December 3, 2012
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow
The Shalom Center
The Green Menorah Commitment: Action to Avert Global Scorching
The first night of Hanukkah is this coming Saturday night, December 8.
This is the first of two letters urging that to the traditional understandings of Hanukkah, we add seeing it as the time for recommitment to protect, heal, and rededicate the Temple of the Earth as anciently the Temple in Jerusalem was rededicated at this time of year.
We will also (see column 1 on this page) suggest specific actions you can take on the eight days of Hanukkah, responding to the passionate message from the Breath that breathes all life: “For the eight days of Hanukkah, my True Love said to me: “Please save My Earth!”
Above we are sharing a vision of the Green Menorah from the Middle Ages. (Click on it to expand it.) Elsewhere on our page is another such from our own generation, created by The Shalom Center.
By fusing the tree and the menorah, the Green Menorah becomes the symbol of the intertwining of adamah (Earth) and adam (human earthlings).
It also symbolizes a Jewish commitment to renew the miracle of Hanukkah in our own generation: Using one day’s oil to meet eight days’ needs: doing our part so that by 2020, US oil consumption is cut by seven-eighths.
In that way, in our own generation we can rededicate the universal Temple of Planet Earth, as the Talmud describes the rededication of the ancient Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. We can hold back the devastation that global scorching is already wreaking on our lives — Hurricane Sandy, the devastating corn-country drought in the US, unheard-of floods in Vermont, not to mention disasters in Australia, Russia, Africa, and Pakistan.
We invite you to join in this commitment to heal our planet and our human race from the climate crisis of global scorching.
There are two aspects of what we need to do:
Hands-on action by congregations and congregants to reduce actual CO2 emissions on their own and to infuse their own celebrations of Jewish festivals, life-cycle events, prayers, and education with eco-consciousness; and
Advocacy for change in public policy, including such possibilities as transferring subsidies for Big Oil and Big coal to renewable energy development and placement; instituting a gradually rising carbon fee, with the proceeds divided three ways: preventing hardship from the higher cost of carbon products among the poor and working families; retraining workers (like coal miners) whose jobs are undermined by the shift away from carbon; and reducing the deficit.
The SEVEN BRANCHES of the Green Menorah symbolize earthy actions in our own congregations and households. The SEVEN LIGHTS in the Green Menorah symbolize seven actions to light up change in public policy beyond our own homes.
Making carbon pay the real costs of its effect on climate:
Personal change: households set 5% of our annual coal, oil, & gasoline costs as tzedakah (“charitable” contributions) to support sustainable-energy activism.
Public policy: requiring energy producers to pay for the carbon emissions their products will cause, through a carbon tax, carbon caps, or a combination.
2. Paying for low-carbon energy sources:
For households, buying energy-conserving appliances, joining wind-energy plans, etc.
Public policy: ending subsidies to such carbon-producing sources of energy as coal, oil, and corn-based ethanol; constantly increasing subsidies for such non-carbon-emitting sources of energy as wind, solar, switch-grass.
Greening our own new homes and congregations, and retrogreening our present buildings.
Public policy: enacting strong building-code regulations for new buildings and for retrogreening old ones.
As households and congregations, car-pooling, walking, or biking to congregations, jobs, etc.
Public policy: ending subsidies to conventional autos, highways, and airplanes; strictly limiting emissions from autos and airplanes; raising subsidies to bikes, rail, walking, and to holding long-distance meetings by teleconference.
5. Land use:
Personal choices of urban-style high-density living (whether in actual cities or in suburbs)
Policy: subsidize and invest in urban recreation, workplaces, etc. vs. sprawl and low-density housing.
In Jewish life, infusing festivals, life-cycle markers (especially intergenerational markers like bar/bat mitzvah & confirmation), prayer, and Torah-study with concern for the earth and climate.
In public policy, subsidizing scientific climate-crisis analysis; climate-centered educational projects throughout school years from pre-K through grad school; support for art, literature, music, dance, film, games, etc. that address climate crisis.
7. Shabbat and restful time:
In our individual and congregational practice, strongly encouraging — even more than before — setting aside restful time and making minimal use of carbon-emitting energy for the time of Shabbat itself, as a wise and sacred Jewish practice.
In public policy, requiring paid leave and holiday time for parental care and neighborhood-centered celebration.
May you and your family have a Happy Healing Hanukkah, and may your actions be a Hanukkah present of healing for the Earth.
And we at The Shalom Center hope you can also give a Hanukkah gift to our work, a gift to help us keep on teaching and acting to heal and save our planet. To give that sacred gift, please click on the “Donate” line on the left margin.