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. 


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