Tisha B"Av: Grief for our Wounded Temple Earth

Dear friends,  Chodesh tov!  --  May the renewing of the moon for the moonth of Tammuz bring a renewing of the energy for a Green New Deal in the Biden presidency. As the moon darkens and brightens, so (it seems) do the prospects for a crossing of the Red Sea into a world of polentiful and joyful manna,  attuned to Earth as mother, friend, a great Unity of which we are one fruitful species, not the conqueror/ exploiter/ destroyer.

Will the greening of America be part of the "infrastructure" bill that is struggling to be born?  That is in great part up to us --  the American people -- and to whether we insist. 

As we enter Tammuz,  we have begun thinking about Tisha B’Av (July 17-18). Traditionally, it is a time of grief remembering the destruction by invading imperial armies of the Hily Temples in Jerusalam. I suggest that we intertwine the traditional theme of grief for the ancient Temples with the theme of grief for the endangered, wounded Earth.  For today all Earth is the sacred Temple of all the interbreathing life that makes up this planet -- and it is in great danger of desolation by Corporate Carbon Empires -- the Pharaohs, the Caesars of our day.

 There is ancient warrant for the idea that the kernel of a Jewish Tisha B'Av contains deep sacred meaning that goes beyond the Jewish people. It is embodied deep into the experience of the Temple as a focus of universal holiness.

The Book of Lamentations that bewails the destruction in a limping, painful trope or melody, is called in Hebrew "Eicha"  -- "How?!" as in a howl of "Alas."  The ancient rabbis asked, "When was the first Eicha?" And they answered it was in the Garden of Eden when God called out "Ayyeka--  Where Are You?" to the human race  as we despoiled Earth's abundance,  foreshadowing the first and universal Exile For "Eicha" and "Ayyeka"  share the same Hebrew consonants, with only the signs of breathing vowels distinguishing the two.

And in Rabbinic and Kabbalistic thought,  the ancient Temples were microcosms of the created universe, where light (by burning olive oil in the Menorah), minerals (salt), vegetation (fruit, spices, pancakes, grain), animals (sheep, goats, bulls, doves) and the joyful sound of human song (by the Levites) were all brought near to YHWH, the Interbreath of Life.  

So there is warrant for intertwining the traditional concerns of Tisha B’Av with the planetary concern of our own generation..

 One possible resource for synagogues, havurot, and other sacred congregations is an entire  Tisha B’Av service centered on the English-language Eicha-trope-chantable “Eicha for the Earth” composed by Rabbi Tamara Cohen. It was chanted first at the US Capitol during the summer of 2010, the summer of the BP oil eruption in the Gulf of Mexico, and since then at such other venues as the National Havurah Institute. You can see it and other elements of an Earth-oriented Tisha B’Av service at https://theshalomcenter.org/node/1733

 Part of this resource is a remarkable essay by Rabbi Cohen on a number of different ways in which the suggested texts could be used in many different contexts for Tisha B’Av. 

To all this could be added a simple and important sacred act: writing a letter or paying a visit to your Senators or Congressperson to urge the inclusion in the Jobs and Infrastructure Act of massive grants for solarizing homes, building electric railway systems and  frequent service stations for electric autos,  requiring retrofitting for all public buildings in renewable energy, organizing coastal wind-turbine arrays, financing restorative agriculture and urban organic garden/ farms, etc.   This could begin now; The Shalom Center will get back to you with more details.

As we approach Tisha B'Av and other sacred says, keep this in mind:  As our parents age, and sometimes grow worn and weary, many of us their children lend a healing hand. Most of our holydays are the offspring of a long love affair between Earth and the Jewish people -- and other spiritual communities. Now that both Earth and human Earthlings -- adamah and adam, in Hebrew -- are in serious wounded trouble, let us reawaken and reframe their offspring, our festivals and fast days, to rejuvenate our endangered parents, 

 Please share this letter with your friends, colleagues, and congregants. And if you have been forwarded this Shalom Report, please feel welcome to subscribe to a weekly letter -- free!  -- by clicking here:  https://theshalomcenter.org/civicrm/profile/create?gid=28&reset=1 


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