Sunday, April 26, 2015

Love, Grief, Silence, and Revelation - Omer Day 23

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

I am praying in the woods...

Ahavah rabbah....With abundant love you have loved us, Adonai, our G!d..

As I say these words, I look up and see a fallen tree held up in the crotch of a branch of another tree, and I see a hug, I see love.

And then I notice another hug in the woods...
and another.

I come home and find Orion magazine in my mail box and am drawn immediately to an article entitled "Big Love: The Emotional Life of Elephants" by Carl Safina, who says:
When someone says you can't attribute human emotions to animals, they forget the key leveling detail: humans are animals. 
Safina later quotes Joyce Poole, from her book Coming of Age with Elephants, who writes about elephants' response to death:
"It is their silence that is most unsettling. The only sound is the slow blowing of air out of their trunks as they investigate their dead companion. It's as if even the birds have stopped singing." [Scientist] Vicki [Fishlock] has seen it herself; she says it is "heartstoppingly sad." 
It takes love to grieve.

A midrash teaches that when G!d gave the Torah, the birds stopped singing, the sea did not roar, and no creature spoke. The entire world was silent.

The silence of grief.

Grief requires love.

Revelation happens in silence.

In today's world, and the state of today's planet, where are we on the journey of grief? Can we be silent enough to experience revelation?

We are on the journey from bondage to revelation. We are not yet silent.

Today is Day 23, which is three weeks and two days of the Omer.
Today is Day 23, which is three weeks and two days of the journey from bondage to revelation.

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as a Nature Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit. She is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long. She is a co-convener and coordinator of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network.



Saturday, April 25, 2015

Reality and Trust - Omer Day 22

Words by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
Photo by Lisa B. Kaye

What is reality?

Can we trust our eyes?
Can we trust our minds?
Can we trust our hearts?




Reality takes many forms.

What does it mean to trust?
What does it mean not to trust?

Bondage includes a lack of trust in our vision, our minds, and our hearts.
Finding trust is part of finding freedom.

Experiencing revelation requires trust. 
And faith.

Where are we on our journey toward trust?

Today is Day 22, which is three weeks and one day of the Omer.
Today is Day 22, which is three weeks and one day of the journey from bondage to revelation.

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as a Nature Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit. She is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long. She is a co-convener and coordinator of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network.


Lisa Baye Kaye is an amateur cell phone photographer and poet by passion and a healthcare and educational consultant by trade. She has lived all over the USA and currently resides in MetrowestMA. In her words, “I believe that nature is a great healer and we must protect this sacred Earth that invites us to be part of its system.”

Friday, April 24, 2015

Planting the Seeds - Omer Day 21


by Emily Jaeger

Rosh Hashanah 2011 and I’m on a plane to Paraguay with 35 other new Peace Corps volunteers. As we nose down for the landing, all you can see are endless green fields separated by thin strips of red road. It seems like an Eden—our trainers tell us that most plants you just need to put a twig in the ground and it will sprout roots.

Everything can grow here and nothing can grow here. Local farmers have abandoned animal traction and hoeing for tractors and field burning. As PC volunteers, we both ask the big questions: how do we help reverse erosion and teach subsistence farmers to farm sustainability, while ignoring the big, “too political” problems: that Monsanto and foreign soy farmers are pushing out small farmers by any means necessary, polluting water sources and poisoning bees with spray-on pesticides.
 
In the same day, I pass a large field by the entrance to the community: newly burnt, the 100 year old mango tree in twisted pieces on the ground, cut for parts. Then I go to the church, a small yellow room in the village center. Meet with ten farmers: corn/bean/yucca growers, keepers of bees hidden in backyard forests. We talk about cover crops for five weeks. Map out field rotations and learn basic soil nutrients with a variety pack of cookies. At the end of five weeks, farmers get enough seeds to plant a seed plot. The first harvest will produce enough cover-crop seeds to plant in the field the next year.

How do you measure success? During the two years that I served in Paraguay, I saw tent villages on the streets of major Paraguayan cities, the new homes of those kicked off their land by Monsanto lawsuits. Walked by neighbors burning the earth for the next cash crop that would inevitably fail from drought or never bring in the promised high-returns. Ten farmers took the seeds from my course and only two planted them the first year. I moved onto gardening projects with women’s groups. A month before I left Paraguay, the Benitez family called me over to visit. The plants are coming up! The seeds earned eighteen months earlier, planted for seed, and harvested, were now sprouting in between rows of corn. Planted perfectly, ready to trap in moisture and shelter the soil from harsh weather. Ready to replenish the soil with the nitrogen beads in their roots and compost from their leaves. 

Today is Day 21, which is three weeks of the Omer.
Today is Day 21, which is three weeks of the journey from bondage to redemption.

