Sunday, July 2, 2017

Witnessing the Creation of Sacred Space

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

I recently witnessed the creation of sacred space.

It didn't happen easily. And yet it did. It took a lot of preparation. And yet it took none at all. I had everything to do with it. And I had nothing to do with it.

This spring, I spent many hours completing all the paperwork needed to get the One Earth Collaborative Interfaith Woodland and Wetland Summer Adventure Camp at Open Spirit in Framingham, MA licensed. It was a lot of work, but it made a difference in how I felt about the camp. I spent time planning, deciding to which conservation areas we would take the children. Then, the last week in June, my friend Michael and I headed out onto the trails in the conservation areas of Metrowest Boston with a small group of children ages 7-10 and one teen CIT. 

Each morning we explored a different area, hiking up to three miles. Each day, the natural world around us provided the lead as to what we did as we explored the preserved land in the Metrowest area. In addition, we had lunch outdoors, making up a blessing of gratitude each day before eating. We had quiet time, where each child sat alone in observation, meditation, or play. And at the end of each day, each camper completed a page in a journal to take home at the end of the week.

On Monday, we played Pooh sticks, saw a coyote and a family of geese, learned about fresh water mussels, and so much more.

On Tuesday, we hiked an esker, stood by a river bank and listened to the birds, found our way to a hilltop meadow for a picnic, walked a boardwalk through a maple swamp, listened to frogs in a pond, and so much more.

On Wednesday, we climbed trees, observed an ants' nest, a heron nest, and a spider web, found spider egg cases, crossed over many bridges, and so much more.

On Thursday, we went letterboxing, hiked to a local high point where we could see all the way to Boston, climbed a giant glacial erratic, found sticks, sticks, and more sticks, and so much more.

On Friday, we found mushrooms and feathers large and small, and hiked along a stream, beside a pond, and up a hill, where we discovered a stick lean-to that someone had built. 

Then, in that space beside the lean-to, magic happened.

The children began to create, to play, to imagine. They balanced sticks between trees, creating a jail, a bank, and more.* 

They built a cafe that served all the best foods.* 

They made a three story home for chipmunks out of pine cones, pine needles, and sticks.* 

They bartered, they cooperated, they shared, they created, they interacted in the world of imagination. They became one with the world around them and with each other. 

The children created sacred space and time. 

It took so much preparation, and no preparation. It was so difficult, and it was so simple and easy. I had everything to do with it, and nothing to do with it.

It was a gift to witness.

Thank you to all those with the foresight to preserve local conservation areas. 

Thank you to the campers of the 2017 Interfaith Woodland and Wetland Adventure Camp. 

Thank  you for your gift.

* I may have gotten some details wrong, and if so, my apologies to the campers, and I'll be happy to make changes if corrected.

Rabbi Katy Allen 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. She is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spiritand is 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.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Korach and Rosh Chodesh

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen
(Delivered Friday, June 23, at Temple Tifereth Shalom in Peabody, MA)

As happens so often in the cycle of the Jewish year, we have this Shabbat an intersection of two cycles: the Jewish cycle of our Torah reading, and universal cycles of the physical world – the alignment of the Sun, and the Moon, and the Earth.

This week, we are reading Parashat Korach, in the Book of Numbers, and, tonight begins Rosh Chodesh, as we arrive once again at the new moon, when the moon appears to us as dark, almost as though it weren't there.

If you happened to be standing in a meadow or on a beach, far from cities and towns lit up with the lights of buildings and cars, you would see a night sky awash with stars, even more of them visible at this time of the dark new moon.

As you gaze at the sky, you might wonder at the vastness of the Universe and the insignificance of your place in it.

And if you were to sit in synagogue tomorrow to listen to the reading of the weekly Torah portion, you would hear a painful story of rebellion and repression. You would read of Korach and his followers challenging Moses' and Aaron’s leadership – and by proxy, G!d's – and you would hear how in response, G!d angrily opened up the Earth and swallowed up Korach and his followers.

You might come away wondering if one should never challenge authority.

And if you were, this night of the new moon, to look up at the sky in the midst of an urban area, filled with cars and homes and businesses all brightly lit up in protest against the darkness of night, you might not see even a single star.

