Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Water Is Life

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Today, the Water Protectors left Standing Rock. 


Water is sacred. 
Water is life.

Water for drinking


Before we drink, we say:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיֶה בִּדְבָרוֹ.
Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro.
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Mystery of the Universe, 
by Whose word, all things came to be.

Water for washing



Water as snow



Water tumbling


Let us say:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיֶה בִּדְבָרוֹ.
Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro.
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Mystery of the Universe, 
by Whose word, all things came to be.

Water crashing


Water flowing


Water reflecting


Let us say:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיֶה בִּדְבָרוֹ.
Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro.
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Mystery of the Universe, 
by Whose word, all things came to be.

Water muddy



Water growing


Water placid


Let us say:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיֶה בִּדְבָרוֹ.
Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam shehakol nihiyeh bid'aro.
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Mystery of the Universe, 

by Whose word, all things came to be.


Today the Water Protectors left Standing Rock.


Water is life.
Water is sacred.

Let us say:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ, אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ מֶֽלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, שֶׁהַכֹּל נִהְיֶה בִּדְבָרוֹ.
Baruch atah Adonai, eloheinu melech ha'olam shehakol nihiyeh bidvaro.
Blessed are You, Eternal our God, Mystery of the Universe, 
by Whose word, all things came to be.


Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-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, the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network, and a former hospital and hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY in 2005 and lives in Wayland, MA.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Tracks in the snow


A meditation on tracks in the snow, and on similarities and differences. 

(Click here if it doesn't open in your email.)

The footprint of an animal is unique to its species and also to the individual, both for animals and for humans. What is your spiritual footprint? To what extent do you walk in G!d's ways? What is your carbon and other environmental footprint? To what extent do you live sustainably on this sacred planet Earth?


Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-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, the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network, and a former hospital and hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY in 2005. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Water Is Life

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

In this week's Torah portion, Beshalach, the sea parts to let the Israelites pass through to the other side. The deep, impassable sea, one more in a series of seemingly impossible obstacles to freedom, suddenly opens to allow for passage out of bondage and into freedom. 

In honor of hope of seas parting and of the Water Protectors, who are working so hard and being so terribly treated, I offer this meditation on water to help you find strength as you go through your days.




Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-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, the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network, and a former hospital and hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY in 2005. 

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Our Spiritual Task

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Soon after the election last November, my friend Rabbi Shoshana Friedman wrote about how being a climate activist accidentally helped prepare her for the election. I have been on a slower journey to a similar understanding.

I've been involved with climate action for quite a few years now. I've heard scientists say we have a window of a couple of years (this number of years having by now gone by); I've read articles and books related to impending chaos and destruction of the planet and possible extinction of the human species as a result of climate change; I've watched the parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere rise way about the 350 limit from which 350.org took its name; and, in recent years I've begun to realize that climate-change-caused chaos is already happening, most notably the climate change roots of the Syrian refugee crisis. And again and again, I've felt pain and grief for this planet, often triggered by incidents close to home that are, relatively speaking benign, such as the leveling of trees or whole lots near where I live, or even just discussing buying something new.

Every time I've experienced a bout of fear and grief, I've eventually returned to the same place emotionally and intellectually. Which is: I don't know what the future brings. I cannot possibly know. But I do know, and I know this deep in my heart, that whatever our future holds for us, it really matters HOW we go through our days. It matters that we are doing something to try to combat climate change. It matters that we speak out and that we act. It matters that we work to reconcile our personal lives with our values for a future sustainable planet. It matters that we build community and connections to other people. It matters how we behave.

The same applies to the new reality of our nation.

I do not know if we are headed toward dictatorship and the breakdown of the post-World War II world order. I do not know if we are headed for massive loss of rights and widespread violence. I do not know if we are headed toward the end of our democracy. I do not know if we are headed for climate disaster. I do not know.

But I do know that it matters how we go forward. I do know that digging deeper to try to go beyond our fear is important. I do know that we need to be able to speak to our family members and our neighbors. I do know that we need to work as hard as we can to help our democracy survive. I do know that we need to speak up for those more vulnerable than ourselves. I do know that it is important to keep our hearts loving and compassionate, even when we speak hard truths.

