Monday, December 11, 2017

Lighting Our Way to Greater Sustainability: Meditations for Lighting the Hanukkiah

by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen

To kindle the Hanukkah lights, we need the shamash, the helper candle, with which we light all the other candles. The role of the shamash is vital, enabling as it does the proliferation of physical and spiritual light we experience on Hanukkah. Through the following kavannot, or meditations, the shamash can also help us make connections to the Earth within the context of Hanukkah and give us the strength we need to take action. Each meditation is connected to both a prayer or text from Jewish tradition and one or more of the Dragons of Inaction, spiritual and psychological barriers that prevent us from taking the actions we must take if we want to help preserve a climate suitable for life.

For Lighting the Shamash Each Night:

As I light this shamash, may the light I behold help me to see more clearly and more deeply into my heart and soul and into the world beyond me. May the light of this candle remind me to connect to the Earth, Jewish tradition, family, and community in ways that give me spiritual, physical, and psychological healing and strength. May the light of the shamash renew my will to learn more about climate change and Judaism, the connections between the two, and potential personal and communal actions.

First Night
May the light of this candle inspire me to reduce the carbon footprint of my energy usage by buying my electricity from renewable resources; putting solar panels on my roof; and installing a heat pump. May I find the strength to overcome the dragon of concern about the financial risk of any investment required. May I hear a voice within me telling me to be “strong and of good courage.” (Deuteronomy 31:7)

Second Night
May the light of these candles motivate me to move closer to a plant-based diet by reducing the amount of meat I eat and cutting down on dairy products. May my journey through diet change not be thwarted by the dragon of my desire to justify my comfortable climate-negative lifestyle. With each bite of food I take, may I understand that “the Earth belongs to the Holy One, and everything in it.” (Psalm 24:1)

Third Night
May the light of these candles bring me the strength to reduce my transportation carbon footprint by walking, bicycling, and carpooling more, taking public transportation more often, getting rid of one or more cars, flying less, and/or buying an electric car. May I not allow the dragon of perceived inequity, my desire not to be taken advantage of, and my belief that others may not reduce their carbon footprint to prevent me from taking these actions. May I remember that my actions have consequences and follow the path of goodness and sacred connection. (Second paragraph of the Shema, Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and other passages)

Fourth Night
May the light of these candles move me to divest all my financial holdings from fossil fuel companies and reinvest them in renewable energy. May the dragon of my lack of knowledge of how and where to reinvest my funds not prevent me from making this shift. May I take to heart the gifts of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that are continually bestowed upon me every day. (Daily Amidah)

Fifth Night
May the light of these candles prompt me to write, call, and visit my state and local representatives and urge them to support clean energy and carbon pricing bills, not once, but again and again. May I not get bogged down by the dragon of belief that my voice doesn't matter and that nothing will result from my actions. May I understand in my heart that one who can prevent her household, city, or the whole world from committing a sin and doesn't do it is responsible for their sins. (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 54b)

Sixth Night
May the light of these candles convince me to care for my property in a way that will produce more food and sequester more carbon. And if I do not own any land, may I search out a place within my community where I can act upon this matter. May the dragons of worrying that everything I do will take too much time and feel meaningless not cause me to hesitate and refrain from acting. May I remember that my human role on this planet is “to till and to tend” or “to serve and protect” the Earth. (Genesis 2:15)

Seventh Night
May the light of these candles propel me to reduce the amount of water I use and the amount of waste I produce by composting, recycling, reusing, buying only what I truly need, installing a rain barrel, and reducing indoor and outdoor water use. May I not stagnate in my climate activism journey due to the dragon of believing that the easiest actions are the only ones I need to take. May I remember that G!d “gives strength to the weary” each and every day. (Morning Blessings)

Eighth Night
May the light of these candles inspire me to regularly support eco-justice efforts by giving tzedakah and advocating in my local and state governments. May I not allow the dragon of concern about the importance of my efforts to prevent me from acting. May I remember that my actions impact the lives of vulnerable populations now and in the future, and that one who saves a single life, it is as though he has saved the entire world. (Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 37a)

Chag Urim Sameach - Happy Festival of Lights,
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, and 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, with her spouse, Gabi Mezger, who leads the singing at Ma'yan Tikvah.

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