And you might come away wondering if you should be vehemently protesting the way we live on this planet.

Jewish tradition, does not teach us not to question. The Talmud is a veritable treasure trove of questions, questions debated, questions answered, questions left unanswered, questions unanswerable. It is filled with minority opinions preserved for posterity as sacred and holy. It is filled with arguments, disagreements, machlechot, but all of them l'shem shamayyim, in the name of Heaven, in the name of the Holy One. They are sacred conversations about sacred issues, from the seemingly mundane, to the most esoteric. There are sacred conversations about the Sun and the Moon and the stars and the Earth, about breakfast, lunch, and dinner, about sleeping, about praying, about going to the bathroom, about holidays and planting and reaping and tzedakah, and so much more.

And the Earth, and the Moon, and the Sun – they know of no other kind of machlochet – argument, than those that are l'shem shamayyim, for the Universe and all it contains are, as Rabbi David Seidenberg so articulately teaches us, everything – everything, both living and non-living – is created b'tzelem elohim, in G!d's image. The rocks, the water, the leaping gazelle, the gnawing beaver, the bluest of butterflies, and the reddest of flowers, the most annoying of mosquitoes, the mountains, the valleys, the ocean depths, the farthest upon farthest galaxies and stars – all bear the imprint of the Holy One of Blessing, the Infinite One, the Unknowable One, the power behind all that is.

And if you were reading all of this week’s Torah portion, you would also come across another story, after Korach’s rebellion, after the Israelites continued to complain, not stopped by G!d’s aggressive show of authority. In this vignette, G!d demonstrates the importance of Aaron’s status in a very different way, by asking for a staff from the chieftain of each tribe, and, behind the curtain of the Tabernacle, Aaron’s staff turns into a flowering and fruit-bearing almond tree – what a different what of teaching a message about leadership than opening up the Earth to swallow rebellious ones!

And so I ask you, this Shabbat, what does all this mean for you? How do you ensure that every act that you question is not with the arrogance of Korach, but with the humility of a speck in the Universe? How do you ensure that your words and your deeds are sacred enough to be written onto the scroll of your life? How do you ensure that your every act, every deed, every intention, is one that helps to ensure the future of our children, our people, our species in a world dominated more and more by the destructive impact of homo sapiens? How do you bring together Parashat Korach and Rosh Chodesh, the new moon?
The answers are not easy to find, but the search is one in which we must, we must, engage, as children and as parents, as families, as Jews, as communities, as human beings. These are the machlechot l'shem shamayyim of our time, and they are vital conversations and acts.

In exploring these questions in terms of communal involvement, the Jewish ClimateAction Network launched its Bentshmarking Campaign in 2015/5776. Our focus is on energy usage and reduction, but our approach is holistic. The reason for the focus is that we are a small group of volunteers with limited resources of time. But the reasons for the broader approach are many.

Remember the question that came up in response to standing on a city street and not being able to see a single star, even on the darkest of dark nights – should we be vehemently protesting the way we life on this planet? That question is behind the holistic approach to examining our communities. By the way we live on this planet, we humans are in essence challenging G!d’s authority. Instead we should be challenging our own authority, our human ideas about how to live in relation to the planet.

Consider for a moment, how closely do you feel a part of the non-human world? Take a moment and let your imagination take you out of the doors to consider this question. (pause) Despite Jewish tradition being rooted in the Earth in so many ways (remember the readings of our service; think, “In the beginning, G!d created….”), we, like so many of our species, have lost our sense of truly being a part of the created world. We regularly come indoors, where we easily forget all that exists outside, and our total dependence upon and interdependence with the rest of Creation.

How do we return? How do we do teshuvah and re-turn toward the Earth? This is a process that must, I believe, be multifaceted and complex, and must include each of us in whatever way works best for us, given our personal gifts and our personal limitations. This process is best done both as individuals, alone, and as a community, together, and leads into the concept of holistic bentshmarking. I will outline for you the eight areas we currently touch upon, and as I do, I invite you to consider: Where in this mosaic of approaches do you fit best? Where could you make your mark?

