2 Eichahs for Today: Resource #3, Tisha B’Av for Temple Earth

[Beginning eleven years ago with the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster caused by the greed and recklessness of the BP corporation in the Gulf of Mexico, Rabbi Tamara Cohen created a new Eicha/ Book of Lamentations for Temple Earth, chantable according to the traditional wailing melody. It was first chanted on Capitol Hill on Tisha B’Av 2011, as part of a challenge to the US government to protect Earth from such depredations. Rabbi Cohen was then an intern for The Shalom Center; she is now director for innovation at Moving Traditions. We offer its first chapter here. Her entire “Eicha for Earth” and a full new Tisha B’Av prayer service are at  --

[This year, in the wake of worsening of the climate crisis and the Covid19 pandemic, Rabbi Sue Morningstar of Ashland, OR, leader of Morningstar Healing Arts at has furthered this tradition of an English Lament for Earth by writing and chanting a one-chapter “Eichah.”

[It is followed by a comment from Rabbi Daniel Siegel, a very early student of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi and a leader of ALEPH Canada, now living on Hornby Island, British Columbia.--  AW, ed.]


“Eichah for Earth”

By Rabbi Tamara Cohen

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.



Eichah adapted by Rabbi Sue Mauer Morningstar July 2021 .

Rabbi Morningstar can be heard and seen chanting her new Eicha in English with the traditional wailing melody at

The words follow:


אֵיכָ֣ה ׀ יָשְׁבָ֣ה בָדָ֗ד הָעִיר֙ רַבָּ֣תִי עָ֔ם הָיְתָ֖ה כְּאַלְמָנָ֑ה

Eicha:  Alas, she sits abandoned.  Earth’s abundance, once green and flourishing, is slowly disappearing.    (1:1)                                                                                                   

We have come through trying times, the Great Pause of distancing and hermitting.

So many have lost lives, other suffer long term consequences.


Rushing, we shed our masks, in celebration of our freedom.                                                                               

But “safety” is an illusion, when variants lurk, and our planet is suffering.                                                                                               


As we emerge from this curs-ed blessing, have we learned our crucial lessons?

16 months of quieted highways, pollution cleared, human and animal lives saved.

16 months of quieted skyways, airplane travel ceased, vistas no longer concealed.

Viewing the magnificence of the Himalayas, city skylines were suddenly revealed.


Now we have resumed our toxic flying, as United proudly announces hundreds of new planes buying.

Endlessly consuming, our fruits we plunder, while thousands of children die daily of hunger.  (2:20, 4:4)

Fires threaten, Earth’s parched and dry, we pack our “go bags” and watch the sky. (5:10)

Oceans rising, temperatures climbing, rainforests shrinking, Shechinah crying.


We weep without consolation, there is no comfort to refresh our souls.  (1:18)

What will it take to wake us up to the destruction and planetary crisis, what will it take??

Unbearable heatwaves burn our skin like in an oven, while our mother self-destructs. (5:10)                                                                                                                   

Our creeks and rivers have run dry, crops and fish wither and die.   (4:9, 5:4)


Polarity, meanness and hatred are everywhere, racism, xenophobia and injustice prevail.

The joy in our hearts has ceased, our dancing has turned into mourning.  (5:15)

Antisemitism on the rise from the left and the right.                                                                                                                                                                                        all of our enemies have opened their mouths wide against us. (

Returning to our homeland after 2000 years, cousins still divided in fear.


On this day we remember the siege of our holy Jerusalem, and the destruction of our holy temples.

On this day we remember the start of the Crusades, the expulsions from England, France and Spain.

On this day we remember Kristallnacht and the Warsaw Ghetto, is it our terrible destiny for history to repeat itself?


Here in America, violence in our streets, 30 million adherents follow Q-anon. 

We’ve lost our trust in our government, we’ve lost our trust in our journalists.

We’ve lost our trust in our judicial system, in our electoral process, and even in science.


Look and see, pain upon pain, Your sanctuary plundered, Your planet overrun.  (1:12)                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

What will it take to wake us up, to choose healing and love, compassion and cooperation?