What does it take for us to maintain loving kindness?

What does it take for us to be courageous in our actions rather than to respond from a place of fear?

What does it take for us to maintain compassion for those who are different from us?

What does it take for us to hold onto faith?

For each of us, the journey is different, but one thing is true for most (if not all) of us: we must take care of ourselves. In the midst of becoming more active and advocating more frequently, we sometimes need to stop and close our eyes and breathe. Perhaps we need to take time for prayer or meditation or silent reflection. We may need to get outdoors to absorb the healing power of the natural world. We may need to gather in community for song and reflection. We may need to go to bed on time. We may need to run ten miles or climb the nearest mountain. Whatever our most basic physical and spiritual needs are, we must meet them. We must take care of ourselves, because if we don't, we will burn out, and we cannot afford to let that happen. We must be able to remain vigilant and active and aware for a very long time.

It is possible that no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we protest and how many letters and phone calls we make, no matter how much money we donate, that our nation will fall apart. But we do not know, and so we must do this work. And we must keep on doing it.

And no matter what happens, if our hearts and our spirits remain strong, if our faith and courage run deep, if our personal connections are filled with love and caring, then on some important level, we will be OK. The world will not be OK, but we will know that we have done everything we possibly could, and that is so very important.

And so, we must take care of ourselves, even when we are not sure how. We must dig deeper, we must learn more about how to navigate through life, we must grow as human beings. That is the spiritual task before us.

And so, at those moments when you do not know how you can keep going, may you find the strength, the courage, the determination, and the love and compassion that you need. May you be blessed on your journey.

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-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, the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network, and a former hospital and hospice chaplain. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY in 2005. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Environmental Leadership Training Blessing

by Judith Felsen, Ph.D.

To you who yearn to be a voice for our Earth,
be it a  whisper shared locally
or a call heard globally,
may you speak for that which cannot share itself
and protect that which cannot defend itself.

To you who are called to be our planet’s leaders
may you serve as connector of peoples and plants
and keep the heart of the earth and soul of nature
close and present in your mind.

To you who are guardians of gaia
and caregivers for all that seek to thrive in our world
may you join with beings in nature to share concerns
so that all will know earth’s truths
as felt in the heart
and sensed in the mind as one.

To you who have accepted the task of stewardship
may you feel empowered by the strength of the wind,
blessed by the waters of dew, snow and rain,
comforted by the warmth of sunlight and  gentleness of moonbeams,
and may you be guided by all that has been given you within and without
to keep your direction clear, your courage strong and your heart open.

Thank you to all of you.
Let the joining and work begin!

© Judith Felsen, Ph.D.

Judith Felsen holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology, certificates in hypnotherapy, NLP, Eriksonian Hypnosis, and Sacred Plant Medicine. She is a dancer of sacred circle dance, an AMC kitchen crew, trail information volunteer, trail adopter, and daily student of Torah and Judaism. She is enrolled in Rabbinical Seminary International. She has studied Buddhism, A Course in Miracles, and other mystical traditions. She is a hiker, walker, runner, and lives in the White Mountains with her husband and two large dogs. Her life centers around her Jewish studies and daily application.





Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Difficult Path

from "The Dream and Its Resolution"
by A. D. Gordon
transl. by Katy Z. Allen

Gordon's words are pertinent across time and space.

Strange is the matter in which I am engaged, 
and deep and exceedingly wondrous. 
Difficult is the path I have chosen,
and remote 
and receding from the seer’s eye.
Those who walk the path of that life 
which my people walked, 
from a distance, stood opposite me, 
and no man with me, 
and many whisper to one another about me, 
and many flutter about me 
and have pity upon me, 
and many call to me from a distance: 
“Please, come, Wretched One! 
Is not your way a way of darkness, 
void and without order, 
Is not your direction backward and not forward! 
Or would you speak of changing the way of the world, 
to breach the natural laws, 
which cannot be broken?
Would you say to a person: 
A god you are, not a person, not formed from clay? 
Is not your labor in vain, 
for with vanity and emptiness you will end your power, 
see, after all, you are alone, 
and alone you will fall, 
despoiled in the bonds of your imagingings 
and your dreams."