Energy usage – Our addiction to the wonders of what energy can do for us is deep, but modern technologies are making it easier to radically reduce our institutions’ carbon footprint – the amount of energy used and the resulting amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, while maintaining our creature comforts. We can do this, and it helps to keep in mind Rabbi Zutra’s Talmudic saying that one who covers an oil lamp or infringes the prohibition of wasteful destruction. (BT Shabbat 67b) We are all wasting so very much.

Finances – What does money have to do with whether or not we can see the stars at night and whether or not there is enough oxygen in the air to keep our bodies healthy? Finding the connections requires thinking about where our assets are invested. Our communities’’ funds (even just our own bank accounts) aren’t just sitting somewhere, they are actively supporting something. The question for you is, are they expressing your values of caring for the planet and its inhabitants?  Are your funds invested in the past – the fossil fuel industry – or the future, the green energy revolution and community projects of resiliency?

Other areas to consider are the food and waste stream and the transportation systems of the community. What is the carbon footprint of your community’s food consumption and waste production? How close to being a zero waste production institution are you? How do people get to and from your synagogue? How widespread is carpooling? What encouragement is given to using public transportation, walking, and bicycling? Eating lower on the food chain uses less energy, and getting to zero waste production also lowers your human interference with the rest of Creation. And clearly, the less we drive and the more we slow down and walk or bicycle or join with others to get somewhere, the more we re-turn toward the Earth and are sensitive to its needs.

Do you like to garden? We can also do our best to walk in G!d’s footsteps and co-create with G!d as we consider how we treat the land for which we are responsible. Your community can ask itself, how viable and diverse is the ecosystem surrounding our building? To what extent does our property provide a carbon sink to offset our carbon usage? To what extent does it contribute to our sustainability by producing oxygen, enriching the soil, and even providing food?

Our responsibilities don’t end at the edge of the synagogue property. Do we as a community advocate for our planet with our elected officials? Do we vote with the future of the planet in mind? Do we support local initiatives to preserve land, encourage conservation and renewable energy, and fight climate change? There are many ways to come together, even in today’s divided political climate. By searching out and finding the ways that you agree, you bring peace into the community and the world. Our tradition demands no less of us, as the Talmud says: “All who can protest against [something wrong that] one of their family [is doing] and does not protest, is held accountable for their family.[All who can protest against something wrong that] a citizen of their city [is doing and does not protest], is held accountable for all citizens of the city.[All who can protest against something wrong that is being done] in the whole world, is accountable together with all citizens of the world.” (BT Shabbat 54b) We are all accountable for the fact that we cannot see the stars on Rosh Chodesh when we stand on a city street corner.

There are many actions that we can take. But underlying these actions must be a solid foundation, based on increasing our knowledge and understanding and maintaining and growing our spiritual strength and well-being. And so you can ask yourself: How knowledgeable is our community as a whole about the climate crisis? How often are our place in the natural world and our resulting responsibility discussed within our community? What connections can community members make between Jewish teachings and climate change?

Our spiritual well-being depends upon us being in right relationship with G!d, but also with G!d’s creation – with the planet, with the air, the water, the land, with all the creatures that call this amazing Earth home, and with each other. It is easy to be in denial about climate change – we all are to one extent or another, because the issue is so incredibly complex and hugely overwhelming. It is also easy, when we start thinking seriously about the problem, to fall into depression and eco-despair. So, let us remember that “All of Israel are responsible for each other,” (BT Shevuot 39a); let us remember to take care of each other, that we may work together as a community to change how we relate to the Earth, for the reality is that this is not work that can be done alone. But let us also remember that we humans are not alone, and that, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav teaches us, “Know that when a person prays in a field, all of the plants together come into the prayer, and they help the person and give the person strength within the prayer.”

We are not alone. The plants are with us. And G!d is with us. And we are with each other. We do not know what the future brings, but as Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai taught about a group of passengers on a ship, one of whom took a borer and began boring beneath his own seat. The travelers said: "What are you doing?" He replied, "What does it matter to you - am I not boring under my own seat?"