When will we heed this warning, when will we protect our future generations? 

Your brokenness is as vast as the sea. Who can heal you?  (2:13)


Let us sit alone in quiet reflection, and let our souls fill with God’s compassion. (3:28, 32)

Hashivenu Yah elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.

Renew our days and return us to You, help us reach awareness in the midst of somnolescence. (5:21) 


Comment on the Morningstar 'Eichah"

By Rabbi Daniel Siege

"I commend to you this new version of the traditional Megillat Eichah and

urge you to share it as widely as possible. As we rush to return to

"normal," it will be all too easy to forget that the pre-covid normal was

unsustainable and indeed helped to create the pandemic which is still in

progress. This eichah asks us to bring the many crises of this moment

together, to see how they are linked to each other, to pause and weep for

the damage we have been causing and continue to cause, and to pledge a

return, not to a pre-covid materially based way of living, but one imbued

with a deeper humility, a willingness to sacrifice for the common good and

for the future of our children and grandchildren.


“In turn, that sacrifice will yield a satisfaction and joy greater than any

material thing can provide, the satisfaction that comes from taking time to

deepen our experiences of friendship and family, for the earth, and for our

linkage to all of life which sustains us."  Rabbi Daniel Siegel, Hornby

Island. British Columbia, Canada 7-1-21

New 4th of July

The Trumpist Supreme Court celebrated the approach of the Fourth of July by telling the ugly truth about itself. This whole previous term, it had puzzled observers by avoiding stright-up decisions on the basics of American society. It OK’d Obamacare, said high-school students had the right to criticize their school.

Resource #2 --for Action: Tisha B'Av for Temple Earth

A Day that Burns like a Furnace (The Prophet Malachi 3: 19)

Portland, OR: 116∘ F.;

British Columbia, 121∘ F., highest in all Canadian recorded history

Diagram of Heat Dome over Pacific Northwest --  From

But a Sun of Justice Will Bring Healing in its Rays

(Malachi 3: 20)

Make New Our Days Once More

As they were Not So Long Ago.

Turn Us to You,

Whose Very Name

Is the Interbreath of Life.

(Eicha/ Lamentations 5: 21)

Affirm the Sun's Solar Power

Affirm the Sun's Wind-Power


On Monday morning, July 19,

The day after Tisha B’Av --  

Move from Grief to Action:

If you can take the morning off, invite a few of your friends and fellow- congregants to visit the nearest home office of your Senator  -- to Insist on passage of the Green New Deal as part of Infrastructure.

Point out: If roads melt and buckle in extreme heat, if  electric grids collapse in extreme freezes, if floods wash out highways, if salt water from the rising sea erodes an apartment-house foundation till it falls and kills 150 people, then ignoring the climate crisis will make a “conventional” infrastructure bill a waste of time, money, and lives.

If you can’t afford a whole morning to save your grandchildren from misery and death, then take an hour to write your Senators. Or call them at 202-224-3121 and leave a message. Ask your friends to call. Call again. Visit your rabbi before the next Shabbat, the Shabbat of “Consolation,” and say you will not be consoled till your Congregation speaks out.

Tell the congregation you are saying Mourners’ Kaddish for those who died of heat stroke in Canada and those who died of building collapse in Florida and those who died in California wildfires. Invite them  to join you. 

Tzelophad's Daughters & Anti-woman Theology

This week’s Torah portion includes one of only two passages of Torah in which a group of women –- in this case, five sisters –- consciously band together to challenge a male-domination rule  -– and win. YHWH, Breath of Life, says they are entitled to inherit their father's land, at least when there are no brothers in their generation.  (The other case is Shifra and Puah, the two midwives who stood fast against Pharaoh's order to commit genocide. YHWH affirms and rewards them, too.) 


The sisters win a limited victory -- power remains in the hands of a male Lawgiver -- but it speaks to us today when many male leaders of two major American religious communities are denying women and some women-supporting men the moral agency to make their own conscientious decisions about their own lives.

