Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope
Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope

Spiritual Wisdom from Earth and Torah

Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope
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by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen I recently witnessed the creation of sacred space. It didn't happen easily. And yet it did. It took a lot of preparation. And yet it took none at all. I had everything to do with it. And I had nothing to do with it. This spring, I spent many hours completing all the paperwork needed to get the One Earth Collaborative Interfaith Woodland and Wetland Summer Adventure Camp at Open Spirit in Framingham, MA licensed. It was a lot of work, but it made a difference in how I felt about the camp. I spent time planning, deciding to which conservation areas we would take the children. Then, the last week in June, my friend Michael and I headed out onto the trails in the conservation areas of Metrowest Boston with a small group of children ages 7-10 and one teen CIT.  Each morning we explored a different area, hiking up to three miles. Each day, the natural world around us provided the lead as to what we did as we explored the preserved land in the Metrowest area. In addition, we had lunch outdoors, making up a blessing of gratitude each day before eating. We had quiet time, where each child sat alone in observation, meditation, or play. And at the end of each day, each camper completed a page in a journal to take home at the end of the week. On Monday, we played Pooh sticks, saw a coyote and a family of geese, learned about fresh water mussels, and so much more. On Tuesday, we hiked an esker, stood by a river bank and listened to the birds, found our way to a hilltop meadow for a picnic, walked a boardwalk through a maple swamp, listened to frogs in a pond, and so much more. On Wednesday, we climbed trees, observed an ants' nest, a heron nest, and a spider web, found spider egg cases, crossed over many bridges, and so much more. On Thursday, we went letterboxing, hiked to a local high point where we could see all the way to Boston, climbed a giant glacial erratic, found sticks, sticks, and more sticks, and so much more. On Friday, we found mushrooms and feathers large and small, and hiked along a stream, beside a pond, and up a hill, where we discovered a stick lean-to that someone had built.  Then, in that space beside the lean-to, magic happened. The children began to create, to play, to imagine. They balanced sticks between trees, creating a jail, a bank, and more.*  They built a cafe that served all the best foods.*  They made a three story home for chipmunks out of pine cones, pine needles, and sticks.*  They bartered, they cooperated, they shared, they created, they interacted in the world of imagination. They became one with the world around them and with each other.  The children created sacred space and time.  It took so much preparation, and no preparation. It was so difficult, and it was so simple and easy. I had everything to do with it, and nothing to do with it. It was a gift to witness. Thank you to all those with the foresight to preserve local conservation areas.  Thank you to the campers of the 2017 Interfaith Woodland and Wetland Adventure Camp.  Thank  you for your gift. * I may have gotten some details wrong, and if so, my apologies to the campers, and I'll be happy to make changes if corrected. Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long, 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 Spirit, and 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.
Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope
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by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen (Delivered Friday, June 23, at Temple Tifereth Shalom in Peabody, MA) As happens so often in the cycle of the Jewish year, we have this Shabbat an intersection of two cycles: the Jewish cycle of our Torah reading, and universal cycles of the physical world – the alignment of the Sun, and the Moon, and the Earth. This week, we are reading Parashat Korach, in the Book of Numbers, and, tonight begins Rosh Chodesh, as we arrive once again at the new moon, when the moon appears to us as dark, almost as though it weren't there. If you happened to be standing in a meadow or on a beach, far from cities and towns lit up with the lights of buildings and cars, you would see a night sky awash with stars, even more of them visible at this time of the dark new moon. As you gaze at the sky, you might wonder at the vastness of the Universe and the insignificance of your place in it. And if you were to sit in synagogue tomorrow to listen to the reading of the weekly Torah portion, you would hear a painful story of rebellion and repression. You would read of Korach and his followers challenging Moses' and Aaron’s leadership – and by proxy, G!d's – and you would hear how in response, G!d angrily opened up the Earth and swallowed up Korach and his followers. You might come away wondering if one should never challenge authority. And if you were, this night of the new moon, to look up at the sky in the midst of an urban area, filled with cars and homes and businesses all brightly lit up in protest against the darkness of night, you might not see even a single star. And you might come away wondering if you should be vehemently protesting the way we live on this planet. Jewish tradition, does not teach us not to question. The Talmud is a veritable treasure trove of questions, questions debated, questions answered, questions left unanswered, questions unanswerable. It is filled with minority opinions preserved for posterity as sacred and holy. It is filled with arguments, disagreements, machlechot, but