You know how they responded, of course, just as each of us would respond: [It matters to us] because the water will come up and flood the ship for all of us." (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 4:6)

When the stars cannot be seen in the city, the ship is flooding for all of us. When the amount of oxygen in the air in the city is half what it is in the middle of the White Mountains, and one quarter of what it was millennia ago, the ship is flooding for all of us. When one out of seven people on the planet does not have access to clean water, the ship is flooding for all of us. G!d is opening up a hole in the Earth and is about to swallow us all up. But we have the power to change the story. Let us instead gather together and redefine and rebuild our communities. Let us instead, as a community, be the holders of a staff that can sprout almond blossoms. Let us instead, work together so that when we go out to count three stars in the sky at the end of Shabbat, that no matter where we stand, we will be able to find three stars. Let us work together, for the good of G!d’s creation, and for the future of our people and all people.

That is the message we receive when Korach and Rosh Chodesh come together.

Rabbi Katy Allen 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. She is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spiritand is 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.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Hills Were Alive with the Sound of Music

 by Hattie Nestel

The hills were alive with the sound of music at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, but now it's a silent spring.

Well, so to speak. The birds and bees and animals are surely silent even as the machines and saws and chains whir and buzz and clank to make way for an unnecessary natural gas pipeline.

Despite the fact that:
  • The State Department of Conservation and Recreation bought the Otis State forest ten years ago for $5.2 million and put it into Article 97 conserved land.
  • DCR identified the area as one of the most significant land protections for the state. The acquisition was to protect land that contains some 400-year-old Eastern Hemlock forest, rare plant and animal species, historical sites, rolling meadows, and the stunning 62-acre lower Spectacle Pond.
  • Sandisfield residents, environmental groups, and the Massachusetts Attorney General all fought the pipeline, arguing that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had failed to comply with legal requirements to permit the Connecticut Expansion pipeline being put through the Conservation land of the Otis State Forest by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline company’s new storage loop for the Connecticut Gas Expansion for gas for their Connecticut customers. 
  • Although FERC statutorily consists of five voting commissioners, only two are sitting presently. However, Kinder Morgan was given permission to proceed by FERC in early April, and on Sunday, April 30, the company began cutting trees on the conserved land. The Massachusetts loop of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline will run a 36-inch pipeline almost four miles near Sandisfield and through Otis State Forest. An additional eight miles of 24-inch pipe will go from Agawam to East Granby, Connecticut.
  • To no avail, US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, both D-MA, immediately urged FERC to rescind FERC authorization to proceed with preparations to construct the pipeline. US Representative Richard Neal, D-MA, whose district includes Otis State Forest, sent a letter with a similar request, but also received no response from FERC.
  • Otis State Forest was protected with a conservation restriction under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution enacted in 1972. The constitutional provision was intended to be a governmental check to ensure that lands acquired for conservation purposes were not converted to inconsistent uses, otherwise defined as “development.” Lands and easements taken or acquired for such purposes shall not be used for other purposes or otherwise disposed of except by laws enacted by a two thirds vote of each branch of the Massachusetts legislature, according to the law. Despite the provisions of Article 97, the state legislature has never voted to authorize construction of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline through Otis State Forest.
  • A letter from the Narragansett Indian Tribal Office to the FERC accuses FERC of “likely” destruction of “ancient ceremonial stone landscape feature” along the path of the Tennessee Gas pipeline company’s proposed new storage loop through Otis state forest.
  • The Stockbridge–Munsee Band of Mohican Indians were not consulted about the route of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline, despite concerns of the Indian community. Their nation will be the most “culturally affiliated” by the pipeline, said Bonnie Hartley, the nation’s tribal preservationist. “Kinder Morgan didn’t respect a different cultural viewpoint to work around or over stone features,” Hartley added.
  • Kathryn Eiseman director of Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network and president of Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, Inc., said, “Under federal law, tribal consultations are supposed to be included early on in the process to avoid locking into a route that is problematic to the tribes.”
  • Jane Winn, executive director of Berkshire Environmental Action Team, said a settlement between the state of Massachusetts and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company allowing the pipeline project to proceed through Otis State Forest “violates completely” Article 97.
  • Especially concerning are destructions of habitats during nesting season of mallards, wood ducks, heron, American bittern, bobcats, moose, and beavers.
  • The need for natural gas was based on 2013 numbers and is now way down.
  • Massachusetts Health Care Providers Against Fracked Gas called for a moratorium on new gas pipeline infrastructure due to its public health risks. Gas drilling and pipelines release toxic, carcinogenic, and radioactive pollutants which adversely affect our health.
  • Although Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini ruled that the 1938 natural gas act trumps Massachusetts Article 97, he did not take into account what is now the knowledge that climate change is exacerbated by cutting trees nor that burning natural gas, including fracked gas, releases methane into the atmosphere.
Rema Loeb, left, aged 84, and Hattie, right, aged 78, 
were 2 of the 18 activists arrested on Otis State Forest land on May 2, 2017.
One way to stop pipelines is by boycotting banks and financial institutions that invest in pipelines. If you use local banks and credit unions, you are probably not supporting pipelines. Check out where your pensions are invested and which banks and investment companies your towns and various organizations use.