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Eight Kinds of Light

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
(This post first appeared in Shalom Magazine.)

Each night for eight nights one more light is kindled, at the darkest time of the year, until nine candles burn brightly in our windows or on our tables. Candlelight is the heart of Hanukkah.

What do the eight lights over the eight days mean? What do they represent? What might be the meaning of the increasing light throughout the holiday?

The potential answers are myriad. One way to answer the question is to consider each candle as representing a different source of external light in partnership with a different aspect of inner light, creating eight pairs of physical/spiritual light to consider during Hanukkah.

Here’s one such set to consider:

First Lights: Sunlight and Gratitude (Hodayah)
The light of the Sun provides all the energy needed to fuel life on Earth. The light and heat of the Sun make it possible for all kinds of life—algae, grass, elephants, maple trees, humans, and everything in between—to exist and to thrive. That’s a lot to be grateful for!

Second Lights: Starlight and Faith (Emunah)
The Universe contains roughly a billion trillion stars (1 with 21 zeros after it!) that burn as fiercely as our Sun, or more so. The stars’ apparent tininess is a result of their distance from us, for many are far larger than our Sun. Stars are a reminder of the enormity of the Universe through both space and time. The candle burning in our window is but a blip on the screen of billions of years and trillions of miles. We are miniscule in comparison to the vastness of time, space, and substance that is beyond human comprehension. In this context, stargazing can bring forth a sense of deep faith.

Third Lights: Moonlight and Humility (Anavah)
Despite shining brightly in the nighttime sky, the Moon does not give off any light of its own. The moonlight perceived here on Earth is primarily light from the Sun that is reflected off the Moon’s surface, with a little bit of reflected starlight added in. We can learn from the Moon about moving away from the brightest spots in order to reflect light from others, fostering humility.

Fourth Lights: Firelight and Wisdom (Chochmah)
Fires can be lit intentionally or accidentally or can result from lightning strikes or lava flows. Fires burn hot and can be dangerous and destructive, but fire also provides needed warmth, as well as heat for cooking. Knowledge, experience and thoughtfulness wrapped up into wisdom can help keep the fires in our lives, both literal and figurative, within meaningful and safe parameters. 

Fifth Lights: Lightning Light and Strength (Koach)
Lightning is an electrostatic discharge that leaps from cloud to cloud or from a cloud to the ground, causing the familiar flash of bright light and deep rumbling sounds. Lightning is potent; it can split a tree or start a fire, and a single bolt contains enough energy to power about 50 houses for a day. Personal strength can come from many sources, some slow-moving and some sudden and powerful, like a lightning blot, and can provide the wherewithal to keep going through the myriad challenges of life.

Sixth Lights: Candlelight and Compassion (Rachamim)
A candle gives off very little light, but is usually kindled with intentionality and a search for meaning, comfort, connection, or inspiration. Even the light of one small candle dissipates the darkness. So, too, the compassion of our hearts can light up the dark days of those around us, transforming their experience and awakening them to previously hidden blessings.

Seventh Lights: Lamplight and Integrity (Osher)
Most lamps are fueled by electricity, and most electricity is formed through the burning of fossil fuels, extracted from beneath the surface of the Earth and then sending carbon into the atmosphere when burned. Awareness of the source of the energy for our lamplight can foster a sense of integrity as we become more thoughtful about the amount of light allowed to be given forth in our homes, cars, and businesses.

Eighth Lights: Firefly Light and Love (Ahavah)
Fireflies contain a compound in their abdomens that reacts with incoming air to create the memorable glow of a firefly. By regulating the airflow, these nighttime insects create a pulsating pattern. One function of the light is to signal a firefly’s search for a mate – a light-filled insect love message. We, too, can spread love when we allow ourselves to light up from within.

This is just one example of finding meaning in the Hankkah candles beyond what is readily perceived. What other external/internal or physical/spiritual light pairs are meaningful to you this Hanukkah?

Rabbi Katy Allen is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-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 the co-founder and President pro-tem of the Boston-based Jewish Climate Action Network, and a hospice chaplain at CareGroup Parmenter Hospice. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in Yonkers, NY.