all of them l'shem shamayyim, in the name of Heaven, in the name of the Holy One. They are sacred conversations about sacred issues, from the seemingly mundane, to the most esoteric. There are sacred conversations about the Sun and the Moon and the stars and the Earth, about breakfast, lunch, and dinner, about sleeping, about praying, about going to the bathroom, about holidays and planting and reaping and tzedakah, and so much more. And the Earth, and the Moon, and the Sun – they know of no other kind of machlochet – argument, than those that are l'shem shamayyim, for the Universe and all it contains are, as Rabbi David Seidenberg so articulately teaches us, everything – everything, both living and non-living – is created b'tzelem elohim, in G!d's image. The rocks, the water, the leaping gazelle, the gnawing beaver, the bluest of butterflies, and the reddest of flowers, the most annoying of mosquitoes, the mountains, the valleys, the ocean depths, the farthest upon farthest galaxies and stars – all bear the imprint of the Holy One of Blessing, the Infinite One, the Unknowable One, the power behind all that is. And if you were reading all of this week’s Torah portion, you would also come across another story, after Korach’s rebellion, after the Israelites continued to complain, not stopped by G!d’s aggressive show of authority. In this vignette, G!d demonstrates the importance of Aaron’s status in a very different way, by asking for a staff from the chieftain of each tribe, and, behind the curtain of the Tabernacle, Aaron’s staff turns into a flowering and fruit-bearing almond tree – what a different what of teaching a message about leadership than opening up the Earth to swallow rebellious ones! And so I ask you, this Shabbat, what does all this mean for you? How do you ensure that every act that you question is not with the arrogance of Korach, but with the humility of a speck in the Universe? How do you ensure that your words and your deeds are sacred enough to be written onto the scroll of your life? How do you ensure that your every act, every deed, every intention, is one that helps to ensure the future of our children, our people, our species in a world dominated more and more by the destructive impact of homo sapiens? How do you bring together Parashat Korach and Rosh Chodesh, the new moon? The answers are not easy to find, but the search is one in which we must, we must, engage, as children and as parents, as families, as Jews, as communities, as human beings. These are the machlechot l'shem shamayyim of our time, and they are vital conversations and acts. In exploring these questions in terms of communal involvement, the Jewish ClimateAction Network launched its Bentshmarking Campaign in 2015/5776. Our focus is on energy usage and reduction, but our approach is holistic. The reason for the focus is that we are a small group of volunteers with limited resources of time. But the reasons for the broader approach are many. Remember the question that came up in response to standing on a city street and not being able to see a single star, even on the darkest of dark nights – should we be vehemently protesting the way we life on this planet? That question is behind the holistic approach to examining our communities. By the way we live on this planet, we humans are in essence challenging G!d’s authority. Instead we should be challenging our own authority, our human ideas about how to live in relation to the planet. Consider for a moment, how closely do you feel a part of the non-human world? Take a moment and let your imagination take you out of the doors to consider this question. (pause) Despite Jewish tradition being rooted in the Earth in so many ways (remember the readings of our service; think, “In the beginning, G!d created….”), we, like so many of our species, have lost our sense of truly being a part of the created world. We regularly come indoors, where we easily forget all that exists outside, and our total dependence upon and interdependence with the rest of Creation. How do we return? How do we do teshuvah and re-turn toward the Earth? This is a process that must, I believe, be multifaceted and complex, and must include each of us in whatever way works best for us, given our personal gifts and our personal limitations. This process is best done both as individuals, alone, and as a community, together, and leads into the concept of holistic bentshmarking. I will outline for you the eight areas we currently touch upon, and as I do, I invite you to consider: Where in this mosaic of approaches do you fit best? Where could you make your mark? Energy usage – Our addiction to the wonders of what energy can do for us is deep, but modern technologies are making it easier to radically reduce our institutions’ carbon footprint – the amount of energy used and the resulting amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, while maintaining our creature comforts. We can do this, and it helps to keep in mind Rabbi Zutra’s Talmudic saying that one who covers an oil lamp or infringes the prohibition of wasteful destruction. (BT Shabbat 67b) We are all wasting so very much. Finances – What does money have to do with whether or not we can see the stars at night and whether or not there is enough oxygen in the air to keep our bodies healthy? Finding the connections requires thinking about where our assets are invested. Our communities’’ funds (even just our own bank accounts) aren’t just sitting somewhere, they are actively supporting something. The question for you is, are they expressing your values of caring for the planet and its inhabitants?  