"Eicha" for the Earth: The Text of a Ceremony of Sorrow, Hope, & Action

Tisha B’Av for Temple Earth

The Text of a Ceremony of Sorrow, Hope, & Action

Tisha B'Av (the midsummer day of Jewish mourning for the ancient Temples in Jerusalem, and of hope for a transformed future) can be focused on the endangered Earth as our Temple.

Indeed, this universal aspect of Tisha ‘Av is not a new, “modern” idea. Ancient midrash asked, “When was the first chant of Eicha (the first lamenting word of the Book of Lamentations)? And the answer came, “Ayekka!” – a word that has the same root letters and means “Where are you?” It was God’s own wailing outcry in the parable of Eden, after the humans had refused to restrain themselves in dealing with the abundance of Garden Earth.

And Jewish tradition views the Jerusalem Temple as a microcosm of the macrocosmic Earth. To the Temple we brought nearness-offerings to the Breath of Life of minerals (salt), vegetation ( grain, olives, grapes, wine), animals (bulls, sheep, goats, doves), and human song (psalms). And so the tradition said to fast for 25 hours of the hot midsummer day, the ninth of Av, from the earthy pleasures: food and water, leather and the gentle anointment of olive oil, sex.

And chants of grief for the degradation of such joys.

What could be more fitting than as we live in fires, floods, and famines, choking asthmatically in fumes of burning?  What follows is the text of what such an Earth-centered prayerful mourning/ action/ celebration might look like. Although here at The Shalom Center we have put considerable energy into working this out, it is not carved in stone. We encourage communities to work out their own changes or additions.

This year (2022), the ninth of Av falls on Shabbat, and we do not fast on the joyful day of rest. So the observance of this Tisha B’Av begins after sundown the evening of Saturday, August 6, and end the evening of Sunday, August 7. In order to underline the public danger to Temple Earth posed by some human institutions – especially Fossil Fuel complexes (Big Oil, Coal, and unnatural Gas, the pipelines that transport them, and the banks that invest in them)  some activists may want to reserve some aspects of Tisha B’Av till Monday, a workday for those institutions.

If your community wishes to do this, we suggest choosing in advance a local office of Exxon or of Chase Bank, one of the leading investors in the companies that are burning, scorching, boiling, broiling Earth. After planning the best time for being visible to passers-by, consult with police to arrange a permit for that time and place. Prepare copies of a pared-down script from what follows here, to take about 40 minutes. Explore and prepare to explain to the prayerful crowd how to do an 18-minute die-in at the conclusion of reading “Eicha for Earth.”  Then sing the chants and psalm at the end of the Vigil, and disperse,

Some may wish to do nonviolent civil disobedience at the doorway of or inside the office. Decide in advance whether you wish to include and authorize that at your vigil. If so, arrange a liaison committee to keep in touch with anyone arrested until they are released. In any case, train marshals in how to prevent violence against people or vandalism of property.

Many communities begin Tisha B;Av by lighting candles, How many? Perhaps 70, to bring near the “seventy nations of the world.” Perhaps just 8, the number beyond the fullness of 7 that turned sideways makes the sign of Infinity, to honor the overflowing numbers of all life.

We recommend using this kavanah (focusing-prayer) to precede the kindling of these candles:

Between the Fires:

A Kavanah for Kindling Candles of Commitment


We are the generations

That stand between the fires.

Behind us

The burning crosses lit by hate

To choke our people in the smoke of terror;

Behind us the flame and smoke

That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima.


Not yet behind us,

The burning forests of the Amazon,

Torched for the sake of fast hamburger and fast wealth.

Not yet behind us, the glare of gun fire

exploding in our children.

Not yet behind us –-

the hottest years of human history

That bring upon us

Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.

Before us we among all life-forms
face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

"Here! The day is coming,”

Said the Prophet Malachi,

“That will flame like a furnace,

Says YHWH / Yahhhh --

The Infinite InterBreath of Life --

when all the arrogant, all evil-doers,

root and branch,

will like straw be burnt to ashes

in the fires that they set.

Yet for all who revere

My Interbreathing Name, Yahhhh,

a sun of justice will arise

with healing in the beating of its wings,

its rays, its winds."


“Here! Before the coming

of the great and awesome day

of YHWH/ the Breath of Life,

I will send you the Prophet Elijah

to turn the hearts of elders to the youth

and the hearts of youth to elders,

lest I come and smite all Earth with utter desolation."


Here! we ourselves are coming

Before that great and terrible day

Of smiting Earth —

For we ourselves shall turn the hearts

Of youth and elders to each other.

So that this day of smiting

Does not fall upon us.


