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

Spiritual Wisdom from Earth and Torah

Divrei Earth

The views and opinions expressed in the d'vrei Earth represent those of the author.

18.06.2021
Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope
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This speech was given by Rabbi Katy Z. Allen on June 17, 2021, upon being named Alumna of the Year by the Association of Rabbis and Cantors, the professional association of the Academy for Jewish Religion.

Erev tov - good evening.

You know how the verse begins: 

G!d spoke to Moses saying, Speak to the Israelites and say to them. 

This particular verse continues: “You shall put solar panels on your homes, and live and advocate for a sustainable lifestyle for all, for I, your G!d am holy.”

You don't recognize that verse? Really?

Actually, neither do I. 

And yet, I do. 

I do, because I see such messages in nearly every verse.

I see them as the subtext of: In the beginning G!d created the heavens and the Earth” and of, “Take off your shoes for you are standing on holy ground.”

I see them in the injunctions to care for the poor, welcome the stranger, pay attention to what we eat, and pursue justice.

Why do I see them?

Because everything is connected. Because everything and everyone is sacred. Everything. The air we breathe out enters the tree beside us and we breathe in the oxygen it produces. The Holy One of Blessing touches every single cell and fiber of our being and every single aspect of life and non-life, and all that is or was or ever will be. Connections are everywhere.

So when you next open the Torah, I beseech you to see and hear that G!d is saying, “Speak to the Israelites - to everyone, and tell them to understand the impact of fossil fuel consumption on vulnerable communities. 

“Tell them that as long as making the air unbreathable is acceptable, as long as spewing toxic chemicals into the water is not abhorred by all, as long as living comfortably without recognizing the consequences is our default way of being, as long any lives and any part of Creation are considered by anyone to be disposable, the Messiah will not arrive, there will be no peace among us, and everything and everyone we hold dear is in danger.

“Tell them to act while it still matters.”

I am grateful to the Association of Rabbis and Cantors for the honor of being chosen as alumna of the year, and for the recognition this honor gives to the Jewish Climate Action Network. I will be even more grateful if you will go home and speak from the deepest places of your hearts to your families, your communities, and your G!d, and together make a decision to act in new and impactful ways to preserve this precious planet and all of its inhabitants.

Todah rabbah. Thank you so very, very much.

07.04.2021
Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope
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by Andy Oram

Climate disaster is the crisis of our era, challenging us technically, politically, and economically--as well as a crisis of social justice and a refugee crisis. But less often noted is that climate disaster is a spiritual crisis. It forces us to ask what our life's purpose is, how to stay emotionally centered in the face of destruction, and how to make the thousands of years of our religious traditions relevant in a situation never envisioned by those who fashioned these traditions.

The Third Jewish Climate Action Conference: Everything Is Connected taking place online April 25, 12:00-8:00 PM EDT, offers a holistic and comprehensive view of the work that the climate demands of us today--as much as one can get in just eight hours. This free event covers advocacy (with special events by and for young people), soil and agriculture, decarbonizing, and resilience and weaves together youth, environmental justice, and anti-racism while focusing on action steps. Speakers come from leading Jewish organizations in addition to a wide range of environmental and groups and experts.

Everyone's attention has understandably been consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic this past yer. But the pandemic offers us so many spiritual and ethical lessons that it might well be seen as a divine rebuke: the lesson that invisible trends can erupt into life-threatening threats amazingly fast, that all of us are equally important and must be protected regardless of social and economic status, that prompt and radical responses are possible if we have the will to act, and more.

People often ask what they can do, as individuals or members of modest-sized organizations such as synagogues, to make a difference. Effective action to save the climate, and to create a socially just environment, does require large-scale, global work. But individual efforts make a difference. By treating our land, our food, and our buildings as sacred contributions to a better world and raising up environmental justice, we free ourselves somewhat from our dependence on activities that put carbon into the atmosphere. We also strengthen our ability to demand progress from institutions and other people.