Are your funds invested in the past – the fossil fuel industry – or the future, the green energy revolution and community projects of resiliency? Other areas to consider are the food and waste stream and the transportation systems of the community. What is the carbon footprint of your community’s food consumption and waste production? How close to being a zero waste production institution are you? How do people get to and from your synagogue? How widespread is carpooling? What encouragement is given to using public transportation, walking, and bicycling? Eating lower on the food chain uses less energy, and getting to zero waste production also lowers your human interference with the rest of Creation. And clearly, the less we drive and the more we slow down and walk or bicycle or join with others to get somewhere, the more we re-turn toward the Earth and are sensitive to its needs. Do you like to garden? We can also do our best to walk in G!d’s footsteps and co-create with G!d as we consider how we treat the land for which we are responsible. Your community can ask itself, how viable and diverse is the ecosystem surrounding our building? To what extent does our property provide a carbon sink to offset our carbon usage? To what extent does it contribute to our sustainability by producing oxygen, enriching the soil, and even providing food? Our responsibilities don’t end at the edge of the synagogue property. Do we as a community advocate for our planet with our elected officials? Do we vote with the future of the planet in mind? Do we support local initiatives to preserve land, encourage conservation and renewable energy, and fight climate change? There are many ways to come together, even in today’s divided political climate. By searching out and finding the ways that you agree, you bring peace into the community and the world. Our tradition demands no less of us, as the Talmud says: “All who can protest against [something wrong that] one of their family [is doing] and does not protest, is held accountable for their family.[All who can protest against something wrong that] a citizen of their city [is doing and does not protest], is held accountable for all citizens of the city.[All who can protest against something wrong that is being done] in the whole world, is accountable together with all citizens of the world.” (BT Shabbat 54b) We are all accountable for the fact that we cannot see the stars on Rosh Chodesh when we stand on a city street corner. There are many actions that we can take. But underlying these actions must be a solid foundation, based on increasing our knowledge and understanding and maintaining and growing our spiritual strength and well-being. And so you can ask yourself: How knowledgeable is our community as a whole about the climate crisis? How often are our place in the natural world and our resulting responsibility discussed within our community? What connections can community members make between Jewish teachings and climate change? Our spiritual well-being depends upon us being in right relationship with G!d, but also with G!d’s creation – with the planet, with the air, the water, the land, with all the creatures that call this amazing Earth home, and with each other. It is easy to be in denial about climate change – we all are to one extent or another, because the issue is so incredibly complex and hugely overwhelming. It is also easy, when we start thinking seriously about the problem, to fall into depression and eco-despair. So, let us remember that “All of Israel are responsible for each other,” (BT Shevuot 39a); let us remember to take care of each other, that we may work together as a community to change how we relate to the Earth, for the reality is that this is not work that can be done alone. But let us also remember that we humans are not alone, and that, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav teaches us, “Know that when a person prays in a field, all of the plants together come into the prayer, and they help the person and give the person strength within the prayer.” We are not alone. The plants are with us. And G!d is with us. And we are with each other. We do not know what the future brings, but as Rabbi Simeon bar Yohai taught about a group of passengers on a ship, one of whom took a borer and began boring beneath his own seat. The travelers said: "What are you doing?" He replied, "What does it matter to you - am I not boring under my own seat?" You know how they responded, of course, just as each of us would respond: [It matters to us] because the water will come up and flood the ship for all of us." (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 4:6) When the stars cannot be seen in the city, the ship is flooding for all of us. When the amount of oxygen in the air in the city is half what it is in the middle of the White Mountains, and one quarter of what it was millennia ago, the ship is flooding for all of us. When one out of seven people on the planet does not have access to clean water, the ship is flooding for all of us. G!d is opening up a hole in the Earth and is about to swallow us all up. But we have the power to change the story. Let us instead gather together and redefine and rebuild our communities. Let us instead, as a community, be the holders of a staff that can sprout almond blossoms. Let us instead, work together so that when we go out to count three stars in the sky at the end of Shabbat, that no matter where we stand, we will be able to find three stars. Let us work together, for the good of G!d’s creation, and for the future of our people and all people. That is the message we receive when Korach and Rosh Chodesh come together. Rabbi Katy Allen is the founder and rabbi of Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope, which holds services outdoors all year long, 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 Spirit, and 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.
Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope
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 by Hattie Nestel The hills were alive with the sound of music at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, but now it's a silent spring. Well, so to speak. The birds and bees and animals are surely silent even as the machines and saws and chains whir and buzz and clank to make way for an unnecessary natural gas pipeline. Despite the fact that: The State Department of Conservation and Recreation bought the Otis State forest ten years ago for $5.2 million and put it into Article 97 conserved land. DCR identified the area as one of the most significant land protections for the state. The acquisition was to protect land that contains some 400-year-old Eastern Hemlock forest, rare plant and animal species, historical sites, rolling meadows, and the stunning 62-acre lower Spectacle Pond. Sandisfield residents, environmental groups, and the Massachusetts Attorney General all fought the pipeline, arguing that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had failed to comply with legal requirements to permit the Connecticut Expansion pipeline being put through the Conservation land of the Otis State Forest by the Tennessee Gas Pipeline company’s new storage loop for the Connecticut Gas Expansion for gas for their Connecticut customers.  Although FERC statutorily consists of five voting commissioners, only two are sitting presently. However, Kinder Morgan was given permission to proceed by FERC in early April, and on Sunday, April 30, the company began cutting trees on the conserved land. The Massachusetts loop of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline will run a 36-inch pipeline almost four miles near Sandisfield and through Otis State Forest. An additional eight miles of 24-inch pipe will go from Agawam to East Granby, Connecticut. To no avail, US Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey, both D-MA, immediately urged FERC to rescind FERC authorization to proceed with preparations to construct the pipeline. US Representative Richard Neal, D-MA, whose district includes Otis State Forest, sent a letter with a similar request, but also received no response from FERC. Otis State Forest was protected with a conservation restriction under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution enacted in 1972. The constitutional provision was intended to be a governmental check to ensure that lands acquired for conservation purposes were not converted to inconsistent uses, otherwise defined as “development.” Lands and easements taken or acquired for such purposes shall not be used for other purposes or otherwise disposed of except by laws enacted by a two thirds vote of each branch of the Massachusetts legislature, according to the law. Despite the provisions of Article 97, the state legislature has never voted to authorize construction of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline through Otis State Forest. A letter from the Narragansett Indian Tribal Office to the FERC accuses FERC of “likely” destruction of “ancient ceremonial stone landscape feature” along the path of the Tennessee Gas pipeline company’s proposed new storage loop through Otis state forest. The Stockbridge–Munsee Band of Mohican Indians were not consulted about the route of the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline, despite concerns of the Indian community. Their nation will be the most “culturally affiliated” by the pipeline, said Bonnie Hartley, the nation’s tribal preservationist. “Kinder Morgan didn’t respect a different cultural viewpoint to work around or over stone features,” Hartley added. Kathryn Eiseman director of Massachusetts Pipeline Awareness Network and president of Pipe Line Awareness Network for the Northeast, Inc., said, “Under federal law, tribal consultations are supposed to be included early on in the process to avoid locking into a route that is problematic to the tribes.” Jane Winn, executive director of Berkshire Environmental Action Team, said a settlement between the state of Massachusetts and Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company allowing the pipeline project to proceed through Otis State Forest “violates completely” Article 97. Especially concerning are destructions of habitats during nesting season of mallards, wood ducks, heron, American bittern, bobcats, moose, and beavers. The need for natural gas was based on 2013 numbers and is now way down. Massachusetts Health Care Providers Against Fracked Gas called for a moratorium on new gas pipeline infrastructure due to its public health risks. Gas drilling and pipelines release toxic, carcinogenic, and radioactive pollutants which adversely affect our health. Although Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini ruled that the 1938 natural gas act trumps Massachusetts Article 97, he did not take into account what is now the knowledge that climate change is exacerbated by cutting trees nor that burning natural gas, including fracked gas, releases methane into the atmosphere. Rema Loeb, left, aged 84, and Hattie, right, aged 78,  were 2 of the 18 activists arrested on Otis State Forest land on May 2, 2017. One way to stop pipelines is by boycotting banks and financial institutions that invest in pipelines. If you use local banks and credit unions, you are probably not supporting pipelines. Check out where your pensions are invested and which banks and investment companies your towns and various organizations use. Historically, boycotts work! Now is the time to get on board so we prevent any more Otis forests here or anywhere from being destroyed. The hills were alive with the sound of music at Otis State Forest in Sandisfield, but now they echo with the sounds of silence. Hattie Nestel is an activist living in Athol, MA.

