Monday, July 11, 2016

10 Ways to Respond to Climate Change, as well as Violent Conflict, and Other Global and Local Terrors

Stop. Stop everything. Totally change your life. Drastically reduce your carbon footprint. Do everything you can to increase carbon sequestration

This is what climate change demands of us.

But the vast majority of us are not doing it.

Changing our physical impact on the planet is the What about how we respond to climate change. People have many, many, many different opinions about the best way to try to ensure the survival of human life on this planet, and few of us are in a position to intelligently judge them. 

But in addition to the What, and no matter which way the future leads us, there is also the How

How we go forward, in whatever we do, is as important, if not more important, than What we do. Here are 10 Ways to Respond to Climate Change - and to all the painful things that happen in the world - in terms of the How

Each and every day, may we respond  to the world around us with:

1) Compassion - Rachamim
We speak of G!d as El Malei Rachamaim, G!d full of compassion. To strive to maintain compassion is to strive to walk in G!d's ways. In the face of violence, hatred and environmental degradation, may we respond to people and situations around us with compassion.

2) Love - Ahavah
Our liturgy reminds us daily of G!'d's love for us: "Ahavah rabbah ahavtanu, With great love You have loved us," and we are commanded to love G!d "b'chol l'vavcha, uv'chol nafshecha, uv'chol me'odecha, With all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." (Deut. 6:5) Let us love all of G!'d's creation, every bit of it, from every person to the most distant star to the tiniest bacterium, let us keep on loving, without end.

3) Kindness - Chesed
Judaism teaches us to engage in acts of loving kindness - gimilut chasadim, and to do them without expecting anything in return. Let us respond to those around us with kindness, even when our desired response might be something harsher, and may we do so without the expectation of being repaid but rather because it is the right thing to do.

4) Faith - Emunah
I invite you to consider faith as a state of being rather than in terms of having faith in something. We may have faith in G!d, and this faith may give us the ability to live in a state of faith, but living is such a state doesn't require faith in anything in particular. Rather, it is about trusting in our hearts that no matter what happens, somehow, we will - from a spiritual standpoint - be OK. May we maintain our faith in the face of the deepest challenges to that faith. 

5. Wisdom - Chochmah
In the Book of Job we read, “Where shall wisdom be found? Humans do not know the way to it. It is hidden from the eyes of all living things, G!d understands the way to it.” (Job 28:12, 21, 23) Wisdom may be beyond our reach, but the search for deep wisdom is incumbent upon us as a constant in our lives. May we constantly endeavor to access our deepest possible wisdom.

6. Courage - Ometz
In the face of the news and the events around us, fear, despair, anger, grief, and dread can easily envelope us. Courage is required only when we are afraid or otherwise feeling immobilized or unable to act positively. When we are unafraid, we do not need courage - acts are easy to do. May we find the courage to move forward with positive energy, even when confronted with sheer terror or disabling grief.

7. Strength - Koach
Strength may be physical, but it can also be spiritual, and in times of trouble we need to reach deep within our souls to find our untapped sources of spiritual power. It would be more pleasant not to have to be strong, but our world today cries out to us to find strength we don't realize we have. May we discover new depths of strength whenever we need to do so.

8. Respect - Kavod
The turning point between commandments related to G!d and commandments related people in the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, is #5: "Honor (Respect) your father and your mother." (Ex. 20:12). Our parents are stand-ins for G!d in the physical world. Respecting our parents relates to respecting G!d, and respecting G!d means respecting all of G!d's handiwork, no matter what we think of other people or different ideas. Let us respond to the people and ideas around us with the understanding that they, too, are part of G!'d's holy Creation, and worthy of our respect.

9. Humility - Anavah
It is so easy for us humans to think that we know better than someone else, or perhaps even than everyone else. But we are each an infinitesimally tiny spec in the expanse of the Universe. "What are we, that you are mindful of us?" (Ps. 8:4) the Psalmist asks, and it is a question for each of us to ask ourselves as well. May we remember that our knowledge is as limited as our physicality, and may we approach all that we do with humility. 

10. Integrity - Osher
Day in and day out, if we maintain our personal integrity, all of the other nine ways of responding will fall into place so much more easily. Our centeredness, our ability to stay grounded, these help us to maintain our sense of faith and well-being. May our feet and our hearts remain planted firmly on the ground, no matter how high we may fly or how low we may sink.

All of these ten ways of responding come down in the end to just one thing, keeping our hearts open, letting our hearts open wider all the time, and strengthening our connection to the Mystery of the Universe, to all of humankind, and to all the amazing Creation of living and nonliving things with which we share this amazing planet.

May you go from strength to strength. May you keep your heart safe and open. May you find your best way to be in this world.

Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

These thoughts were first shared at the Climate Mobilization Teach-in and Public Gathering in Boston on Sunday, July 10, 2016. 

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. 

