Passover, Holy Week, & Climate: Challenge & Change

Challenging the “Plagues” brought on by the Pharaohs & Caesars of today
And Moving on to the “Promised Land/ Earth”

Drawing on an initiative from The Shalom Center,  Interfaith Moral Action on Climate  (IMAC)  has undertaken an effort to encourage grass-roots interfaith groups to take climate action during the week of Passover/ Holy Week all across the country  –- perhaps on Wednesday, March 27 of that week –-  or possibly during the week before. 

On The Shalom Center’s  Website is  “Palms & Passover: Interfaith Healing Seder for the Earth.” The Seder integrates a Palm Procession drawn from Christian tradition for Palm Sunday with a Seder drawn from Jewish tradition for the first two nights of Passover.  

The plan for this action that we have developed is rooted in hope, not fear. It recognizes danger –- the Ten Plagues –-  but points to many levels of hopeful action  -– the Ten Healings.

The text of “Palms & Passover” is at –

We invite you to draw on that “template” for an action, modifying it as best meets the needs and outlook of your community.

For instance, our "template" suggests a public action, the Palm Procession,  and a communal Healing Seder. AND -- people might instead choose to have one of their home Seders focus on climate and address these issues. In oncoming Shalom Reports, we will be sending brief summaries of climate information to use in Healing Seders.

We believe this is a promising approach to grass-roots multi-religious follow-up to the amazing “Forward on Climate” Rally last week. 

The religious roots of Passover and the Christian Holy Week that is so closely associated with it are deeply connected with challenging the top-down, arrogant rulers who –- especially in  the Exodus story –- bring on ecological disasters that we call the Ten Plagues.

What is religiously authentic is also politically powerful. Engaging the grass roots of American religious communities would be extraordinarily important in building the political base for climate action.

The model of Passover/ Holy Week action that we have created opens the possibility of mobilizing grass-roots religious communities around actions ranging from energy conservation to demands for institutional divestment from Big Carbon, and reinvestment in renewable energy companies.


Some excerpts from the “template” follow:






The people gather at a central point, perhaps a synagogue or  church. Each takes a frond of the palm tree, and in pairs they bless each other … 


The people move into the streets. Chanting and singing as they go, carrying a portable large-sized globe of Planet Earth, waving the Palm branches, they walk toward a Pyramid of Power of our own day: perhaps an office of Exxon or BP, or a coal-fired power station, or a bank that invests in a coal company that is destroying the mountains of West Virginia,  or a religious or academic or governmental institution which they could call on to end its investments in Big Carbon and invest in renewable energy companies instead.

And as they walk they sing:


We’ve got the sun and the rain in our hands,

We’ve got the wind and the clouds in our hands,

We’ve got the whole world in our hands.

We’ve got the whole world in our hands!

We’ve got the rivers and the mountains in our hands,

We’ve got the lakes and the oceans in our hands

We’ve got you and we’ve got me in our hands,

We’ve got the whole world in our hands.


As they arrive at the point they have chosen, they share in this reading, each person reading a passage and then passing it on to another:

Rabbi Jesus and his companions called upon their followers to “Occupy Jerusalem, ” “Challenge the money-changers,” “Lift high the Green faces of God, the Palms of Possibility.”

“Gather,” they said, “on the eve of Passover to recall the fall of Pharaoh. For in every generation there is a Pharaoh who arises to enslave us and destroy us. In every generation we must all see ourselves: It is we who must go forth from slavery to freedom, not our forebears only.” [Quotation from the Passover Haggadah]

Defenders of the status quo told Rabbi Jesus to tell his followers to shut up. 

And the Gospel  (Luke 19:40) says: “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep silent, the very stones will cry out.”  

In our own generation, the stones are crying out.

The frozen stones we call glaciers are groaning as they melt. 

The rivers cry out by flooding one-fifth of Pakistan and the entire City of New Orleans, by washing out the sturdy bridges of Vermont and flooding the subways of Manhattan.

The rains cry out in silence as they fail to fall, bringing unheard-of droughts to central Africa, Australia, Russia, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Iowa.

Their silence calls on us to speak, to act. These Palm Branches speak of life and hope. This great round globe is pregant with possibility and hope.

After singing and a few short talks / conversation about the reason they are there, they return to the original gathering-place for an –


We take into ourselves the foods & meanings of the Seder.


 PART I. Celebration of God’s Earth: symbols: the green parsley, the charoset that embodies the Song of Songs.

Part II  – Lament for the Wounded Earth: symbols, the Bitter Herb and the Blood-red Beet; recitation of Ten Plagues of our world (e..g. Superstorm Sandy, corn-belt drought, Australian fires, etc.)

Part III: Covenant of Action: symbol,  matzah: the bread of affliction becomes the bread of liberation. Ten Healings we can undertake  (e.g divestment /reinvestment campaign, support for mass transit, etc.)

Again, the FULL TEXT is here:

The work we have been doing with IMAC has already stirred wide interest in the religious and environmental communities. It is already drawing on The Shalom Center ‘s resources – literally, our money – and we welcome your help through donations to support this work. Please click on the Donate banner to your left.

With blessings of hope hrough action and celebration – Arthur




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