Divrei Earth

The above are examples of Divrei Earth - spiritual wisdom from Earth and Torah, in the blog written by Rabbi Katy Allen and members and friends of Ma'yan Tikvah. 


Divrei Earth - literally words of Earth, provide reflections on the weekly Torah portion, as well as Earth Etudes for Elul, reflections in preparation for the New Year during the month leading up to Rosh Hashanah, and Counting the Omer, reflections on Earth and Torah from Passover to Shavuot.


CLICK HERE to view the blog, where you can subscribe to receive the posts via email.



Ma'yan Tikvah Makes the Globe!

Thank you to Lisa Wangsness at The Boston Globe for the fantastic article about Ma'yan Tikvah! Check it out here.


Help Protect and Save the Earth - 13 Tips

CLICK HERE to find 13 environmental tips with accompanying texts and commentary by Rabbi Katy Allen.


Watch at Eden Keeper

Webinar : A Transformation from Environamental Grief to Environmental Action


Watch Eden Keeper Webinar, "A Transformation from Environmental Grief to Environmental Action." During this half-hour video, Director Robin Purchia hosts Rabbi Katy and the two discuss grief, the management of feelings of loss, and how to tranform our dark inner places into joy and a spiritual connection to the environment. 


Link to YouTube Webinar


Link to Eden Keeper Website


Some Spiritual Tips

Are you feeling a bit blue? Wondering about meaning? Despairing about the state of the world? Here are a few suggestions to help yourself get re-grounded spiritually.


  • Find a spot outdoors where you can focus on the natural world. Even in the city, you can always look up at the sky. Pay attention to what you see. Let it speak to you. Let the image, sound, or smell enter deep into your being.
  • Draw a picture. It doesn't matter if you "know how to draw" or not. Simply focus on something meaningful to you and record something of what you see, in either an abstract form or something more representative.
  • Think back to a moment in nature from your childhood or youth. Record your memory in words or images.
  • Sit still in a quiet place. Breathe deeply. Image yourself enveloped in love and mercy, beneath the wings of the Shechinah, the Divine Presence.
  • Find a passage from a sacred text, in the broadest sense of the word, Torah or other Jewish texts, your favorite children's book, a poem, or whatever strikes you. Connect it to your experience in nature or your drawing or writing. Think about how the two enrich each other.
  • Call a friend to ask how he or she is doing.

Upcoming Events


Outdoor Services:


Saturday, July 8, 10:00 MA

Pod Meadow Conservation Area, Wayland


Saturday, July 15, 10:00 AM

Nobscot Scout Reservation, Sudbury


Saturday, July 22, 10:00 AM

Round Hill Conservation Area, Sudbury


Saturday, July 29, 10:00 AM

Pine Brook Conservation Area, Wayland



Monday, July 31, 7:00 PM

An Interfaith Experience of Mourning

Open Spirit,


Where to Find Us


Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope

237 Old Connecticut Path
Wayland, MA 01778

Phone: 1 508.358.5996




Blog: www.mayantikvah.

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© Katy Z. Allen 2012