Friday, July 8, 2016

In Response to Continued Tragedy

What is at stake is a social movement, a call for social change in social theory and practice. Technology is transforming our society continuously, industry is recklessly dynamic, yet our thinking is static. Prosperity and comfort have made us listless, smug, indifferent. We enjoy our privileges, we detest any dislocation in our intellectual habits. But automation is with us, and so is poverty, and unemployment..
These words sound appropriate for today, a day when the need for a universal call for social change rings loud and true.

The events of the past week, with killings in St. Paul, Baton Rouge, and Dallas, are another reminder of the deep pain that envelopes our nation, and our world. We grieve - we grieve for lives violently and needlessly cut short. We grieve for the loss of hope. We grieve for our loss of innocence. We grieve for the knowledge of what human beings can do to each other. We grieve for what these events may trigger in the future. Our hearts are heavy with pain. 

We long for change, real, substantive change that will make our world a safer and more equitable place. We long for wisdom and compassion to rule the world. We long for a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood. We long for friendship that endures. We long for peace.

The quote above is not from this week, or even this year. These words are from a talk entitled “The White Man on Trial,” and they were spoken by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in February 1964. They sound discouragingly contemporary.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel also said, “There are three ways to mourn, the first is to cry, the second is to grow silent, and the third is to transform sorrow into song,” and, in reference to marching at Selma with Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. he said, "I was praying with my feet."

What do we do with our grief?

To begin, we understand that we are not alone. Our neighbors of all colors are grieving, too. And so, we need to weep. We need to cry out our grief, and also our anger and our pain and our despair. And we need to understand that these emotions we feel are a sign of the goodness in our heart. They are a sign of our caring and our compassion. They are a sign of our ability to love. Let our grief flow, let it flow that we may know that we are human. Let is flow, that we may heal.

And then, let us grow silent. Let us grow silent and allow the voice of Mystery to well up within us, to heal our hearts and show us the path forward. Let us grow silent that it may be our love and compassion and not our anger and our despair that drive us forward. Let us grow silent that the Voice of Meaning may speak in our hearts and our souls. Let us grow silent.

And out of our silence, let song spring forth. Let prayer spring forth and propels our feet into meaningful and compassionate actions to bring healing to our communities and our nation. Let us sing our a song of justice, and let us pray with our feet.

The world may sometimes feel like it doesn't change, but it does, and we are the agents of that change. Let us harness our grief to do good in the world.

Shabbat shalom - may the One who brings peace to the high heavens bring peace to our hearts and to our world.

Rabbi Katy Z. Allen 

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Supporting 16 Religious Leaders Arrested at the West Roxbury Lateral Pipeline Site

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

Today was the 32nd day of counting the Omer, one day before Lag B'Omer, which began at sundown, and four weeks and four days on the journey from redemption to revelation.

Today 16 Boston-area religious and spiritual leaders risked arrest in protest of the building of the Spectra pipeline through Boston. This pipeline is fossil fuel infrastructure that isn't needed, that endangers the local community, and that is designed to make more money for its builders with no consideration of the state of the planet and of the local community.

I was not risking arrest, but was one of the people supporting this interfaith group of clergy, serving as an eco-chaplain. 




The morning was spent in interfaith prayer and song, and included powerful personal statements by each of the clergy getting arrested as to why they were present. Every testimony was heartfelt and meaningful. About 75 people accompanied them on their journey. It was a morning filled with love and faith, courage and compassion, spirit and peace. I feel honored and grateful to have been present.



The event was organized and led by Rabbi Shoshana Friedman, with the assistance of Marla Marcum. Two amazing and powerful women!


A Meditation for After the Arrest of Clergy at the West Roxbury Pipeline Construction Site

In the name of all that is sacred in this Universe,
we offer up the gratitude of our hearts,
for the willingness of our spiritual leaders
to stand in the way of destruction in our community
and on our planet.

In the name of all that is holy,
let us focus on our heart,
paying attention to the steady beat within us,
and with all our heart,
let us feel the love we have for all creation;

In the name of all that is strong and gentle,
let us breathe quietly through our hearts, in and out,
and with all our soul,
let us feel the love we have for all creation.

In the name of the mystery of the universe,
let us breathe deeply, in and out,
gathering our love and our gratitude
from the deepest corners of our body and our soul;
with every inch of our being,
let us gather up our love and gratitude,
and send it out into the universe.
Let us send it out to all—
to the leaders who have been arrested,
to the police officers,
to the construction workers,
to the people of this city,
and beyond,
to all that lives and breathes beneath the sun and moon,
to the solid earth beneath our feet,
and to the endless sky above our heads,
let us send out our love
into the Universe.

Let us spread out our arms,
and let us hold this precious planet in our arms,
and give it a giant, heartfelt hug.
Then let us turn our hands
to encircle each other,
and those at a distance,
and let us give everyone
another giant, heartfelt hug.

Let us hold and savor
all the love we feel.

In the name of all that is sacred in this Universe,
we offer our thanks,
and we say, Amen.

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. 


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. 



9

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.