At the Third Jewish Climate Action Conference, you'll connect with fellow activists in an event designed to be as educational as it is spiritually uplifting. Through dozens of workshops, you'll learn how you can improve our use of the soil, whether in your own garden or in agribusiness. Synagogue members can start to set achievable goals and organize within their congregations for greener buildings and grounds. Wind power, sustainable investment, local activism--all these topics are explored. Join climate activists from across the country on Sunday April 25, as well as the pre-conference workshops!

22.09.2020
Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope
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by Maggid David Arfa 

From Campo dei Fiori by Czeslaw Milosz, 1943

I thought of the Campo dei Fiori // in Warsaw by the sky-carousel // one clear spring evening // to the strains of a carnival tune. // The bright melody drowned // the salvos from the ghetto wall, // and couples were flying // high in the cloudless sky.

At times wind from the burning // would drift dark kites along // and riders on the carousel // caught petals in midair. // That same hot wind // blew open the skirts of the girls // and the crowds were laughing // on that beautiful Warsaw Sunday. *

I arrived nearly 10 years ago to perform at Poland’s International Storytelling Festival. On our drive to Warsaw, we passed a green road sign with white letters OSWIECIM. My breath stopped and my hair stood on edge. Oswiecim is the Polish word for Auschwitz. Just the actual place sign carried horrible power. 

Later that night, I thought, is this what Native Americans feel in my home region of Amherst and Turners Falls? After all, Lord Jeffrey Amherst ordered mass murder through the perverse ‘gift’ of small pox infected blankets. Captain William Turner led a massacre of native women, children and elders. For the first time I shuddered as I imagined passing this Polish road sign as part of my daily routine, or living in a town named ‘Hitler’. Upon reflection I see how this experience added urgency to my allyship and also distanced me from my inner bystander. 

My guide wanted to take me to Warsaw sightseeing. My grief, horror and caution already activated, I told him, “I can not enter the city casually. Warsaw is the cemetery of my ancestors and I need to visit slowly, with intention”. We went instead to the new shopping district. 

We passed an art gallery where a giant painting was displayed in the window- a painting of three Jewish men wearing black suits with white shirts draped with tallitot. They had small bead eyes, grotesquely large noses, and were gleefully ogling over a table overflowing with gold pieces, jewels, rings and necklaces. My guide just laughed and said “people buy those pictures because they want good luck in business”. 

Further down the road, I noticed little figurines of men in black and white striped concentration camp uniforms mixed in with dancing klezmerim, figurines with little violins and clarinets. Then, a mourning dove dropped dead from the sky and missed me by less than an inch. I jumped back, eyes wide, heart racing and looked up and saw 4-5 terraces above and not a person in sight. I couldn’t help but wonder if my Yarmulke was the target. 

Later in the week, after the storytelling, I visited the memorial for the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. I could not find it from the map. A police officer led me through an apartment complex iron gate into an enclosed courtyard where the memorial lives. There were candles on a stone shelf in the wall; I lit a candle, prayed, remembered and grieved. When I was ready to leave I discovered the gate I entered was locked. I searched for over 15 minutes and could not find my way out. I had to force myself to breathe as I battled panic, desperation and fear. Finally, someone appeared with groceries. Again, with laughter, they showed me the electric switch which allowed me to exit. 

That night at the hostel, other Jews found me and we shared stories; found words for our emotional days immersed in painful history. One story was eerily similar to mine: she was at a concentration camp, walked through construction, entered a room with crematoria and the door stuck shut behind her. She had to kick and push with all of her might to be released. 

We wondered how the other tourists could innocently ignore such violence crying out all around. Someone shared the poem “Campo dei Fiori” by Czeslow Milosz, written in 1943, and we despaired that people could be so morally disengaged that they could actually ride the tall ferris wheel for fun while ‘salvos’ (rapid gun-fire) occurred down in the Ghetto below. 

Once home and back to my routines, I read the book Amazing Grace which took me to the poorest county in America, the South Bronx. As I read, the Shofar’s blare grew louder inside my heart and became deafening, I threw the book down! I screamed and howled as my complicitness was unveiled. Author/educator Jonathan Kozol introduced me to the kids, their families and the school life of that place. Their schools have too few textbooks and desks; broken heaters, leaky roofs, overflowing bathrooms. The kids can't play outside after school because gang members are in the park and drugs are being abused. Their homes are homes of poverty, often without enough food or any books, games or toys- just a TV. 

