8 Days of Hanukkah, my True Love said to me:“Please heal My Earth!”

November 27, 2013
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Shalom Center

Hanukkah brings with it again this year three crucial teachings about healing our Mother Earth from the ravages of global scorching

  • The Green Menorah, a Tree of Light that is a fusion of human craft and Earth’s growth. On this Shabbat we read the Prophetic passage from Zechariah that emplaces the Temple Menorah as part of a tiny forest of olive trees that give forth their oil straight into the Menorah.

We breathe in what these Trees of Light breathe out; they breathe in what we breathe out. We take new inner strength by breathing in the God Who breathes all life, by opening our eyes  to the Source of all Light in this wintry season of our dark foreboding.
We realize that Hanukkah teaches: We humans are not lords of the Earth, but part of the Earth. These trees feed us as we feed them. Read a little further to see how we at The Shalom Center are ourselves doing this, with your help.

  •  The tradition of resistance to Imperial Antiochus and his Empire’s desecration of the Temple – a resistance crystallized in the teaching by Zechariah: “Not by might and not by power, but by My Spirit [b’ruchi — or, “by My breath,” “by My wind!”]. We take new inner strength to resist the Empires of our day — Big Carbon – that today are burning, despoiling, desecrating the Holy Temple of all cultures and all creatures: Earth. We take new inner strength not only to resist harm but to heal and grow the sprouts for our own Trees of Light.
  • The legend that one day’s worth of olive oil lasted for eight days –a teaching that we ourselves can minimize our use of oil and coal and unnatural gas; can through conservation and the sustainable use of sun and wind reshape our country and the world; can shave off seven-eighths of the fossil-fuel burning that is scorching earth and killing thousands in droughts and hurricanes, typhoons and floods.

This year, the first night of Hanukkah comes this very evening,  November 27. We are taught not only to light the Hanukkah menorah, but to publicize the miracle, to turn our individual actions outward for the rest of the world to see and to be inspired.

So we invite you to join, this Hanukkah, in The Shalom Center’s Green Menorah Commitment for taking action -– personal, communal, and political – to heal the earth from the global climate crisis. 

We ourselves are committed to take an active part in healing the Earth. In the wake of the disastrous typhoon in the Philippines, far worse because of global scorching, we created a Climate Disaster Relief Fund — half for immediate relief and half for preventive action. Details are at the end of this letter. We ask you to give part of your Hanukkah giving not only as a gift to The Shalom Center’s work, but much more as a healing gift to those who are suffering already and those who will be suffering even more, if the scorching of our Mother Earth gets even worse. To help in that healing, please click here: 

That is our Green Menorah commitment. We ask you — after lighting your menorah each evening — to dedicate yourself to making the changes in your life that will allow our limited sources of energy to last for as long as they’re needed, and with minimal impact on our climate.

Day 1: This year, when the first day of Hanukkah is also Thanksgiving Day in the USA, begin the meal of harvest with these words:

We thank you, Holy One, Who makes of one Breath, one Harvest,
All the life-forms of our Earth, Your Earth;
Who breathes into us the wisdom to know that our mouths connect us

With all life:
That as we breathe in and out,

We share our breath, Your breath,
With each other and with all of life;

That as we share this food,
We are sharing from Your Harvest,
Being fed by all Your life-forms;
We thank You, Holy One, Who breathes into us
The wisdom to shape our breath into words;
The wisdom to shape our words as we speak together
At this table, our table, Your table,
So that our speaking aims toward fuller wisdom;
Who breathes into us the wisdom
To share our food with all who need it,
And to choose what we eat so that it nourishes all life
Upon our planet, Your planet. [And let us say, Ameyn]

Day 2: Congregation, Hillel, JCC, retirement home, etc: Urge your congregation or community building to do an energy/insulation audit. Urge switching to wind-powered rather than coal-powered electricity. Call your utility company to learn how.

Day 3. (which this year is Shabbat). Your Automobile: If possible, choose today or one other day every week to not use your car at all. Every day, lessen driving: use public transit, bike, walk.  Shop where you can walk and at locally owned stores, if at all possible. Cluster errands. Carpool. Don’t idle engine beyond 20 seconds.

Day 4. Your network of friends, Twitter buddies, Facebookers, and the members of civic or professional groups you belong to: If you have friends like newspaper editors, labor union or professional association leaders, real-estate developers, architects, bankers, etc. urge them to strengthen the green factor in all their decisions and actions.

Day 5:  Home and workplace: On Monday morning, call your electric-power utility to switch to wind-powered electricity. (For each home, 100% wind-power reduces CO2 emissions the same as not driving 20,000 miles in one year.)  Urge the top officials of your workplace to arrange an energy audit and switch to wind-powered electicity. 

Day 6: Town/City: Write a letter to your Mayor or City Councilperson, urging them to require greening of buildings through persuasion of businesses, ordinances, tax policy, and executive orders. Creating change is often easier on the local level!

Day 7: State: Urge state legislators to reduce subsidies for highways, increase them for mass transit. In states (like Pennsylvania and NY) where high-profit oil/ gas companies are fracking Oil Shale deposits, demand a moratorium until we can get full information on what poisonous chemicals are being poured into the water table and our drinking water.

Day 8: National: Some Senators and Congressmembers are seeking to cripple EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), mostly to protect Big Coal. Oppose them! Urge your Congressmember and Senators to strengthen EPA to regulate CO2 emissions from coal-burning plants, autos, oil refineries, etc. — for the sake of our planet’s climate, and to lessen asthma outbreaks among our children.

Finally, this is where we stand with our own Hanukkah gift — our own Green Menorah Commitment to the Cimate Disaster Relief Fund. We asked you to give to that Fund so that half would go to immediate relief to the Philippines and half to working to prevent future climate disasters.  We have so far received $2392.  The half for immediate Philippine relief we have given to the American Jewish World Service and Doctors Without Borders, both of which have emergency efforts under way there. We ask you to contribute more to that fund, as your Hanukkah gift not only to The Shalom Center but more broadly to Mother Earth and the human beings who suffer when Earth suffers.  To do so, please click here:


Happy Hanukkah for Mother Earth —- and you!

Blessings of light in a time of dark, active hope and hopeful action in a time of doubt.