Sunday, April 24, 2016

Day 2 of the Omer and Creation

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
And God said: ‘Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.’And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so.And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day. --Gen. 1:6-8
The swallow-tailed kite, a raptor living in the southeastern US, is in decline (See the report in Nature Conservancy). As they work to protect these birds, researchers have discovered that:
...a new peril looms: salinity intrusion linked to climate change. As sea levels rise, ocean tides push the “salt wedge” farther inland. This is the zone where saltwater pushes upstream in a wedge under the freshwater flowing out to sea. 
As we know, excess carbon in the atmosphere is causing the level to rise; the degradation of the "firmament Heaven" is impacting "the waters," which in turn is impacting the kites, along with so many other living things.

So how to protect these birds? Conservationists are hard at work:
“Thousands of acres of protected kite nesting habitat will be the first to transition to brackish marsh,” Whitehead says. “To protect the future of kites, we’re prioritizing permanent protection of freshwater forested wetlands that are upstream of the advancing salt wedge.”
In other words, conservationists have to target and preserve areas the kites need before they actually need them, so that as the sea level rises, there will be protected areas where they can nest.

We may wonder, as the interplay between firmament and waters continues: What about humans?

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 2005. 



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Friday, April 22, 2016

Counting the Omer - Week One

At the end of the seder, we sing a song that is all about counting:

Thirteen how knows 13? 
I know 13, 
Thirteen are the attributes of G!d, Twelve are the Tribes of Israel, Eleven are the stars in Joseph's dream, Ten are the commandments, Nine are the months before birth, Eight are the days to the brit milah, Seven are the days in a week till Shabbat, Six are the orders of the Mishnah, Five are the books of the Torah, Four are our matriarchs, Three are our forefathers, Two are the tablets of the commandments, One is Our G!d who is in the heavens and on earth.

We count up to 13. But on the second night of Passover, we begin counting much higher as we count the 49 days from leaving behind bondage and crossing the Sea of Reeds to receiving the Torah at Sinai. We are counting the 49 days from redemption to revelation, from Passover to Shavuot, from the depths of despair to the heights of joy, from physical enslavement to spiritual freedom, from the barley harvest offering to the wheat harvest offering. We count seven weeks of seven.

These seven sevens are usually counted in relation to seven attributes of G!d. These seven divine s'firot or midot connect as well to the seven days of creation, the seven days of the week, the seven years of the Sabbatical, or sh’mita  year, and other seven.

This year, in counting the Omer, I would like to focus on the seven days of creation.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters. And God said: ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. Gen. 1:1-5

In the tradition of making connections, which is done with the middot, this first night of counting the Omer links Day 1 of Creation to Day 1.

“Let there be light.” Let there be light within light, light in connection to light, light squared, nothing but light. And may we understand that night leads to day and day leads to night and the two are inseparable. May we understand that without light there is no shadow. May we rise out of our darkness and into light as we journey toward freedom. May we trust that the night will end, no matter how dark it is.



With this blast of light and the interconnection between night and day, we begin our journey from Passover to Shavuot, from bondage to revelation.

May your journey be filled with much goodness and strength and may you find others walking beside you.


Here are the details for the blessing and counting for the first night, Saturday night.

Baruch atah Adonai Eloheinu melech ha'olam, asher kid-shanu b'mitzvotav, vitzivanu, al sefirat ha'omer.
Blessed are you Adonai our G!d, ruler of the universe, who sanctifies us with its commandments and commands regarding the counting of the omer.

Or, alternatively,

Brucha at Yah, Eloheinu ruach ha'olam, asher kidshtanu b'mitzvoteha, vitzivatanu al sefirat ha'omer.
Blessed are you Ya our G!d spirit of the universe, who sanctifies us with its mitzvot and commands us regarding the counting of the omer.

HaYom yom echad laomer. 
Today is Day 1 of the Omer.


Chag Sameach – Happy Passover!

Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Prayer for the Earth

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

I offer here a prayer for the Earth, and I invite you to use it in your personal prayer practice or as part of a community to which you belong. 

(When you click on it, it will open and you can see it all. If you would like me to send it to you as a pdf or jpg, email me at rabbi@mayantikvah.org.)





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 2005. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

How Do We See the World?

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen


How do we see the world?

Last night, at the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference, Donald Trump was cheered when he voiced his unwavering support for Israel, despite the fact that Trump's anti-Muslim rhetoric is painfully reminiscent of the fascist anti-Semitic rhetoric of the 1930s. 

Today, dozens of people were killed by multiple terrorist attacks in Belgium. World leaders have responded with a renewed commitment to destroy the terrorist organizations.

This evening, I led a full moon walk at Greenways Conservation Area in Wayland. It was a magical evening -- sunset behind the Sudbury River, moonrise over the trees, beavers swimming in the river, geese flying down the river corridor, and the moon -- the moon, bright and full on a crisp, clear evening.

We live in a frightening world. Listening to the news is enough to give us nightmares -- bombings, killings, climate disruption, racism, hatred, fear.