I was grief stricken, ashamed. I immediately saw myself like the bystanders who ignored the Shoah. My suburban highschool was less than 10 miles away from downtown Detroit where similar places exist. Our abundance of not only books and desks, but also a swimming pool, a weight room, and a state-of-the-art science lab made me complicit, like one who is sleepwalking, riding the ferris wheel next to the ghetto! 

For so long, my suburban naivete (aka white racialized identity as taught by Robin Diangelo) blinded me from connecting what I learned about poverty and structural racism, to my immediate life. In my everyday experience, I wrongly and conveniently protected myself by believing that racism was limited to individual perpetrators who exhibit ugly and mean bigotry. I recognized how my utterly segregated life in suburban Detroit made these harsh disparities disappear. My deep fears of traumatic victimization and primal terror of annihilation, primed by a lifetime of good, solid post-holocaust Jewish education and life, shocked me out of my complacency. But truthfully, the intensity was so painful, I went back to sleep; I moved my attention away, seduced again by the amusement of the ferris wheel. 

What to do? How do I stop sleepwalking and ignore the many amusements that are placed before me?

Lo and behold, Elul wisdom from South Warsaw offers Tikkun, repair for these wrongs we hold tight against ourselves with chains of guilt and shame. Our Rabbi, the Sfat Emet, teaches that in these moments of gazing deeply, we must remember to bring self compassion to ourselves. He teaches that our compassion holds power- the very power that stimulates God’s compassion for us. We are encouraged to reach for compassion for ourselves because we all have our limits, and we all carry an inner spark of holiness,

This compassionate forgiveness does not allow for continued ignoring of wrongs. It frees up action in the present and future; it addresses the paralysis of shame that can overwhelm. Here, when I reach for self compassion, I find hope renewed and new strength for activism. I remember I am part of a multi-generational story and I do not have to be perfect and carry the burden of actually completing all the work of the world. I do not have to walk through the desert, on my knees for miles, all the while chanting repent. 

When I allow self compassion to soothe my past inaction, I'm freed to remember I can always pay it forward and begin again. My compassion for my past mistakes and deeds I’ve left undone allows me to sing out loud and clear, without hypocrisy, ‘Wake up everybody no more sleeping in bed’. May we all find ways to awaken, rise up and be fully ready for what this new year may bring. **

* https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/49751/campo-dei-fiori

** https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZPusIeehQo; Contemporary version of ‘Wake Up Everybody’ to encourage voting. 

Maggid David Arfa is currently a full time health care chaplain with a specialty in trauma informed care.  One aspect of this journey has taken him deep inside the new integrative field of ‘interpersonal neurobiology’ which collects the science reminding us that not only are mind and body one, but as the Kabbalists and Ecologists have taught, we truly are interconnected.    

He has also produced two storytelling CD’s, "The Birth of Love: Tales for the Days of Awe", and the Family Choice award winner, "The Life and Times of Herschel of Ostropol: The Greatest Prankster Ever To Live".  His full-length storytelling performance, "The Jar of Tears: A Memorial for the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto" won the Charles Hildebrandt Holocaust Studies Award in honor of its artistic excellence, depth of vision and technical mastery.  To view other writing and programs, please visit www.maggiddavid.net.

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 Outdoor Services & Other Events

** = Members Only

 

Shabbat Services start at 10:30 AM. 

RSVP requested. 

 

 

Service locations are decided each week depending on weather and walking conditions. To find out this week's location, contact Rabbi Katy.

 

 

Where to Find Us

 

Ma'yan Tikvah - A Wellspring of Hope


237 Old Connecticut Path
Wayland, MA 01778

508.358.5996

rabbi@mayantikvah.org

 

www.mayantikvah.

blogspot.com

Affiliated with the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts

 

 

 

 

 

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© Katy Z. Allen 2012