“I Can’t Breathe” -- WE Can’t Breathe -- Earth Can’t Breathe

 “I Can’t Breathe”

Again and again,

With gun or choke-hold.

Police steal the breath of Black Americans

The police are not merely police

For they hold a national authority

To use violence on behalf of the nation:

To serve us all, protect us all.

When they subjugate the Black community

They implicate us all,

They make us all Subjugators

And their misdeeds have stirred

A great Uprising against racism.


We can’t breathe.

All humanity is choking

From a virus that invades our lungs.

We have left no space for other species

And the virus leaps into our lives,

And then when our rulers ignore the danger

It becomes still worse--  

Choking our societies, our jobs, our businesses,

Our democracy. Our lives. 


Earth Can’t Breathe

All life on Earth depends on Interbreathing

Plants breathe in Carbon dioxide, breathe out Oxygen.

Animals breathe in Oxygen, breathe out Carbon dioxide.

Our Interbreathing is the Breath that keeps all Earth alive.

Nishmat kol chai, tivarekh et shimcha: Yahhhh elohenu:

The breath of all life praises Your Name;

For your Name in truth whispers all life.

YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh/ Yah, is our God.

The God of all life.

But too much CO2 is the “climate crisis” -- 

Chokes our breathing.

And when Earth can't breathe

We ourselves can't breathe:

The fires that ravage California

Send smoke that chokes our breathing.

Earth can’t breathe.

Can't   -----  br--- the.


"You shall not take My Name with an empty heart."

Every breath we take

Is Itself the Name,

Part of that great Breath that is the Holy One.

You shall not rob My peoples

And My life-forms

Of My Name, My Breath.

We must breathe.



Dear friends,

If the religious communities of America are serious about our deepest spiritual teachings of the profound worth of every human being and every species, Growing the Vote is crucial. For Jews, sharing Sukkot (the festival from the evening of October 2 to the evening of October 9) and its profound teachings with the “seventy nations of the world” and drawing on its wisdom to Grow the Vote is crucial.  

We invite you: “Share Sukkot” to “Green and Grow the Vote!"

There are many values hidden in the Sukkot festival that may only show up when you need them. One is hidden in plain sight: Because both Sukkot and the dates of major U.S. elections are connected with the Harvest, Sukkot in every national election year always comes several weeks before the election. The festival could become a period of spiritual, emotional, and intellectual preparation for voting.

Could doing that take the values rooted in and affirmed by Sukkot, giving them a new voice in the broader world? And could that, for many Jews, give richer meaning to and more joy in a festival that has had little intrinsic meaning for them?

We are exploring the second possibility. Let me give an example:

Torah says that the runaway Israelites who had just fled from slavery to Pharaoh sat “in sukkot” (the plural of “sukkah,” the vulnerable “booth” or “hut” in which some sit and eat and even sleep. To remember this sojourn as refugees fleeing for our lives and liberty, we should live in sukkot for the seven days of “Sukkot”   --  with a capital “S,” the name of the festival.

You shall live in sukkot [huts]  seven days; all citizens in Israel shall live in huts,  in order that future generations may know that I settled the Israelite people in sukkot when I brought them out of the land of Narrowness [Egypt], I YHWH/ Yahhh/ the Breath of Life --  your God. (Lev 23: 42-43)

So Sukkot affirms the value of protection for refugees – – an important issue in the upcoming election.

Another value: the sukkah, a hut with a leafy, leaky roof is open to Earth. Its relationship to the fall harvest strengthens its connection with Earth. Rabbinic tradition teaches that the sacrifice of 70 bulls during Sukkot when the Temple stood represented Jewish prayers for the abundant prosperity of all the “70 nations of the world.”  So Sukkot represents a commitment to a loving relationship for all nations with all Earth.

Easy to see how that affirms a much stronger version of the Paris Climate Accords to work with all nations to make sure that we protect Earth’s ability to nourish every people.

These are values. How can we connect the festival of Sukkot with voting --= to make a real difference for those values?