We ourselves are coming

To douse that outer all-consuming fire.

We must light again in our own hearts

the inner fire of love and liberation

that burned in the Burning Bush --

The fire that did not destroy the Bush it burned in,

For love is strong as death --

Love’s Fire must never be extinguished--

The fire in the heart of all Creation.


We light these candles to make from inner fire
Not an all-consuming blaze

But the loving light in which we see more clearly
The Rainbow Covenant glowing

in the many-colored faces of all life.

Blessed be You, Interbreathing Spirit of the world, creative energy, who makes us holy by connecting us with eachother and with You, and at this moment connects us by kindling our inner light. (Kindle candles)


There follows –- (1) An English-language Lament for Earth, woven by (now Rabbi) Tamara Cohen Indeed, this understanding of a universal aspect to Tisha B’Av is not new. reading of Eicha. It could be read /chanted on Tisha B'Av.

It could be read as shown here, with the "Hashivenu" passage of hope interwoven with lament, or that passage could be held to the end, as it is in the original Eicha. This lament for the Earth could be treated as one among Kinot (traditionally, poems of sorrow about various disasters that have befallen the Jewish people) that are often added to the liturgy of Tisha B'Av. Some communities may also wish to take note of sorrow and hope for other troubles and travails arising in Jewish or multireligious awareness today.

2. Drawing on the rabbinic tradition that the Messiah was/ is born on Tisha B'Av but has not yet been revealed because the world is not yet ready for the necessary transformation, we include a passage from the Song of Songs that celebrates a loving awareness of the intertwining of all life, a planetary community. This includes a chant from the Song, by Rabbi Shefa Gold.

3. Since in our generation, messianic hope must be encoded into public action, we include several brief demands or proposals for change in public policy. Specific communities, congregations, or groups could change these as their own concerns point the way. These demands or proposals could be encoded into petitions, could be presented to public officials, corporate or union leaders, etc. (You can draw on The Shalom Center's "Seven Principles for Public Policy" by clicking here.)

4. The gathering could end by chanting again -- this time a passage from Isaiah and/or by reading together Psalm 104 or 148 or a contemporary poetic celebration of Earth.


1. Eichah / Lament for the Earth: Tisha B’Av by Rabbi Tamara Cohen

 (Written while Rabbi Cohen was serving as the Barbara Bick Memorial Fellow of The Shalom Center)


Eichah: Alas, she sits in danger.

Earth, home to multitudes,

like a beloved, deep in distress. 

 Blue ocean, source of life --
Endangered and imprisoned. 

 Bitterly she weeps in the night
Her shorelines wet with tears.
Of all her friends, none to comfort her;
All her allies have betrayed her.

 Checkerspot butterflies
flee their homes;
Polar bears
can find no rest.
Because our greed has heated Earth.

 Whole communities destroyed
To pursue off-shore oil.
Lives and dreams have been narrowed. 

 Coastlines mourn for families,
lost homes and livelihoods.
Barrier islands lament, desolate.

 Wetlands sigh without their song birds.
Estuaries grieve; the sea is embittered. 

 Earth’s children – now her enemies;
Despite destruction, we sleep at ease.
The Breath of Life grieves
our abundant transgressions.
Infants of every species,
captive to our conceit. 

 Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.

 Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path--
Help us, Help us, ,
Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

 Gone from Appalachia -
her mountaintop glory;
mined by Massey Energy
without compassion.
Children sick from air and water,
stumble weak before King Coal.

 All that was precious in the days of our youth,
Earth recalls in woe and sorrow.

 Her creatures die with none to help them,
at the hands of Exxon, now BP.
World leaders shrug
and look on helpless. 

We have sinned greatly,
and so are ailing.
Our people who respected life,
have come to defile it.
We have stripped Earth naked,
she shrinks back. 

 Oily waves slap the sand like a soiled hem;
we were heedless of the cost of our appetite.
We have sunk appallingly, there is no comfort.
See, Breath of Life, this misery; how our avarice jeers!

 Greed has laid hands on all dear to us.
Your sanctuary plundered by multinationals
full of contempt for Your holy community. 

 The Earth’s poor cry out as they search for nourishment;
indigenous communities trade resources for food,
to keep themselves alive. 

 Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.
Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path--
Help us, Help us, ,
Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

 Look, O Breath of Life, and behold,
what gluttons we have become.
Will we heed this warning, we who live as if unscathed –
Will we truly look and know this agony as ours own?

 We are afflicted by angry consequence,
The elements push back against their abuse.

 Forest fires reach down and spread like fury,
Sprawl and refuse trap our spirits.
Great storms hurl lives backwards, upside down
survivors are left forlorn, in constant misery. 

