course, The Torah, Exodus 20: 1-14.)

If there are 20 or fewer people, read and discuss the Commandments as written. Ask people to share what they already do and at least one thing they would like to add to their practice of caring for the earth.

If there are more people, or if the kahal prefers, break into several groups to discuss a few of the commandments and then come back to share with whole group.

For really large groups, break into groups for each commandment.
Have further handouts on each commandment that addresses local and current issues.

Include action steps to address each issue.

You might want to end with either of the following two songs:
Turning of the World by Ruth Pelham

Let us sing this song for the turning of the world, that we may turn as one.
With every voice, with every song, we will move this world along,
and our lives will feel the echo of our turning.

With every voice, with every song, we will move this world along.
With every voice, with every song, we will move this world along,
and our lives will feel the echo of our turning.
( You can then replace the bolded word with the following words below)

healing, loving, dreaming, saving, curing…

Mother Earth by Tracy Friend
Mother Earth, Mother Earth,
You’re the one who gave birth
to the trees and the grass and the air.
To us you have given the world that we live in,
The only world we’ll ever get so let’s take care. (repeat)
(Repeat last line to end song.)

Do we really have a choice when we hear a child’s voice?
Dirty hands and dirty feet, hasn’t had enough to eat.
See the pain that’s in their eyes? Hear the little baby’s cries.
Reaching out and reaching in. Where do I begin? (chorus)

It’s up to us to change the world one person at a time.
It’s up to us to keep the oceans blue.
The only ones who can make a difference
are me and you and you and you. (chorus)

Do we really have a choice when we hear a child’s voice?
Asking for a helping hand, time for us to take a stand.
Wipe away a child’s tear, time to take some action here.
Plant a seed and watch it grow. Now we know. (chorus)

Share some first fruits, local and organic if possible and some local, organic dairy and dairy substitute refreshments.

Songs of the Earth, Music of the World by Anna Kealoha
Songs for Earthlings: A Green Spirituality Songbook by Julie Forest Middleton
Earth and Spirit Songbook: An Anthology of Songs Celebrating Earth and Peace by Jim Scott
The Consumers Guide to Effective Environmental Choices by Michael Brower and Warren Leon (Union of Concerned Scientists)

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