Already The Shalom Center has prepared a number of posters that honor heroes of the struggle to achieve voting rights for all Americans. Why posters? Because there is a tradition of posting in sukkot the names and pictures of ushpizin -- sacred guests. Abraham and Sarah, Moses and Miriam, are traditionally among those sacred guests. Each represents a different aspect of God's world and our lives.

To them we would add Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman – – two Jews and a Black who were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi during Freedom Summer of 1964 for working to register Blacks to vote in Mississippi. And Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote a brilliant dissent against a 5-4 decision by the Supreme Court which gutted the crucial provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  And many others.

Even these sacred guests are expressions of value and commitment, not action to Grow the Vote. What could happen during and after Sukkot to make the commitment real? Jews and others from the “70 nations” could take time during the festival to make phone calls and Zoom gatherings to make sure that people are ready to vote and know how to make sure that their votes get cast and counted. They could focus on constituencies that often undervote -- Black, Ladinx, and young Jewish communities, for example.

All this we are calling #ShareSukkot2GrowVote.

If you want to work with us on this, please write me by simply clicking “Reply.”  And if you want to help The Shalom Center do this work, please contribute through the purple ”Contribute” banner just below.

With blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste – - Arthur


When Shabbat Is the 4th of July

This coming Shabbat is also the Fourth of July.

For Americans, that day embodies the deepest of our internal confusions. That day we celebrate the Declaration of Independence, affirming the equality of all "men" and the responsibility of government to meet the needs of the people – especially for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And we affirm the right of the people to alter or abolish any government that does not meet those needs and to substitute new government that does.

That Declaration was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson. Yet he owned hundreds of human beings, and enslaved them. When he wrote about slavery in his native state of Virginia, he wrote “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just.” Yet he owned hundreds of human beings, and enslaved them.

The contradiction between his words and his actions has been repeated through all American history. When slavery was abolished at the cost of many lives, after a brief period when freedom flourished and racism staggered, slavery was replaced by KKK terrorism, lynchings, and Jim Crow. When protests gathered and people risked and lost their lives to make equality real, the Black community created new power bases and racism staggered. But Jim Crow was replaced by a system of “criminal injustice” that began at the point of a policeman’s gun and culminated in unjust bail, unjust courts, and mass incarceration. It was replaced by the massive wipeout of Black ownership and personal capital in the Great Recession of 2008 and the Coronavirus Depression of 2020.

What was the use of the Fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence in all that history? As Frederick Douglass said in an extraordinary speech on July 5, 1852, what was the Fourth of July to a slave? Yet Douglass worked his way through a long speech to say:

… Notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work the downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope.
While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference.
Notice that the Fourth of July still bears witness for him, IF. If it is connected to the “obvious tendencies” of the present.  That is a lesson to us. What can we draw on from the past, how do we make that vision take on bodies and action in the present – in ourselves, not elsewhere in the world?

Not only is Shabbat this year the Fourth of July, the Fourth of July is also Shabbat. How can we honor this confluence in a Shabbosdik way?

We can lift up for ourselves as Jews the commitment that goes back about 2500 years. There is an ancient ancestor of the Declaration of Independence. We should add it to the public Torah readings for this Shabbat:

 When you enter the land that YHWH / Yahhhh / Interbreathing Spirit of life your God is giving you, and you possess it and settle in it, should you say: I will set over me a king like all the nations that are around me-
You may set, yes, set over you a king that YHWH / Yahhhh / Interbreathing Spirit of life your God chooses; from among your brothers you may set over you a king, you may not place over you a foreign man who is not a brother-person to you.
Only: he is not to multiply horses for himself, and he is not to return the people to Mitzrayyim/ Narrowland [Egypt} in order to multiply horses, since YHWH the Breath of Life has said to you: You will never return that way again!
And he is not to multiply wives for himself, that his heart not be turned-aside, and silver or gold he is not to multiply for himself to excess.
But it shall be: when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he is to write himself a copy of this Instruction in a document, before the presence of Levitical priests.
It is to remain beside him, he is to read out of it all the days of his life, in order that he may learn to have-awe-for YHWH the Breath-of-Life his God, to be-careful concerning all the words of this Instruction and these laws, to observe them,
That his heart not be raised above his brothers, that he not turn-aside from what-is-commanded, to the right or to the left; in order that he may prolong (his) days over his kingdom, he and his sons, in the midst of Israel.
                              (Deuteronomy 17:14-20, in the Everett Fox translation of the Five Books of Moses [Schocken])

What does that warning mean --- your leader, your ruler, shall not return you to Narrowland to buy horses?  

