Brit Keshet v’ Tzit-tzit – A Covenantal Ceremony of the Rainbow & the Sacred Fringes

By Jeremy Parnes
[Parnes is a rabbinical student in the ALEPH smikha program. This liturgy/ commitment is a project as part pf the course on Eco-Judaism taught by Rabbi Arthur Waskow in 2009.]

The following is intended as an annual gathering and ceremony:
1. At Motzei Shabbat of Parshat Noach just before Havdalah and leading to a simple Havdalah service.
2. This to be followed by a workshop with the Kahal to make and dedicate a special rainbow Tzit-tzit to signify each attendees commitment to environmental wholeness and to tend the planet with due care.
3. Concluding with a meal of celebration incorporating only foods that sustain life without taking it.

The Service:

Open with Niggun and song:

Welcome and Psalm 145: Ashrei – explaining that it includes the line, ‘Poteach et Yadecha’ and explaining its significance.

This line of Ashrei was considered so important for us to remember that this psalm was incorporated into our liturgy to be recited 3 times daily in order for us to be mindful that G!D provides for the sustenance of ALL life. If we were to just remember this one psalm this one verse throughout the day how might this impact our way in the world? How might our actions be elevated to bring us closer to the divine and be more mindful of Tikkun?

Recite the Shema and consider its message about our stewardship of the earth

An Amidah meditation:

The meditation should be Yud Heh Vav Heh as the breath of life that all things on the planet and indeed the planet itself is a living breathing organism breathed into with the breath of Yah and that we are simply outgrowths and living parts of the complex organism that is the planet, the world, the universe - That when we harm the planet it is as if we were to cut or harm one of our own limbs - That we are in fact a limb of the earth and we share the breath of Yah with all organisms both animate and seemingly inanimate – And as we breathe become aware of all life and its connection to us and our connection to all life, all matter – the planet and beyond.


Take 2 readings - for example:

Genesis 1:27-29 and 2:7-9 or Leviticus 25:23-24 and 26: 3-4, 6.

Read these texts together and then break the gathering into smaller groups and invite discussion on the 2 texts and the different messages that they evoke:

Allow 10 minutes and then draw the group back with a niggun and then allow 5 minutes for comments and observations.

Prayer for Tikkun Olam

O come let us praise the Light of the world,
And add to the greatness of the Shaper of Life;
Who made every people a spark divine,
and blessed each one in its own special way;
Who gave to us a Torah of Life
And destined us to hallow this world.

Shechinah, we know Your presence here with us
You are the peace and joy of our Shabbat,
But we also know that You dwell in the depths of suffering and sorrow.

We pray now for the hungry, for the homeless,
For the victims of war and catastrophe, for the sick and for the dying.
And we pray for our fragile earth, for all her inhabitants, and for life itself.

We ask your blessing on all those engaged in Tikkun olam
The healing and transformation of our planet.
Open our hearts and stir us to struggle on behalf of your creations.
May each of us, all of us, become Your limbs and hands,
Bringing healing and compassion, justice and peace to your world.

Rabbi Burt Jacobson – Voice of the Years

Mourners Kaddish

Havdalah with an Eco- kavanah for the wine, the b’samim, the candles.

Move now into the workshop process by explaining that we will make tzit-tzit and provide the instruction, material and kavanah sheet written by Reb Zalman.

The materials for the tzit-tzit should be natural and dyed with natural dyes.
(It is also possible to spin the yarn oneself as well if there is someone in your group who knows how. This could be done as a group sometime prior to the event perhaps while on a nature walk.)

Transition with Ivdu et Hashem b’simcha.

The workshop and Covenant:

The strings of the tzit-tzit shall be 7, each a color of the Rainbow and each color representing a specific area of the environment in which each of us will covenant to perform at least one practical environmental practice designed to repair, renew and save our world from harm.

List seven categories and suggest possible kavanot as a guide for the seven areas of commitment to match the seven strings of the rainbow:

1. Study:
Attend workshops on the environment and learn ways in which to be better stewards of the earth.
2. Teach:
Develop programs and help bring environmentalists into our community to share the information necessary to better care for our world. Have films and purchase a library of books to share and from which to learn.
3,4, 5. Reduce - Re-Use - Recycle:
Consciously plan to have less, waste less and use what we do have more completely before discarding and then dispose in an ecologically friendly way.
6. Support:
Environmental organizations.
7. Rest:
Let us commit to renew our understanding and observance of Shabbat as a moment in time to do so much by doing nothing. Let us commit to just be for one day in each week. Let Shabbat be a day of healing of the world and let us share this message with the world.

Have each person or family unit present take a moment to write down the seven actions that they will commit to keep. Have them sign it and ask that they place it prominently in their home.

Proceed now with the making of the tzit-tzit inviting that as they tie their tzit-tzit they weave the specific kavanah into the strands so that when they will look upon them, ‘l’ma’an tizkeru - thus you will be reminded.’

Upon completion of the tzit-tzit recite the following together:

Brit Keshet v’ Tzitzit – A Covenantal Ceremony

Attaching the strings to the bow of the Divine:

“Vayomer Elohim, zot ot habrit asher ani noten beyni uvneychem uveyn kol nefesh chayah asher itchem l’dorot olam.” (B’reishit 9:12)

“Said Yah, the Breath of all life, “this is the sign that I set for the covenant between Me and you, and every living creature with you, for all ages to come.” (Genesis 9:12)

“Vayikach Yah Elohim et hadam vayanichehu b’gan eyden l’avdah u’l’shamrah.” (B’reishit 2:15)

“And Yah took and set the human in the garden to till it and to tend it.” (Genesis 2:15)

And so we here do commit to the covenant of the Divine to tend and to care for – to renew and to repair – and to the best of our ability to save from harm – the world and all that is contained therein – Amen!

We also commit to a renewal of this covenant each year at this time so that we may renew, revise and respond to the changing needs of our planet – Amen!

We further commit to sharing, teaching and energizing others to join this covenant by our example, by words of encouragement and by inviting them as our guests to this and other environmentally conscious events – Amen!

Close with Ivdu, make hamotzi and enjoy a festive meal.


Torah Portions: