Trees, "Avatar," and Old King Coal

Been feeling disappointed as the 2d anniversary of the Obama Administration approaches? Don't mourn -- ORGANIZE!

The Shalom Center has a plan to move forward with new vigor – and we need your help. We need your help with grass-roots action and through your tax-deductible donations.Here's the plan:

This winter and spring, we intend to focus attention on the dangers of Big Coal to its own miners, to the Appalachian region where it is destroying mountains, and to the whole planet by pouring CO2 into our atmosphere, scorching our earth through the climate crisis. And worse, buying Senatorial efforts to cripple EPA's obligation to protect clean air.

Old King Coal is a lethal old soul,
A lethal old soul is he:
He called for his pipe (to pour smoke and CO2 into asthmatic lungs and the global atmosphere);
He called for his bowl (to pour mercury into child brains and money into Senatorial campaigns);
He called for his fiddlers three (to fiddle while his miners die and the planet burns).

Our campaign begins by focusing on the months from the Jewish Re-Birth-Day of the Trees (January 19-20) to the multireligious onset of Palm Sunday, Passover, Holy Week, and Earth Day (April 17-26).

It moves during those three months from seeking inward wisdom through loving self-education and community to seeding wisdom outward through firm and loving action, probably including nonviolent civil disobedience. We will share ideas about ending the Kingship of Coal and the crucial affirmative, positive steps of providing sustainable energy, wind and solar.

Our campaign faces the challenge: "Who are Pharaoh, Caesar, and Abu-Jahl in Our Day?" and seeks to begin growing new forms of community to face and replace new forms of corruption and tyranny.

It begins January 19/20 – the second anniversary of President Obama's inauguration. On that day this year comes the Jewish festival of Tu B'Shvat, to celebrate the Rebirthing of Trees -- and according to the mystics, the Rebirth of the ultimate Tree of Life, God's own Self. If out of those two years you have been feeling a Winter of our Disappointment/ Discontent, then remember: ACT to nourish rebirth.

For more information, Shalom Center members and readers can buy from the Jewish Publication Society the unique anthology Trees, Earth, and Torah. It gathers Biblical, Rabbinic, Kabbalistic, Zionist, and Eco-Jewish lore about trees and Tu B"Shvat. It includes several model versions of a Tu B'Shvat ceremonial meal. I co-edited the anthology with Ari Elon and Naomi Mara Hyman.

You can get the book at 20% discount by clicking here:
and of it asks for a code word, entering "shalom" (without quote marks) at check-out.

For more than a dozen essays and rituals for Tu B'Shvat from our Website, click also to our Tu B'Shvat page,here.

Tu B'Shvat comes on the mid-winter full moon, just a few days after the official Birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King.

It reminds us that even, or especially, in the coldest of times, the life-juice rises again. This teaching is not for Jews alone. Indeed, the only point of remembering and celebrating Dr. King – the fallen Prophet of our epoch – is to reassert warmth, love, action in the midst of despairing dark and cold.

Those of all ethical, spiritual, and religious communities might join in the celebratory meal that marks Tu B'Shvat on the evening of January 19 (or if it's easier, on the following Sunday). It is a meal of fruits and nuts, a meal that requires the death of no living being. For a moment, a taste of the Garden of Eden. (Even eating a radish, a carrot, requires us to pluck the root from the soil and kill the plant. Eating fruits and seeds does not.)

To help you plan such a gathering, Trees, Earth, and Torah will help –- especially the several model versions of a Tu B'Shvat Seder. Remember, as a Shalom Center member or reader, you can get the book at 20% discount by clicking here
and entering the code word "shalom" (without quote marks) at check-out.

This day should become for us a moment to reaffirm our covenant with Mother Earth. In the film "Avatar," the blue-skinned Na'vi know their lives and freedom are intertwined with the life of their sacred forest. Together they join to resist the Crushers of corporate-military power that seek to despoil their world.

In the shadows just behind the Na'vi, especially visible in the DVD director's cut of "Avatar," is the memory of a blasted, ruined Earth – its life shattered by greedy Crushers run-amok and now intent on shattering Pandora as they had shattered Earth.

But the forests and animals and people of Pandora rise up as did the "Plagues" in the Bible's Exodus story, Earth rising-up against Pharaoh.

We suggest some ways of celebrating Tu B'Shvat that will open up a path to Passover, Holy Week, and Earth Day:

1. During the days from Sunday January 16 through January 23, before and after Tu B'Shvat, gather a group of friends and congregants to watch the DVD of "Avatar." Discuss it – its shortcomings as well as its wisdom. (We will mail out some questions to explore.) The film is too long to watch at the Tu B'Shvat Seder itself, but lends itself to rich discussion there. Keep in mind that the Crushers are trying to conquer Pandora for the sake of grabbing "unobtainium," an energy source they are ravenous for because they have ruined Earth in gobbling up its coal and oil.

2. On a different evening during the week, if possible with the same people, celebrate a Tu B'Shvat Seder. Explore its meaning. (We will mail out more detailed outlines of the Seder and some questions to explore.)

3. For shorter and more kid-friendly films focusing on deforestation, check on The Lorax (1972), based on the picture book by Dr. Seuss; and Fern Gully (1992), in which a host of fairies, a bat (voiced by Robin Williams), and a young human lumberjack fight to save the rainforest. These might be watched at the Tu B'Shvat Seder itself.

4. When Tu B'Shvat comes, the next Congress will have just recently convened (Jan. 3) . Several Senators at the behest of Old King Coal have already boasted they will be trying to cripple EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act to limit CO2 emissions for the sake of our endangered planet. Set aside 15 minutes during the Tu B'Shvat Seder to ask all the participants to write in their own words a letter to their Senators asking them to protect EPA, for the sake of our health and our planet. Collect the letters to copy them for the writers and send them to the Senators. We will send you more information on this danger.

5. Please send us the Email addresses of those who take part in your Seder and the "Avatar" watch, so we can move forward together to heal the Earth.

We will also shortly mail you more information on the pathway from Tu B'Shvat into the spring and beyond –
Meanwhile, for us to do this educating and organizing we need your help. Please make a tax-deductible donation by clicking to the Donate bar on our Home Page. Please especially consider making a "sustaining member" gift of $18 a month.

Many many thanks! Let us stand together to rescue and heal our Earth from the Crushers in our own society.


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