Horse-chariots were the great and expensive weapon of the Imperial Army. (Its jet bombers carrying H-Bombs.) To build and equip that army meant turning the citizenry into slaves in order to pay the bill. But the Breath of Life had freed the Israelites, even when the horse-chariot Army pursued them to the edge of the Red Sea, and the Breath of Life forbade an Israelite king from returning the people to slavery to equip his quasi-Imperial Army. The passage was a more vivid version of what Martin Luther King said when he called militarism one of the deadly triplets afflicting American society.

We American Jews are not only heirs of the Torah. We are heirs of the Declaration, too. And facing society-wide racism, we must also face our own. We are not only “white.” Among us are Jews as Black as Frederick Douglass and Martin Luther King, as swarthy as Anwar Sadat, as colorful as Gandhi and Liu Xiaobo. We could treat the Declaration of Independence as a prophetic commentary, a Haftarah, on the Torah portion we have just read.

Hazan Jack Kessler has done the work of making the heart of the Declaration into a Haftarah. You can watch the exquisite way in which he brings his physical presence, his emotional and spiritual as well as intellectual focus into giving the Declaration new life in a very old form.

To see his “Declaration of Independence Haftarah” click to –

And then we urge that in the discussion we raise questions and create activist midrash about the meaning of the Torah and Haftarah today.  Within the Jewish community and beyond it. Is “community” one of the “inalienable rights"? Is there a right to a livable income, livable time to pause and learn, a livable planet? Are we obligated to risk “our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” if we face a government that defaces the Declaration and the Torah?

###  ###
For further thought toward action on these approaches see --

Jack Kessler’s article about his work in Kerem Magazine: Creative Explorations in Judaism Final Issue: #1 “English Leyning: Bringing New Meaning to the Torah Service”

 And for a collection of speeches like Douglass’ about the original Declaration and new imagining of what a Declaration for our own day might be like, see

This Weekend -- Poor People's Campaign Against Racism, Poverty, & more

We are living in the midst of the greatest upsurge in American history of a multiracial Uprising against racism, led by Blacks and encompassing a very wide spectrum of American society.

Friday June 19 we will meet the holy day enshrined by the Black community itself to celebrate the effective date when freedom from slavery came to the Blacks of Texas. This year it is close to becoming an unofficial holyday for all anti-racist Americans.  The Shalom Center will send you some moments of spiritual offering in which all of us can join. 

And then, after years of planning and preparation, on Saturday and Sunday June 20-21, will come national “virtual” days of change-demanding celebration. Originally planned to be a physical day of presence in Washington DC, in the wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic it became a decentralized Internet event.

The Poor People’s Campaign knows that systemic racism and multiracial poverty are not only interlocked with each other, but combine with three other evils -- climate crisis and ecological devastation, militarism and the war economy, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism.

June 20-21 we are coming together to demand that the 140 million poor and low-income people in our nation — from every race, creed, gender, sexuality and place — are no longer ignored, dismissed or pushed to the margins of our political and social agenda.

The Mass Poor People’s Assembly and Moral March on Washington Digital Justice Gathering will be broadcast on Saturday June 20, 2020 at 10 AM EDT & 6 PM EDT and on Sunday June 21 at 6 PM EDT at June2020.org

Register today for June 20, 2020.

 At this unprecedented moment, we must tell the truth about the dire failures of our political leaders. We must also demonstrate that it is the leadership emerging from our communities that is paving a different way forward.

