The Ritual of Willows, & a Teach-in on Climate Action

The Shalom Report

This Sunday in Mt Airy: the Ritual of Willows,

A Teach-in on Climate Action, &

A celebration of The Breath of Life

On Sunday, October 4 at 1:00 PM. at the Germantown Jewish Centre (Ellet St. at Lincoln Dr. in the West Mt. Airy neighborhood of Philadelphia) ,  there will be a multifaith celebration of the last day of Sukkot and the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, plus a teach-in on how to bring hopeful action into the Climate question-- 
The gathering is co-sponsored by the Germantown Jewish Centre, The Shalom Center, Mishkan Shalom, P’nai Or, Philadelphia Interfaith Power & Light, and other congregations.

We welcome people of every faith to come together on October 4th. 

According to Jewish traditions, on this day we chant, sing, and process in circuits around the sanctuary to pray for the Earth and all who live on it. 

On the same day, many Christians will be celebrating St. Francis, the patron saint of animals and all Creation.  

We will also have seen the impact of Pope Francis's encyclical on the climate crisis and his subsequent visit to Philadelphia.  Gathering all of those strains of religious tradition, this program will serve as a response by religious communities to the  crisis of climate change.  

Together, we will combine prayer, ritual, and learning about what we can do to combat this serious threat to Creation.  We will begin with a welcome and a ritual inspired by Hoshanah Rabah involving seven circuits, one for each day of Creation, accompanied by prayers,  readings, and banners of seven colors , each connected to one of the Seven Days. 

We will then hear brief presentations from speakers who will touch on different forms of action that we can take to combat climate change, interwoven with music and meditation.  We will have the chancee to explore these ideas.

To end, we will perform the ancient ritual of beating willows against the ground, symbolizing our connection to the Earth and our commitment to protecting and caring for it.  We will leave inspired and empowered to enact our religious beliefs and teachings about the earth and to safeguard it for generations yet to come.  We will be outdoors, weather permitting, so please dress accordingly.  We encourage you to join us!

Let us be aware that this year, there are two extraordinary extra truths about Hoshana Rabbah:

St. Francis of Assisi loved the poor;  loved and celebrated all the creatures of Creation; broke through the fear and hatred of the Crusades warring all around him to go to Egypt to meet with the Sultan to try to make peace between Christendom and Islam;   learned from Muslim teachers how to deepen his own prayer; -- and became the inspiration for Pope Francis and his encyclical on poverty, oppressive power, and the climate crisis.

Secondly, the Torah calls on us to Assemble! -- Hak’heyl! — the entire Jewish people during the Sukkot after a Shmita/ Sabbatical Year, to hear the King and the High Priest teach Torah about protecting the Earth, protecting the poor, and restraining the powerful lest they become tyrannical. This very year, the coming Sukkot festival is exactly the one for which the Torah calls Hak’heyl!

In our generation, Pope Francis, the High Priest of a billion human beings, has in an extraordinary way used modern media to Assemble, Hak’heyl, all the peoples of the Earth to hear the Torah of empowering the poor, limiting the power and greed of huge corporations,  and healing the planet.

So for Hoshana Rabbah, in the spirit of Jewish tradition that on Sukkot we pray for the well-being of all the “70 nations” of the world, let us invite all our neighbors to learn from St. Francis, from the Pope’s Laudato Si, from the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, and from the Islamic Declaration on Climate Change. (Those three are on The Shalom Center’s Home Page at <>)

During the last seven years, many of us have brought the Sabbatical/ Shmita Year to new levels of awareness in and beyond the Jewish community. But we have not yet been able to turn this new awareness into action that would actually help the earth to rest.

So let us see this Sukkot as the time for us to begin shaping a Seven-Year Plan to heal the Earth.

Let us commit ourselves to take these next seven years, from now through the Shmita Year that ends in the Fall of 2022, as the time to carry out our Seven-Year Plan so that our Mother Earth can catch her breath and actually rest from our relentlessly choking her by burning global carbon.

Let us take this time to bring Jewish wisdom and activism to join with the wisdom and activism of others in that Great Healing, Great Turning, Great Transformation.


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