Spread over ALL of us the sukkah of Shalom!
(Photo of Rabbis Berman and Waskow at "Occupy Sukkot" near Philadelphia City Hall in 2011)
“ALL of us” means all the interbreathing life-forms of Planet Earth. The sukkah -- that leafy, leaky hut, open to Earth -- comes to us on the full moon of the lunar “moonth” of Tishri, two weeks after Rosh Hashanah (evening of Monday, September 20 to the evening of September 27).
It is the earthiest of all the Jewish festivals. That means a lot – since all the festivals are the offspring of a love affair between Earth and the subculture of Humanity called the Jewish People.
This year Sukkot comes as part of the Sabbatical Year when we are called to release all Earth from overwork and all human beings from economic oppression. In Hebrew the year is called Shmita “Release”) and Shabbat Shabbaton (“Sabbath to the exponential power of Sabbath”).
The Shalom Center has embarked on a journey we call “Share Sukkot: Green and Grow the Vote.” Though synagogues, churches, mosques and religious organizations of all kinds Including us) are prevented from endorsing or opposing specific electoral candidates or political parties, we are encourages to discuss and educate on major issues and to help eligible Americans register to vote, and then help them actually vote. To “Green and Grow the Vote” unites those two visions of what a tax-exempt organ of the body politick should do.
In the Washington DC area, an ad hoc multireligious group initiated by The Shalom Center and the Am Kolel Congregation with co-sponsors of Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light and Jews for Clean Energy are with Rabbi David Shneyer, Mirele Greenberg, and others organizing a Sukkot Climate Caravan aimed at the US Senate in the midst of Sukkot on September 23, with a portable sukkah and people waving the traditional Four Species of palm, myrtle, willow, and lemony etrog in the seven directions of the world.
We urge other communities to take on similar actions. We recommend either aiming at local district offices of US Senators, or a local branch of Chase Bank, the #1 investor in businesses that are burning, boiling, and flooding Earth, or at your local Jewish Federation to urge them to lend or grant money to solarize Jewish buildings. .
What are the ancient values embodied in Sukkot that speak to our generation?
- It is the fall harvest festival. To us that means pursuing a regenerative agriculture that can feed people while replenishing Earth, not wounding it.
- When the ancient Temple stood, there were offerings of seventy rams. The rabbis discerned that this meant we were invoking and celebrating a prosperous harvest for all the “70 nations” of the wo
- It is no accident that Sukkot in every other year in America comes just before an election. For when American election dates were timed to follow the harvest, so that millions of farmers could turn their attention to voting. It is appropriate to use the festival now to turn the attention of the disenfranchised to the election.
- The sukkah was the simplest home that the earliest human beings could make to live in. According to Torah, it became the simplest home for the band of runaway slaves who fled Mitzrayyim – the Tight aNarrow Land of Egypt. So it points toward housing the poor, the homeless, and refugees.
- Each evening, a traditional prayer seeks peace in the shelter of a sukkah. Why not in a fortress, a castle, a tower? Because recognizing the fragility, the vulnerability, of each other is a surer way to shalom than rigidity and walls.
- Further exploration of all these can be found at--
What do these values mean in terms of the issues today? Our suggestions:
1. Support for the $3.5 Trillion advanced “social infrastructure” bill, including provisions of the 30 Million Solar Homes Act and the Environmental Justice for All Act, with a special concern for eco/ social justice through two new Congressional bills: solar co-ops in rural, small-town, and low-income urban neighborhoods. Encouraging such co-ops can make them not only ways to save money as in “get it for you wholesale” but also to protect marginalized neighborhoods from asthma and cancer epidemics and insist on climate justice; to sponsor CSA urban and rural farms; to become sparks of resilience if a neighborhood is struck with a climate emergency like floods or fire; and to work for change in public and corporate policy, to heal the planet. To grow an “Earth of Neighborhoods.”
Websites to consult: https://www.30millionsolarhomes.org and https://www.cbf.org/news-media/newsroom/2021/federal/environmental-justice-for-all-act-is-a-crucial-step-to-empowering-vulnerable-communities.html
2. “Move Our Money, Protect Our Planet” --- the MOM-POP demand at all levels of spending and investing. All banks should move their investment money out of fossil-0fuel businesses, into renewable energy businesses; the US should move billions of subsidies (“our” tax money) out of fossil-fuel company into renewable energy; synagogues and Jewish Federation should shift their money the same way; Federations should offer loans or grants to solarize and conserve energy to all Jewish institutions that own buildings in their communities; synagogues should switch where their checking, saving, and credit-card accounts are held to community banks and credit unions; individuals should do the same thing.
3. For the “Grow the Vote” part of this effort, support for the “For the People Act,” the John Lewis Act to restore and improve the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for which John Lewis as a young nonviolent demonstrator suffered a skull broken by a violent policeman, the bill to make the District of Columbia into a new state, “Douglass Commonwealth,” and abolition or basic reform of the filibuster so that the right to vote can be protected.
Please write us what you decide to do in your own community. May the Breath of Life, the Wind of change, the ruach ha’olam, bring you new vigor and new wisdom to the healing of our Earth and human earthlings -- Arthur