 History teaches us that it is exactly in moments like these that a movement of the many is necessary to force the nation into action and that the key to real and lasting change lies in our ability to come together in new and bold ways. Rise with us by registering for June 20, 2020 and join the broadcast on June 20 at 10 AM EDT & 6 PM EDT and on June 21 at 6 PM EDT at June2020.org

 Share the news by sending your friends this message.

Blessings to us all -- of shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste!  --  Arthur

Responding to the Nation-Wide Uprising


The overnight news means there is a nation-wide uprising going on, 

 Trump is so far teasing people, partly because he can’t help himself from threatening even more violence – that’s what his ego lives on --   and partly because he may think he can fire up his base and enough other whites out of fear of the “out-of-control” Blacks to win the election without needing to send the Army.  Or he is biding his time and will send the Army in a week. I think we need to make clear five things:

• Our experience in myriad movements of the mid-20th-century and later shows that “nonviolence” worked, and now needs a fuller expression in  the “culture of love and eco-systems" where everybody counts precisely because of their differences, instead of the "culture of hierarchy, domination, subjugation, and violence.”  
• We built empowerment of some of the powerless through the vote. Supreme Court decisions that encourage huge amounts of money from the Hyper-wealthy to buy elections and that cut the heart out of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 have weakened but not eliminated that success. But it needs to be enormously expanded beyond 1965 anyway, We must do what we can to create a massive vote, and if after the election Trump has lost but tries a coup to hold power we need to be ready with a national strike with local neighborly resilience. 
• Our experience was built on a mostly friendly national government,  not an utterly hostile one.  In the present moment, we need to be opposing use of the Army or federalization of the National Guard, calling on mayors and governors to turn to teachers, public employee unions, activists, etc to create peacekeeping networks in the cities, not police and not the Natl Guard, to point toward a NEW kind of order, not the old one.  
• There is increasing evidence,  some eyewitness and some by journalists, that much of the arson and looting is being done by RIGHT WING neo-fascists hoping to bring about a race war. Some of those reports will be posted tomorrow morning in the Shalom Reporton June 1. If you don't get it already,  click on "Sign Up for Weekly Emails"  banner on left margin this page, Note that Trump has mentioned outside intervention in  Minneapolis, probably based on FBI reports he has seen, but carefully refrained from saying it’s by right-wing whites – leaving the implication it is Black radicals. This is important for the public to know.
• We ought also to urge the creation soon of a series of linked national conferences that brings together the Black community in one, immigrant/ Spanish-speaking and other communities of color in another, Earth-oriented groups in another, women, faith communities,  GLBTQIA communities, etc with links between and among them, to energize voters immediately and a new culture/ Constitution soon.

Deeper: From #Shavuot2Sukkot: Green & Grow the Vote

[This fall, Americans will hold an extraordinary election –- addressing profound questions of health and life in the midst of a pandemic plague, democracy in the midst of Hyperwealthy pharaohs, and survival of a million species (including our own) in the midst of global scorching.

[At 8 pm Eastern Time on Thursday, May 28, the eve of Shavuot, there will be a Zoom conversation among a range of rabbis, youth activists, cantors and other singers, poets, and organizers about “greening and growing the vote” during the period beginning with Shavuot.

[The Zoom conversation is co-sponsored by The Shalom Center, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Dayenu: A Jewish Call for Climate Action. Faryn Borella is a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern at The Shalom Center. Her essay here draws on the Torah roots of “Grow the Vote.” You can register to join the conversation, including breakout groups for your own conversation, by clicking here:  https://tinyurl.com/Shavuot2Sukkot   -- AW, ed.]

Shavuot as Eco/ Social Contract: Grow the Vote!

By Faryn Borella

Shavuot began as an agricultural festival. A pilgrimage festival. A festival of the first fruits.

Shavuot became a revelation festival. A Torah festival. A covenant festival.

In some ways, these two frameworks can feel like opposite poles. Shavuot as agricultural festival is about earth, land, harvest, offering. Shavuot as revelation festival is about book, mind, intellect, law.