Historically, boycotts work! Now is the time to get on board so we prevent any more Otis forests here or anywhere from being destroyed.

The hills were alive with the sound of music at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, but now they echo with the sounds of silence.

Hattie Nestel is an activist living in Athol, MA.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Reflections on People's Climate March and Shabbat, April 29, 2017

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

 “You know things are serious when the introverts arrive” is my favorite protest sign. I love this sign because I’m an introvert. I hate crowds, and protests are near the bottom of my list of what to do for fun.

I also hate hot weather. I hate it because my body hates it and lets me know in no uncertain terms. And on the day of the People’s Climate March in Washington at the end of April, temperatures soared to a record in the low 90s.

Yet despite the crowds and despite the heat, I went to Washington this past Shabbat. I went because I had to. I went because I had to put my body in that space in order to say, to myself and to others, “I care about what is happening to our planet and its inhabitants.”

I didn’t experience the march in the way I anticipated. A few days beforehand, I was invited represent the faith contingent and to help hold the CLIMATE, JOBS, JUSTICE banner during the press conference before the march and then to help carry it through the march. I was overwhelmed by what felt like both a huge honor and a wonderful opportunity. The major downside was that I wouldn’t be able to march with my friends in the faith group. But again, despite the anticipated discomfort, I said "yes".

Thus it was that I arrived at the Reflecting Pool hours before the march was scheduled to start and was given a Press Conference pass. And thus it was that I stood between a woman from Standing Rock, representing the Indigenous Peoples contingent, and a Hindu woman, also representing the Faith contingent, and helped hold one of the official Peoples Climate Movement banners. Thus it was that I appeared in pictures, along with all the others holding the banner, on the official PCM site and on many other sites.

And, thus it was that my experience of the march began with hearing, up close and clearly, the words of all the speakers at the press conference.
by People's Climate March; KZA on far right

Ten people spoke, each for a few short minutes. The speakers were not movie stars. They were not politicians. They were not scientists. Thespeakers were all activists. They were people working in the trenches. They were men, women, and children feeling the impact of climate change in their lives and in the lives of their communities. They ranged from a Black Lives Matters activist to a member of Iraq Veterans against the War, from a member of the New York State Nurses Union to a Muslim climate activist from Green Faith, from a volunteer for the League of Conservation Voters to a Native American woman and her two daughters who are part of Our Children's Trust law suit against the federal government for ignoring climate change. They were from many states and were of many colors.

by People's Climate March; KZA fourth from right

This rainbow collection of speakers spoke passionately about the work they are doing. They spoke passionately about the ways that people are already being impacted by climate change. They spoke passionately about their concerns for the future and the need for action. It was a powerful way to begin the day.

After the press conference – accompanied by my amazing friend David, at whose home I stayed while in DC – I went to the starting point of the march to meet up with the banner and the others who would carry it. The day was already hot, and my body was feeling the heat. I did my best to stay out of the sun and hydrated.

We found the banner, and I sat with others I’d met earlier, waiting for the march to begin. Also in the front of the march were the Indigenous Peoples and youth contingents. Those of us waiting together gathered from conversations going on nearby that negotiating was taking place related to the order of the marchers at the front of the march.

Eventually, we were asked to hold the banner, now on poles so it could be held up high. A sense of anticipation that the march would begin soon filled the air. Then we were asked to move the banner, and we were now in the sun. I could feel myself getting hotter, and I began to worry that I was over doing it. I wanted to start, to walk at least part of the march, but I began to realize I couldn’t last much longer.

David had told me that we could go to his office, located on the route of the march, to cool off when I got too hot. Finally, I realized that I was pushing myself too far, and I said to him, “Let’s go.” I knew that I had to be careful. I’ve had heat exhaustion too many times, and it is really miserable, as well as potentially dangerous. I was grateful for my friend’s support.

by People's Climate March

As I had made my plans to go to the march, I had known that I would be breaking many of my personal boundaries for keeping Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. At services the night before the march at Adas Israel in DC, I felt myself entering into a different kind of Shabbat, one that would encompass the entirety of my experience of the march. My colleague Rabbi Judy Kummer expressed the tension so well in her d’var Torah at the interfaith service at the Boston climate march – “On this day of rest, we cannot rest.” It was Shabbat, Saturday, the day of rest, but I needed to be at this protest. I needed to not rest.

And yet, I also had to rest. I had to rest because it was hot. I had to rest in order to be OK. And so I left the march, and I rested. Later, somewhat refreshed, I rejoined the march near the end, and to my delight met up with other Boston and New York Jewish Climate Action Network activists who had marched with the faith contingent, some of them holding our stunning new JCAN banner. I was so very glad to see them.

And then, before the events of the day ended, I had to leave. I had to leave because it was hot. I had to leave so that I wouldn’t get sick.

Back at my friends’ home, I had the luxury of being able to care for myself the way I needed to, to rest and take care of my body. And because of this, hot and tired though I was, I managed to avoid being overcome by intense symptoms of heat exhaustion.

For me, it was both difficult to be at the march and difficult not to be with my friends. But I am glad I went, and I am glad I said “yes” to holding the banner. I am glad I heard all those voices speaking passionately about climate change impact. I’m glad I experienced awareness of last-minute discussions at the start of the march.

I’m glad about all of these things because they broke my heart open a little bit more. Reading the news the next day about layoffs and closings of departments at hospitals large and small across the country, about another black youth shot and killed by police, about white power groups building alliances, about fighting and starvation in South Sudan, and so much more chaos around the globe, I envisioned the global picture of climate change in my mind with renewed clarity. I saw, and I continue to see, a future with tensions rising higher and higher and with vulnerable people ever more vulnerable. The day of the march, I experienced the impact of heat on my body, and I was able to keep myself safe. Due to my economic, social, racial, and geographic status, I have the opportunity and the option to take care of myself. So many others have neither the opportunity nor the option. As the months and years roll by, opportunities and options to take care of ourselves will grow ever fewer, and more and more, they will be available only to those who are privileged.

Like me.

And so, despite the heat, despite my dislike of crowds, despite the fact that is was Shabbat, I showed up, and I will show up again. On this day of rest, we could not rest. And yet we must rest. For only by resting, can we again not rest on a day of rest. That is the paradox with which we must live as we take the moral stand of being present for our planet and all its inhabitants.

May the day come once again that on every day of rest, we may rest.

Rabbi Katy Allen 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. She is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spiritand is 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, May 1, 2017

We Cannot Rest

by Rabbi Judy Kummer
[Delivered at the Interfaith Service sponsored by the Massachusetts Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action Interfaith Service at the Boston People's Climate March, April 29, 2017]

Ribono shel olam,
Creator of the universe,
We come before you today
To ask your help, to ask your guidance, to ask your blessing.

Help us remember the fragility of our world. 
Help us remember our dependence on each other, and
Help us remember our dependence on you, Source of all life.

Guide us to love your creations and to treasure them. 
Guide us to know always their sanctity 
For they and we have been created by You.

And Bless us to be the best possible stewards,
able to preserve this precious inheritance we have received – our beautiful gem-like world -- and to pass it on, 
intact and beautiful, 
 to future generations.  **

We read in the book of Isaiah, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”  
From the cathedrals of pine trees that inspired the building of glorious stone cathedrals,
From the immense beauty of mountains and deserts that inspired sacred poetry in the hearts  of our ancient ancestors, some of which we read today in the book of Psalms, 
May we remember always that our environment is sacred – it is hallowed ground, 
is a  house of prayer
place of prayer              For all peoples. ***

Our theme today:
“Because we love, we cannot rest.”    We must take action, we must act on our love for our world.
We cannot rest!