Emily Jaeger is a returned Peace Corps volunteer and backyard organic farmer who dreams in four languages. Currently studying in the MFA program at UMASS Boston, she is co-editor and co-founder of the Window Cat Press, a zine for young, emerging artists. A Lambda Literary fellow, her poem "Mercenary" was nominated for the Pushcart Award and her work has been published Arc, Broad!, Broadsided, Cecile's Writers, The Jewish Journal, and Zeek. For more info, please visit her website


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Learning from the Maya - Can We? Omer Day 20

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
 
There is currently a wonderful exhibit at the Museum of Science in Boston: Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed.
 
There is much we could learn from the Maya.

We could learn to feed ourselves through locally grown food.
 
 
We could learn that out of suffering and shadows can come rebirth and renewal.



We could learn that all that is beyond our comprehension can bring us life-giving rain in due time, but also superstorms that bring devastation and disaster in their wake.



We could learn that if we want too much, if we insist on building too many "glorious buildings," we can, in the process, bring about our own demise.




The Maya built huge cities and had a vibrant civilization. Their cities and the civilization are in ruins.

Photo from www.mexconnect.com


There is much we could learn from the Maya.

Today is Day 20, which is two weeks and six days of the Omer.
Today is Day 21, which is two weeks and six days of the journey from bondage to revelation.

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as a Nature Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit. She is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long. She is a co-convener and coordinator of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Through Affliction to a More Sustainable Life - Omer Day 19

by Andy Oram


Weighed nearly to the ground by bricks, grasping for wisps of straw that were stranded by other desperate slaves, frenzied by rumors that another killing of babies will be ordered--that is one form of oppression.  We can well identify with it today as real wages fall, social supports that used to fill the gap get undercut, and chances to climb out of the pit vanish.

But simultaneous with the oppression of blows and poverty, I must struggle with the oppression of finery. I remember the fine melons, the leeks, the onions. I nearly taste the succulent meat on my tongue. But I must learn the austere life, one in harmony with the Supreme Being who provides me with life.

What I do no realize is that my exile is temporary. My people's future takes us to a land laden with luscious grapes. But not until I am stripped of jewels and adornments. I must become plain again.

Like the Israelites among the Egyptians, modern people have to relearn our construction techniques, our wasteful food consumption, and our relationship to Nature. Otherwise, climate change and environmental degradation will continue leading to the bizarre diseases and harmful unbalances among species that we have seen over the past few decades, a modern series of plagues that never lift.

Living now in the unfathomably wealthy middle class suburbs of the United States, provided with all manner of beeping distractions on which I can write this essay and entertain myself in so many ways, I have to put myself in a radically new mental space to spend even seven days thinking of slavery and deprivation, or forty-nine days in contemplation of my good luck. Only by doing so can I receive the revelation of my relationship to the universe.

What sort of affliction will lead me to revelation? The discipline places heavy demands on me. It is hard to switch to a smaller car, to wait in the dark for a bus, to put on an extra sweater in winter and drench my face regularly so I can do without air conditioning in the summer. But Pesach has made me ready for a life in harmony with the world I live in.

Today is Day 19, which is two weeks and five days of the Omer.
Today is Day 19, which is two weeks and five days of the journey from bondage to revelation.

Andy Oram is a writer and editor at O'Reilly Media, a leading media outlet in the computer field. He is also an activist in the Jewish Climate Action Network as well as other progressive political organizations, and a member of Temple Shir Tikvah of Winchester, Mass. Some of his writings can be found at http://praxagora.com/andyo/fiction.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Last Leaves - Omer Day 18

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Autumn...


leaves turning, 
woods aglow with color...

leaves falling,
covering the ground,
branches bare for the winter...


a familiar sight,
a quantity known.

But now, in spring, 
I find leaves,
freshly fallen,
in my yard.


I know their source,
the sapling beeches,
holding their leaves through the winter...


but come spring, 
fall they must,
for only thus can new growth begin.


Today is Day 18, which is two weeks and four days of the Omer.
Today is Day 18, which is two weeks and four days of the journey from bondage to revelation.

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as a Nature Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spirit. She is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long. She is a co-convener and coordinator of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What Does Freedom Mean to You? Omer Day 17

The following is a Passover project of the North Shore University Hospital Chaplaincy Department, in Manhasset, New York. It was coordinated by Rabbi Daniel Coleman. A larger format version of it can be found here.

 
Today is the seventeenth day, which is two weeks and three days of the Omer.
Today is the seventeenth day, which is two weeks and three days of the journey from bondage to redemption.

Rabbi Daniel Coleman serves as chaplain at North Shore University Hospital and is on the board of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains.Rabbi Daniel Coleman was awarded “Chaplain of the Year” by North Shore hospital - flagship of the nation's second largest secular health system - recognizing him for bringing comfort to thousands of patients and their families and helping them harness Judaism’s healing tradition and wisdom.