Yet in both instances, Shavuot is about opting into a social contract, a political system, and an ultimate sovereign in Hashem Eloheynu--the divine that is our divine.

In biblical times, during Shavuot, devotees of Hashem from all over the land would make pilgrimage to Jerusalem, carrying their first fruits to offer up to their one true sovereign at the Temple. 

“Early in the morning the officer would say: “Let us arise and go up to Zion, into the house of Hashem our God” (Jeremiah 31:5). Those who lived near [Jerusalem] would bring fresh figs and grapes, while those who lived far away would bring dried figs and raisins. An ox would go in front of them, his horns bedecked with gold and with an olive-crown on its head. The flute would play before them until they would draw close to Jerusalem.

"When they drew close to Jerusalem they would send messengers in advance, and they would adorn their bikkurim. The governors and chiefs and treasurers [of the Temple] would go out to greet them, and according to the rank of the entrants they would go forth. All the skilled artisans of Jerusalem would stand up before them and greet them saying, “Our brothers, men of such and such a place, we welcome you in peace.” The flute would play before them, until they reached the Temple Mount.

"When they reached the Temple Mount even King Agrippas would take the basket and place it on his shoulder and walk as far as the Temple Court. When he got to the Temple Court, the Levites would sing the song: 'I will extol You, O YHWH, for You have raised me up, and You have not let my enemies rejoice over me.' (Psalms 30:2).” Mishnah Bikkurim 3:3-5

In bringing these first fruits to the Temple, the devotees of YHWH were reaffirming, each year, their commitment to the covenant and their trust in the king and the priests to serve their best interests as the appointed officials of Hashem’s order. With their bodies, their movement, their journey, their offering, they reenacted Sinai in their own way each and every year, consenting to covenant and consenting to God over and over again. For, at its root, shevuot means “vows.”  

Their “eco/ social contract” included not only human beings but all the other life-forms that created the harvest and made human community possible: pollinators, earthworms, seed, streams, dew, sun, air, wind.

Rabbis remade Shavuot in their image. Or perhaps they simply unearthed something about the holiday that was always already there. They tugged at the thread of consent, covenant and divine-human relationship and spun it on a new wheel. They spun it into a covenant of klaf. Of black fire on white fire. Of the entirety of unfolding tradition in one moment and every moment.

For “All the people answered as one saying, ‘All that YHWH has spoken we will do.’" (Exodus 19:8). A moment at which we were all there, are all there, and will continue to all be there. And in that moment, we are all saying yes. Yes to Hashem. Yes to rule of law. Yes to the social contract.

Biblical Israel was an aristocracy. Rabbinic Israel was a meritocracy. In neither case do we find democracy. And yet, as our civilizations change, so does our rule of law. So does the way we opt into social contract. In the shift from Biblical to Rabbinic Judaism, you see the way one entered into covenant shifting from bringing offering to the Temple Cult to engaging in the study of Torah, God’s divine revelation. So what is our equivalent in contemporary times. How do we opt into social contract?

Today, social contracts are formed through the process of voting. Through an electoral, representative democracy. Whether that be at a local level within our very own synagogues, or at a national level where we try to change the course of an entire country of mixed multitude, our system is set up so that to vote is to make change. And now more than ever, we need to embrace Shavuot as a time calling us into active engagement in the formation of and consent to our covenant.

But not everyone has equal access to their civic duty, despite what the powers-that-be might try and convince us to believe. In biblical times, only those who owned lands, produced agricultural product and who had the means to make pilgrimage could do so. In rabbinic times, only men of a certain level of literacy could opt into social contract through the act of studying Torah and deriving its law. And now, our electoral system is set up to disenfranchise voters and potential voters whose collective being might actually alter the status quo. Through gerrymandering. Through a racist and classist voter registration process. Through polling hours and the fight against mail-in ballots. And in our own moment, by minimizing the import of free and fair election in a moment of global pandemic.

So on Shavuot, we are not only called to do our civic duty. We are called to ensure that the entirety of klal America can too.