What is our response? What is our task?

To answer these questions in a fully thoughtful way, we must pause. We must stop. We must breathe, deeply and slowly. We must consider carefully.

It is easy to let the fear seep into our hearts and our bones. It is easy, and natural, to say to each other, "Did you hear...?" "Isn't it awful....?" "Can you believe....?" But by responding in this way, we spread the fear. We magnify our distress. We perpetuate the terror, making it even more real.

We may not all be able to take a full moon walk on a night like tonight. But we all bear the responsibility to find the tools to calm our racing hearts, to learn how to hold the tension and the pain and the fear and not to give a knee-jerk reaction, not to panic. We all have the ability to make the world a safer place, for all our hearts and souls, by saying "NO" to entering into the fray, and by stepping back and remembering that every human being -- every living thing -- is sacred and part of this amazing Creation, this incredible Universe.

So, let us take a deep breath.
Let us open our eyes.
Let us open our hearts.
Let us pray from our hearts.
Let us let the love flow.
Let us stand our ground.
Let us say NO to fear.
Let us say YES to connections and interconnections.
Let us say YES to the web of life.
Let us find new courage.
Let us learn to live,
           and to die,
                      with a full, open, and loving heart.



With gratitude for the blessings in my life.

Rabbi Katy

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 2005. 

Photos by Ellen K.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Baruch Dayan HaEmet - Reflections on the Loss of a Friend and Colleague

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen


Three days ago, my friend and colleague, Rabbi Debbie Slavitt, passed from this world to the next. Zichrona l''vracha - May her memory be a blessing.

Debbie was smart, warm, compassionate, and insightful. She was a scholar of Greek and Latin, thoughtful, and helpful. She was a daughter, sister, wife, mother, student, teacher, mentor. She had a sense of humor and a kind heart.

But Debbie was more than my friend and my colleague. She was also a member of my beit din, the three-person rabbinical court who stood beside me at the moment when I made the transition from lay person to rabbi.


Pirkei Avot - The Ethics of the Fathers, begins with these words:
Moses received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Joshua. Joshua gave it over to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly.
These words are recited at the Academy for Jewish Religion during ordination, followed by the recognition that the Torah is now being passed to a new generation of rabbis; they were recited as I receive my smicha, ordination. The mantle of leadership continues to be passed down, from one generation to the next, throughout the millenia, to generations that now include women.

Debbie was one of the three who stood next in line before me in the long line of rabbis that extends back to the Men of the Great Assembly, and onward back to Moses, and ultimately to G!d. She stood between me and all of that history. 

Now Debbie has entered that history, taking her place in the powerful line from G!d to the teachers of the future, l'olam va'ed - for all time.

I have lost a friend and a colleague, and a precious one standing between myself and that amazing beginning beside a mountain in the desert, but I have not lost her spirit and I have not lost the connections. Those remain forever.

Thank you Debbie, for all that you have done for me, and for all that you have been, all that you have given, all that you have loved, all that you have shared.

You will be missed.

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. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in 2005. 


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tu BiShvat 5776 - Cup 4, Fruit 4, Step 4

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
This is the fourth in a series of four posts for Tu BiShvat.



As we approach the conclusion of our journey, our cups turn totally red, as we experience the full bounty of the harvest, even as we move beyond eating. We partake only of the invisible aromas, the essence emanating from fruits and bark and leaves. We take our fourth step for the planet. We are in the world of Atzilut.

Atzilut represents all that is intangible and invisible. It reminds us of G!d's presence emanating forth from among us and within us as we do the physical work of climate action. Atzilut represents birth and re-birth, and the sacred in our conversations, our actions, our being. Atzilut embodies the moments we meditate on reality with a full and open heart and find ourselves able to hold it. It symbolizes the outcries from the depths of our souls to world leaders to enact their historic agreement and to fully address the ecological debt we owe to present and future generations. Atzilut is the holy in all our efforts to create a better world. Atzilut embodies the dreams we hold for a better future and the stories we tell of a world safe for all inhabitants of this amazing planet.


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. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in 2005. 


Friday, January 22, 2016

Tu BiShvat 5776 - Cup 3, Fruit 3, Step 3

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
This is the third in a series of four posts for Tu BiShvat.



We next add a bit more red to our cups and move toward summer and Beriah. We eat fruits that are fully edible. We take a third step for the planet.

Beriah represents creation. We now acknowledge the fullness of creation, and all that comprises that mysterious process. The seeds of the fruits we eat, the bearers of potential, are edible.

Beriah symbolizes our ability to be wholly present to both the pain of climate change and our hope and determination for a better world. This is a time to hold and acknowledge paradox, to stand in the breach between all that is sacred and all that is profane. It is a time to acknowledge the facts of the climate crisis and also to be inspired by the myriad of innovative, effective community-led solutions and alternatives that promote a culture of global solidarity.



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. She received her ordination from the Academy for Jewish Religion in 2005.