Often the press reduces this to a matter of whether abortion is a constitutional right or an abominable murder, but a statement of the head of the all-male US Conference of Catholic Bishops makes clear that what is at stake is much larger:

 “Shortly after Mr. Biden’s election in November, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, the president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, announced the unusual creation of a working group to address conflicts that could arise between his administration’s policies and church teaching.

“On Inauguration Day, Archbishop Gomez issued a statement criticizing Mr. Biden for policies “that would advance moral evils” especially “in the areas of abortion, contraception, marriage, and gender.” (Emphasis added.)

                                   (See the NY Times article at )

What is really at stake is a theology of sex, especially impressed on Christianity by the sex-obsessed Augustine of Hippo (I will not call him a saint) who died in the year 430 CE. What is this sin? It is clear to me that what sin we see in the Eden story depends on what struggles we are facing in our selves. Augustine of Hippo was obsessed with the attractions of sex. His sexual nerves were strung so tight as to thrum at the barest touch. He could not bear to be so lured, and so turned to revulsion. He saw the Bible’s vision of the earliest moments of human history through the eyes of that revulsion. 

 Augustine powerfully affected many leaders of the Christianity of his time. They must have shared much of his tightened strum of tension. Ever since, Christian thought –at least until the Protestant rebellion, and even in some Protestant churches – has suggested that the mistake of Eden was sexual. According to this sexual hysteria, the sin has entered into all future humans because Adam and Eve passed it to their children through intercourse and procreation – like a permanent genetic defect carried not in the genes but by the very act of passing on the genes. Since then, most Christian dogma has seen intense pleasure in the sexual act as not only the bearer of Adam’s sin but the nature of the sin itself.

And Augustine’s “original” sin was original not only because it was the first, but because it was intimately involved in the origin of the human species and in the origin of every specific human being. It was and is indelibly imprinted in the human condition.  It was and is the “sin of all,” of the entire world. Since sex was necessary to keep the species alive, the dogma became that sex was acceptable if it led to procreation (though not as holy as chastity). So abortion, contraception, homosexuality, masturbation – all became sins. Hence Archbishop Gomez’ warning.

Since in this theology these sins taint us all from birth to death, nothing we can do can cancel them. Except one thing, and that comes from outside ourselves, from God. This original sin can be dissolved only through belief in Jesus as the Christ who by coming into the world and submitting to the Crucifixion took all sin upon God’s shoulders – and redeemed believers from it.  “Believers” meaning those who had accepted the definition of the deadliest of sins and how to be redeemed.

I should add that through the centuries, some Christian thought – today, a great deal of Christian thought -- and most Jewish thought, has refused to believe that the sin of Eden –whatever it was – made sex or sexual desire or sexual pleasure in itself sinful, or that the mistake of Adam and Eve delivered that sin into all human souls and bodies.

When Protestantism and Eastern-Christian Orthodoxy affirmed that the bearer of spiritual leadership and religious wisdom could be not a single celibate man but a family – a man, a woman, and their children – it was already in body, even if not in words, asserting that sex could live in the heart of religion, not merely in its less serious followers. By insisting on male celibacy for almost all its priests and prelates, the Catholic Church pursued a profoundly different worldview. But in the family theory of the other large male-dominant Christian community (and in much of Orthodox Judaism as well), sex could be celebrated and women could be present – but only if they were subordinate.

The conflict that in the time of the Protestant rebellion seemed to be about other issues seems now, in the context of Modernity, to center on the nature of sexuality and the nature of women. Changes in our answers to those questions have already become some of the major tremors in our world-wide earthquake.

If not sexuality itself, what then was the sin in the Eden parable?  If the mistake of Eden was not imposed upon all human beings simply by their birth from sexual conception, what do I mean when I say the mistake of Eden keeps recurring? And how do we turn away from it?

Like and unlike Augustine, I come, of course, with my own bias about what sin it is that threatens all humanity, and what blessing of Edenic abundance we instead could choose to share.

I am haunted by the Bomb and the Climate Crisis, and at the same time inspired by the vision of an ecologically delightful planet.  Perhaps my own understanding of the sin of Eden comes partly from the deep imprint still on me of 1968, of seeing Pharaoh in our own generation, and of the joyful alternative if we could only cross the Red Sea into the Promised Land, the milk-and-honey Garden. Indeed, it is precisely contemplating the possible death of human civilization and the torment that would mean for my grandchildren that brings me to look at the birth of humankind, and at this powerful mythic parable of our beginning.