Yet reaffirming covenant doesn’t end in Shavuot, and neither does our election cycle. On the contrary, it is just the beginning. In biblical times, Shavuot served as the beginning of the period of time in which one could bring first fruits as a gesture of reaffirmation of the covenant. The beginning of a time that ended on Sukkot.

Sukkot this year falls shortly before the 2020 Presidential Election. How can we, in contemporary times, use the extended period of first fruits as a time where we too can be in a continuous and iterative process of active participation in covenant-building? How does a season of growth, harvest and offering call us to be more engaged, active and committed to our own democratic process?

In biblical times, every 7th year, during the intermediary days of Sukkot, the entirety of Klal Yisrael was called to gather in Jerusalem before the King, who would recite before them excerpts of Torah that related to covenant with community, covenant with leader, and covenant with Supreme Sovereign, an iterative, systematized process of reaffirmation of the Covenant. This always directly followed the year where the land was called to be left fallow and unharvested.

In this moment of global pandemic, we find ourselves too in a time of being left fallow. Of waiting. Of surrender to forces beyond our understanding. But may we soon gather, in whatever form gathering may become, to be reminded that no covenant can exist without our continuous and willing consent. And that means all of us, not just those of us to which the system is willing to give some power. May we use this time of global pandemic, of first fruits, from Shavuot to Sukkot to ensure that we all can and will give consent, come November, to our form of governance and our leadership. May we ensure that that to which we are consenting is good, just and fair.

From Shavuot to Sukkot, grow the vote!

You can register to join the conversation, including breakout groups for your own conversation, by clicking here: 



"Stunningly beautiful and inspiring" - 7th Night Seder Conversation

Dear friends, Sara Schley writes --

Beloved holy friends,

 Wanted you to know how the experience of 7th night Seder is. Wow. Our entire local community is reveling in it.

 Thank you for that

 I am following your lead to "listen deeply" for the new Reality that is emerging. 

 ###  ###  ###  ###  ###  ### 

Dear friends,  What is the 7th night Seder Conversation? The videotaping of 16 people –- rabbis, teachers, cantors, singers, chanters –- who gathered by Zoom on the 7th Night of Passover to explore the meaning of that night.


 What is special about the Seventh Day? According to tradition, that was the day the Children of Israel, fleeing slavery, reached the Red Sea.  Behind them was Pharaoh’s Army, racing to force them to return to their accustomed slavery, with its perks of onions and garlic. Before them was the unknown. The Sea that might be New Birth, if the birthing waters broke. Or the Sea of Drowning, if they didn’t. The Sea of Freedom-Maybe. The Sea of Active Hope. The Sea of sharing life with all life-forms, not imposing slavery and forcing plagues on Earth as well as Humankind.

The entire human race stands now, today, at that moment. Will we go back to “normal” life, a life of plagues and hierarchy, or step into the Sea, reaching toward the Beloved Community?

I invite you to watch that conversation, “stunningly beautiful and inspiring” as Sara Schley describes it. Feel free to share the link with all your friends. Feel free to pause the video to discuss it with your housemates, to call your community and watch it together in your separate places. Click this link!


Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste!-- Arthur


Will We Cross the Red Sea?

In years past The Shalom Center honored the Seventh Day of Passover by being closed. But today we choose to honor the Seventh Day by sharing with you the video of a “Seder conversation” we sponsored last night on the question: What does the Seventh Day mean this year, so different from all other years? Mah nishtana?

I invite you -- I encourage you --  to watch and listen to that conversation. Feel free to share the link with all your friends. Feel free to pause the video to discuss it with your housemates, to call your community and watch it together in your separate places. Click this link!


What is special about the Seventh Day? According to tradition, that was the day the Children of Israel, fleeing slavery, reached the Red Sea.  Behind them was Pharaoh’s Army, racing to force them to return to their accustomed slavery, with its perks of onions and garlic. Before them was the unknown. The Sea that might be New Birth, if the birthing waters broke. Or the Sea of Drowning, if they didn’t. The Sea of Freedom-Maybe. The Sea of Active Hope. The Sea of sharing life with all life-forms, not imposing slavery and forcing plagues on Earth as well as Humankind.

