“We all live in a watershed…”
I hadn’t been planning on writing something specifically for Rosh haShanah this year until I read this in the summer edition of Watershed Sentinel:
We decided to change up the masthead on the cover and since more and more of our stories are about the junction between environment and social justice, we figured it made sense to emphasize the Sentinel in Watershed Sentinel. We all live in a watershed……(Delores Broten, ed.).
For the past several decades, we have redefined the expression Tikkun Olam, adopting part of an earlier redefinition emerging from the Lurianic notion of sh’virat ha-kelim / the breaking of the vessels. The tikkun / repair refers to the releasing of the divine sparks hidden within the broken vessels. We then merged that with the growing political and social activism of Jews so that the vehicle for this repair shifted from prayer and the precise observance of ritual mitzvot to social and political action.
At the same time, the disconnection from the spirituality which had always permeated Jewish life (witness R. Mordechai Kaplan’s idea that Judaism is a “religious civilization”) allowed for the abbreviating of this concept as the now familiar Tikkun Olam, without the accompanying b-malchut Shaddai / through [recognition of] divine sovereignty.
Simply put, repairing our world and renewing her involves repairing and renewing our connection to the divine, the unifier and connector, that which helps us to experience our interconnectedness in a visceral way.
Thinking about climate change from this perspective, we have much to contribute. Yet we are also far behind many of our religious and spiritual partners. I’m puzzled that there seems to be so little discussion of climate change on our OHALAH list, in our deliberations about how to locate events and what their frequency should be, about how we model new ways of living that are at least as enjoyable and meaningful as the ones we are trying to sustain even as that effort is the most likely to severely undermine those very lives. Why is it there are only a handful of us who must seem almost obsessive in our focus on climate change?
At the beginning of this new year and the first year of the new sabbatical cycle, I encourage us all to carefully (that is, with care) examine the lives we take for granted, to learn to ask ourselves what actions can we take to reduce our carbon footprints, encourage the restoration of our forests, protect existing agricultural land, guard our oceans and fisheries, and end destructive and wasteful warfare while at the same time promoting social justice and human rights.
I write these words at the end of what was in British Columbia a hot and sunny summer, a summer which was also the driest on record, with the most wildfires, and rising river temperatures interfering with the migration of the salmon on which our First Nations and we newcomers both depend. And we had it easy compared to Oregon and Washington!
My prayer for us all is that, when the next sabbatical year arrives, we will still be on this Earth which God has entrusted us to guard and nurture, that we will have honoured the Sabbatical which has just ended by carrying its messages and sanctity forward.
1. I strongly recommend R. David Seidenberg’s new book, Kabbalah and Ecology. I know it’s pricey, but it’s worth every penny!
2. Please, please, download and read Pope Francis’ encyclical, LAUDATO SI’. I have been highlighting section after section and I call your attention especially to his references to Sabbath, Sabbatical, and Jubilee on page 53.
3. Look at the document that Esther Azar and I prepared and which you can find linked to my previous blog. All three major teachings, those of the Netivot Shalom, the Ohr haChayim, and the May haShilo’ach are rich.
4. I read three amazing local publications which you can access and which will give you an understanding of how climate change looks in a part of the developed world which provides resources to many places.
Look at the Amud haT’fillah 110 in the Sefer Ba’al Shem Tov, and how the first stage of davvenen is to become connected to all that is. You can find it here or in Menachem Kallus’ book, Pillar of Prayer, pp. 113-118. When I first began to meditate, one exercise was to sit on my bed in my room, step outside myself, and see me meditating on my bed in my room in my house in my city in my state/province, in my country, and so on. Perhaps we could use P’sukey d’Zimra more consciously to help people experience this interconnectedness within the One as the Besht suggested.