So for me the real misdeed of Eden was that the Voice of the Breath of Life said the human race must restrain itself from gobbling up all the anundance of the Garden – and the human race, growing from childhood to adolescence – made an adolescent mistake by rejecting self-restraint, eating from the Tree that was off-limits. The result: the abundance vanishes, unremitting hard toil follows, and so does hierarchy: men will rule over women.

But these consequences are not commands: No one ever thought it would be sinful to invent a rake, a hoe, a plow to ease the work of growing food. And the subordination of women was also a disastrous consequence to be transcended, not “obeyed.” The Song of Songs is the Garden of Eden for a grown-up human race. Women and men are equal and loving, the Erotic and the Spiritual are the same energy, Earth and human earthlings love each other, we have internalized the ethic of love.

We have come a long way toward transcending that consequence. But a majority of the US Catholic bishops would like to subjugate not only Catholic women, not only all women, but also men like President Biden, a faithful Catholic who believes and acts that women have moral agency and the right to choose their lives.

What should we do? Like the daughters of Tzelophachad in this week’s Torah portion, we need to organize. We need to name and oppose the pernicious anti-sex, anti-woman theology that distorts the Bible and perverts human society. We need to say that the real dangers to the human species are the H-Bomb, the burning of fossil fuels, the over-population that takes over all living-space for humankind and crowds other species to extinction.

We need to look at the biblical passage that says, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill up the Earth, and subdue it,” and say ”DONE! Now what?”

Tisha B'Av for Earth: Resource #1

[Rabbi Ellen Bernstein is a member of the Board of The Shalom Center. In 1988 she wrote the first widely used Earth-centered Haggadah for Tu ‘Shvat, called A New Year for the Trees, and founded Shomrei Adamah, Guardians of Earth, the first national eco-Jewish organization.  The Tu B’Shvat haggadah is available as a free download in words and video at her website, . The  curriculum for her guide Let the Earth Teach You Torah is also there.    Much more recently, she created an earth/land-centered Passover haggadah, The Promise of the Land, which is available for purchase  at, --  We recommend using this new essay of hers as an introductory mood-setter for Tisha B'Av. In several days we will share with you passages of an English-language "Eicha for Earth" by Rabbi Tamara Cohen and my own "Between the Fires" for actual chanting on Tisha B'Av evening. -- AW, ed.] 

 Tisha B’Av for Earth: Resource #1

By Rabbi Ellen Bernstein

 People think me quite strange when I say that I love Tisha B’Av, the Jewish holiday which falls in the middle of summer when the days are long and the heat often unbearable.  How could I love this holiday which is considered the saddest day of the Jewish year?  Many people would opt to expunge this day from the holiday cycle altogether.

 Tisha B’Av is a day of grieving, of destruction and loss—a mournful lament. Tisha b’Av, literally the 9th of the month of Av, commemorates the great catastrophe, the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, the center of the world for the Jewish people.  There were two Temples in Jerusalem—each supposedly destroyed on the 9th of Av—hundreds of years apart. 

 Many people imagine the ancient Temple as a magnificent stone building, set in a stone courtyard, set in a stone plaza, set in a city of stone; and they think of Tisha B’Av as a remembrance of the destruction of this stone city.  Their vision of the Temple may not extend beyond the human confines, beyond the building complex.  However, the Temple in Jerusalem has always been associated with the Garden of Eden, the garden of earthy delight. 

 My own understanding of the Temple comes from the prophet Ezekiel. He was one of many who saw in the Temple a representation of Eden. In Ezekiel’s vision, a river flowed out from under the Temple and gigantic trees grew along the banks of the river, and wherever the river flowed, fish were bountiful and the plants flourished, freely giving their foods and medicines.  What better description of Paradise?  The Temple and the Garden were then one and the same.  The Temple is an icon of the Garden, and the Garden is an icon of the Earth. 