And yet, For those of us living in Jewish time, 
we mark today, Saturday, as the Jewish Sabbath, as shabbat, 
a day renewal and of rest. 

But Out of deep love for our earth and for our creator, on this day of rest, we cannot rest.  

Out of deep love for the miracles taking place in the world around us --and within us—
on this day of rest, we cannot rest. 

Out of deep love for our fellow members of the human race, for those whom we know and those we can't yet count as friends and members of our families, 
on this day of rest, we cannot rest. 

We cannot rest because action is called for.  
We cannot rest because our love for our world must be acted on.  
We cannot rest because so much remains to be perfected and protected in our world.

Y’hi ratzon milfanecha, Adonai elohaynyu v’elohay avotaynu v’imotaynu,
May it be your will, Adonai, our God and God of our ancestors,
That this gathering today bring us 
the strength and the unity, 
the guidance, the help and the blessing we need to  preserve and protect our planet.
May we be sustained in our work    to keep our beautiful planet
a house of prayer,
A place of prayer – sanctified and holy -- for all. 
And let us say Amen. 

Rabbi Judith Kummer is the Executive Director of the Jewish Chaplaincy Council of Massachusetts.  A Boston native, she earned a BA from Barnard College in Environmental Studies and Urban Planning and was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia. Rabbi Kummer is an avid organic gardener, potter, hiker and social activist.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Call to Prayer

by Judith Felsen, Ph.D. 

In the wind, You whisper to us
In the skies You elevate us
In the forests You shelter us
In the oceans You cleanse us
In the rivers You bathe us
In the earth You embrace us
In the days You awaken us
In the nights You restore us
In the mountains You inspire us
In the valleys You replenish us
In the rains You quench us
In the sun You enliven us
In the moon You deepen us
In all ways and forms You invite us
Nature engages us daily in a call to prayer

© 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.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Moving out of Bondage toward Freedom

בְּכָל־דּוֹר וָדוֹר חַיָּב אָדָם לִרְאוֹת אֶת־עַצְמוֹ, כְּאִלּוּ הוּא יָצָא מִמִּצְרָֽיִם
In each and every generation, it is every person's obligation 
to see herself/himself/themselves 
as if she/he/they personally has/have come out from Mitzrayim. 

Mitzrayim - the narrow straits of bondage. The Talmud tells us that only 20 percent of the Israelites actually left Mitzrayim. The other 80 percent identified so fully as Egyptian that they didn't want to leave.

What is it that we don't really want to leave behind? 

And what is it that pulls us toward making that break toward freedom?

Most of us are a mix of the 80 percent and the 20 percent-- 
with, perhaps, slightly different numbers.

It is so very difficult to leave our bondage.

We are enslaved.
We are enslaved by fossil fuels.
We are enslaved by racism.
We are enslaved by privilege.
And so much more.

We resist.
We resist freedom due to apathy.
We resist freedom due to exhaustion. 
We resist freedom due to despair.
And so much more.

What is it 
that can push us out of our personal Mitzrayim
to begin the journey
that will take us 
to that terrifying place
where we stand,
seemingly helpless,
between the army and the sea?

What will it take
for us to put our first foot forward
and take one step
and then another,
to begin the long journey
out of Mitzrayim?

What has the power
to enable us 
to step into the sea
and keep on walking
until the water 
is up to our noses?

How can we find 
the strength we need?

For each of us, 
the answer is different,
very personal,
and for each of us,
the answer is the same,
totally universal.

And so, on this Passover night,
let us do this together.
Let us take the step,
the first step out of Mitzrayim,
out of bondage,
the first step into the sea,
into the unknown--
knowing that when we do,
others will follow,
knowing that when we do,
the waters will part,
and we will cross over
to a new place
beyond our imagination
where we are different,
where we are free.

Chag sameach - may you have a blessed and meaingful Passover.
Rabbi Katy

Rabbi Katy Allen 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. She is a board certified chaplain and serves as an Eco-Chaplain and the Facilitator of One Earth Collaborative, a program of Open Spiritand is 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.