 The entire human race stands now, today, at that moment.

BIG CHANGE in Plans for 7th Night of Passover

Dear friends,

I have bad news which I think will turn into good news.

The bad news: I had a difficult week. Then it became a week of soul-searching. What did it really mean to stand at the edge of the Sea – not as a playful reenactment but in our real lives, the entire human species in a real crisis?  Was a formal Seder by Webinar  the best way to do it, especially when almost all the participants would have to be silent all the time? Wasn’t that the opposite of a real Seder anyway?

So the upshot has been that – at first very sadly and then cautiously more pleased -- I decided to cancel the major Webinar Seventh-night-of-Pesach  Seder.

The good news: I worked with Rabbi Shawn Zevit (lead rabbi of Mishkan Shalom, a strongly progressive Reconstructionist congregation in Philadelphia) to plan out a way to provide you with the rich song, poetry, wisdom that would have been part of the Seder with far less strain on me and our staff and a good deal more opportunity for many of you to  explore your own journey to freedom.

Just to explain my own experience: The intense work needed in a short time to get the Webinar prepared left me exhausted.  The Webinar framework and the plan for an actual Seder was what felt like intense pressure. The system required  getting the mass Webinar site up and running, actually writing an Haggadah, repeating several outreach mailings and even more pressing, arranging a kind of symphony orchestra of poets, singers, wisdom-teachers, meditators to come in on cue for the Seder itself  --  all in less than a working week remaining. 

And – even worse – this system required everybody except a few designated leaders to be silent.

 BUT –we have figured out a new way of celebrating the seventh night of Pesach without exhausting us AND offering you more opportunity for discussion. I think it may actually fit better the new world we are in.

 What we came up with was this: 

 We will work with the people I had asked to embody some special role in the Seder. We will set up a Zoom session of just that group, and a few more, that evening (Tuesday, April 14) as just a small virtual community. We will share our songs, chants, poetry, teaching with each other. That won’t be a “Seder”:  it will be a way for us to think and feel  emotionally and spiritually connected, though physically distant. It won’t need detailed planning and cue-ing; it will be an informal conversation.

  The event will be recorded, for distribution subsequently.  It might take a few days to post it, but this year of all years we will be standing at the Seventh Night for weeks more – at the edge of the Sea with Pharaoh’s army behind us, insisting that we go back into our accustomed habits of servitude with onions and garlic – and the unknown ahead of us, the free and Beloved Community that we can choose to create. 

The Webinar framework would have kept practically everybody muted anyway, and we were imagining only brief minutes between presenters for conversations at your homes. This new format will mean you get to listen to the whole informal conversation, pause it wherever you like, and have your own conversation at home as long as you like. If you are living alone, you can phone or Skype or Zoom a friend and share. We will welcome your comments by email.

Meanwhile, I invite you to draw on

 https://theshalomcenter.org/3-eco-responsive-inserts-your-seder-if-you-wish  That link takes you to three eco-responsive inserts for your own Seder in this Year of the Plague: A kavvanah (focus) for lighting the holy-day candles; a review of the biblical plagues, the plagues of today, and the “counter-plagues” that we could create; and a new biblically rooted climate-conscious way of greeting the Prophet Elijah as we invite him to our Seders, based on an old prophetic vision with a very present meaning.

We will be back to you very soon.

Blessings for a profound Passover and a real Wilderness journey in all our lives. May we learn the painfully transformative lesson of the Coronavirus Pandemic:  Nostalgia cannot heal us: Only a new world, the Beloved Community, can. --  Arthur.

Prophet Greta and Prophet Malachi: Haftarah for Shabbat HaGadol

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 Shabbat HaGadol is swift upon us, when we read God’s Call for an  intergenerational heart-felt  alliance to save Earth from utter destruction. The very last message from the very last of the classical Hebrew Prophets. 

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