 The text we read on Tisha B’Av, Eica (Lamentations) is a montage of devastating and gruesome images of the suffering that comes to an entire people when the Temple and the city of Jerusalem go up in flames.  As poetry, the language of Lamentations invites our minds to roam and make associations.  When I hear the word Temple, my mind  jumps to the Garden of Eden and then to the Earth, and the suffering that the Earth and all of us are facing as we are caught in the whirlwinds of our changing climate. 

 On the evening of Tisha B’Av—as we gather together— the lights are turned off in the sanctuary.  Each person takes a candle, lights it, and proceeds slowly and carefully to the bima—the platform where the Torah sits.  We find a spot and lower ourselves to the ground—we humble ourselves.  (those who are not comfortable sitting on the floor sit on chairs).  This is the only time of the year that we actually sit on the floor during a service—and I welcome this.   The synagogue is transformed from a place of uprightness and formality to a place of quiet inwardness.   We create a sanctuary of silence. 

 Out of the darkness someone begins to chant the mournful yet exquisitely poignant melody of Eicha, the text of Lamentations.  Heads bowed, we read the words by the light of our candles.  Curiously, the Hebrew word that begins the lament, Eicha—echoes the word Ayecha from the Garden of Eden story linking these stories.  Ayecha is translated as “where are YOU”?    When God cries out, ayecha, God is confronting Adam and Eve, who are  hiding from God--shirking their responsibility.   In the book of Lamentations, the term Eicha—translates to a mournful complaint “HOW-How is it possible?”  When I read the word Eicha in light of Ayecha, I hear: HOW, How could YOU let this happen to my precious garden, my earth, my creatures, my peoples? 

 The text of Eicha, Lamentations, is shocking, appalling.  But the language is so rich and the imagery so disturbing that I am deeply moved.  I sit with one verse and let it wash over me; then I am pulled to another and I sink into that one.  It is strangely immediate. 

 My eyes are worn out from weeping; my stomach is churning.

My insides are poured on the ground . . .,
because children and babies are fainting in the city streets.

They say to their mothers, “Where are grain and wine?”
while fainting like the wounded in the city streets,
while their lives are draining away at their own mothers’ breasts.  2:11-12

 Your hurt is as vast as the sea. Who can heal you?  2:13

 Children ask for bread, beg for it—but there is no bread.

 Those who once ate gourmet food now tremble in the streets.
Those who wore the finest purple clothes now cling to piles of garbage.  4.4-5

 YHWH let loose in fury; poured out fierce anger.

YHWH started a fire in Zion; it licked up the foundations.

The earth’s rulers didn’t believe it—neither did any who inhabit the world.  4.11-12

 We drink our own water—but for a price; we gather our own wood—but pay for it.

.  . .  we are worn out, but have no rest.  5:4-5

 As I read and listen, I reflect on the fires that have devasted so much of the forests, creatures and homes of the western U.S. and the smoke-tinged crops in California—now inedible.  I think of the new normal—the unaffordable price of wood.  I think of climate refugees, including those here in America, who have been flooded or smoked out of their homes.  I think of those who endure year after year of drought, wondering where their next meal will come from, wondering how they will feed their children.  I think of the earth’s rulers and so many others who “didn’t believe it”—who didn’t believe this could happen to us. 

 The ritual of Tisha B’Av makes the suffering more bearable.  It encourages us to face the pain—not run from it. Through our participation in this ritual, we create a container that holds the community—a container that gives us the space to weep alone together in our grief.  I am grateful that my tradition is not afraid to acknowledge this extraordinarily difficult truth about the nature of humanity and the nature of life, and this gives me some peace.  And my sometimes-tortured soul is soothed. 

Tisha B’Av for Temple Earth

A Time for Grief and Action   

We are approaching Tisha B’Av – the date in the Jewish calendar (this year July 17-18) when the invading Babylonian Army burned the Holy Temple,  and when centuries later the  invading Roman Empire burned the rebuilt Temple..

We who write you are an array of leaders of the Eco-Jewish movement, and we are writing to connect that ancient trauma with the suffering of our own Temple Earth, the holy Place of all life-forms, including humankind.