 For these things do we weep
Our eyes flow with tears.

How far from us is any comfort,
the possibility of change that might revive our Earth?
The children are forlorn, for their future is bleak
unless we act with speed and wisdom.


Alas, humanity in our reckless living

have brought shame over all.

Can we remember the holiness of your creation,
Your footstool, green and fertile? 

 We have razed woodlands to the ground,
profaned the Kingdom of Earth and all its creatures.
In arrogance we slashed the mighty Redwoods,
will we cease hiding our power from ourselves and befriend our Earth? 

 How can we wrestle with God and bring justice to others
If we don’t quench the flaming fires,
and turn back from endless consumption? 

 Egrets and brown pelicans languish in salt marshes
From the depths, corals cry out.
“Where are the fish? Where are the clean waters?”

Languishing battle-wounded in the wetlands,
life runs out in ocean’s bosom.

 Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.
Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path--
Help us, Help us, ,
Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

Lead us, lead us, on a new path to Eden,
Teach us self-restraint in the very midst of abundance.
To "Ayeka/Where are you?"
We will answer Hineni.
We are here to honor boundaries, not to devour all. 

Open, open – Our eyes to see in each creature,
Tree, Ocean , Mountain --
the Presence of the One. 

 2. RECITE TOGETHER (Song of Songs 2:11-13, trans by Marcia Falk) Come with me, my love, come away, For the long chill months are past, The rains have fed the earth and left it bright with blossoms. Birds wing in the low sky, dove and songbird singing in the open air above. Earth nourishing tree and vine, green fig and tender grape, green and tender fragrance. Come with me my love, come away! CHANT (by Rabbi Shefa Gold from Song of Songs) : Kamti ani, liftoakh l'dodi; Kamti ani, liftoakh l'dodi; I will open to you my beloved; Will you open, open to me?

3. ACTION / PROCLAMATION (This part of the observance may include vigils, visits to official or business offices, letter-writing, etc): We call on the peoples and the governments of the United States and of the world:

a. To forbid, now and forever, the drilling of new oil wells into the depths of Mother Ocean, the destruction of mountains for the sake of the coal within them, and the leveling of great forests that breathe their majesty throughout our planet.

b. To end all subsidies to producers of fossil fuels, and to provide as first priority throughout the world the support of the public in money and attention for conservation of energy and swift emplacement of responsible and sustainable energy sources; sun, wind, and earth-based geothermal.

c. To honor and affirm the Breath of Life by swiftly and strongly capping the emission of carbon dioxide, methane, and other heat-trapping gases.

d. To share the wealth of the world so that nations and regions, domestic and world-wide, that are trapped in poverty gain help from the rich in lessening the devastation of climate crisis already under way and in achieving economic development through a non-fossil-fuel path.

4. CELEBRATION: End by reciting together Psalm 104 or 148 or a more recent poem of celebration of the Earth; by circle-dancing; and by chanting again from the Song of Songs:

[PSALM 148, trans by Rabbi Arthur Waskow to the melody of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore.” The use of this melody for a previous translation of Psalm 148 was pioneered by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, z'tz'l]

Praise God, sun and moon, Hallelu-Yah.

Praise Yah, you stars of light, Hallelu-Yah.

Praise God, you high heavens, Hallelu-Yah.

All that flows in all the world, Hallelu-Yah.


Let them all praise God's Name, Hallelu-Yah.

For God spoke and they appeared, Hallelu-Yah.

With God they take their stand, Hallelu-Yah.

God's rhythm none must break, Hallelu-Yah.

Praise Yah from the Earth, Hallelu-Yah.

You sea-monsters and all deeps, Hallelu-Yah.

Fire, hail, snow, and steam, Hallelu-Yah.

Stormy wind to breathe God's word, Hallelu-Yah.

Mountains high and tiny hills, Hallelu-Yah.

Trees of fruit and evergreens, Hallelu-Yah.

Wild beasts and quiet flocks, Hallelu-Yah.

Creeping bugs and winged birds, Hallelu-Yah.

Men and women, young and old, Hallelu-Yah!

Leaders high; officials low, Hallelu-Yah.

Whole societies and peoples, Hallelu-Yah.

 Kol ha’neshama t’hallel Yahh, Hallelu=Yah!

 Every breath will praise Your Name, Hallelu-Yahhh.


 CHANT: Verse from Isaiah 51:3, from one of the Haftarot of Consolation after Tisha B'Av (Chant melody for Hebrew by Rabbi Shefa Gold; same melody for English) Vayasem midbarah k'eden (3x), v'arvatah k'gan Yahh; Turn the barren place to Eden (3x); And the desert to a garden breathing Life.



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