We recognize that the suffering is caused by a subset of our own species, and that it will take action by communities of our own species to heal these deadly wounds. Our statement follows, and then the first of a series of resources to use for #TishaBAv4TempleEarth. We will continue to send out these resources , and we welcome your sending us poems, songs, graphics, brief texts, and reports of your pwn planned actions. Email them to

Tisha B’Av for Temple Earth:

A Time of Grief and Action to End the Global Scorching that Endangers Temple Earth


  1. We call upon Jews this year to intertwine on Tisha B’Av (July 17-18) the traditional lamentation for the ancient destruction of two holy Temples with our grief and sacred action in response to the worsening danger to Temple Earth -- the survival and integrity of many species and many human communities.
  2. We encourage Tisha B’Av gatherings to include passages of sacred text, art, and music, old and new, celebrating our love of Planet Earth, mourning the forms of its destruction,  and committing us to act for its protection and renewal. 
  1. We encourage all members of our community that, as part of our observance of Tisha B’Av, we undertake public acts of commitment to change public and corporate policy, as well as action by Jewish groups and institutions themselves. We suggest this in part as a way of embodying the last prayer of traditional Lamentation: “Turn us to You, YHWH, and we shall act to return. Make our days new as they were long ago.”

Action on public policy might include writing a letter or paying a visit to Senators, Congressmembers, state or local legislators or corporate officials. We might urge the inclusion in the proposed Jobs and Infrastructure Act of massive grants for solarizing homes, building electric railway systems and frequent service stations for electric autos,  requiring retrofitting for all public buildings in renewable energy, organizing coastal wind-turbine arrays, financing restorative agriculture and urban organic garden/ farms, etc.  

Actions in and by the Jewish community might include creating congregation-based solar co-ops; funding renewable energy and conservation in new and retrofitting older communal buildings; creating urban farms,  community-supported agriculture, grocery co-ops, and changes in food choices for communal celebrations; using energy-efficient mass transportation, biking, and low-emission  or no-emission automobiles; Moving Our Money from institutions that invest in energy choices that scorch and damage Earth, to institutions that invest in Protecting Our Planet.

  1. As we approach Tisha B'Av and other sacred days, we keep this in mind: Many of our holydays are the offspring of a long sacred love affair between Earth and the Jewish people. Now that both Earth and human Earthlings -- adamah and adam, in Hebrew -- are in serious wounded trouble, let us explore reawakening and reframing their offspring, our festivals and fast days, to rejuvenate their endangered parents.


Signers: [*Indicates the organization is listed for identification only]


Rabbi Katy Allen, Jewish Climate Action Network – MA

Rabbi Tamara Cohen, *Moving Traditions; author, “Eicha for the Earth”\

Rabbi Zelig Golden, Wilderness Torah

Mirele Goldsmith, Jewish Earth Alliance 

Rabbi/Rav Kohenet Jill Hammer, PhD

De Herman,  Jewish Earth Alliance

Mark Jacobs, *Meridian; Founding Executive Director, COEJL

 Ace Leveen, Jewish Climate Action Network –NYC

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, *POWER; Board, The Shalom Center

 Jakir Manela, Pearlstone Center

Rabbi Natan Margalit, Earth-Based Judaism

Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay, *Jewish Theological Seminary

Nigel Savage, Hazon

David Schreiber, Greenvest

Rabbi David Seidenberg, Neo-Hasid

Yoni Stadlin, Eden Village Camp

Rabbi Daniel Swartz, Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)

Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center


### ### ###

The Shalom Center has prepared an entire Tisha B’Av service centered on the English-language Eicha-trope-chantable “Eicha for the Earth” composed by Rabbi Tamara Cohen. It was chanted first at the US Capitol during the summer of 2010, the summer of the BP oil eruption in the Gulf of Mexico, and since then at other venues. You can see it and other elements of an Earth-oriented Tisha B’Av service at We welcome you to circulate all or parts of it, and we will be glad to join in circulating materials about #Tisha B’Av4Temple Earth that you send us.

Two passages from that service follow: Chapter I from Rabbi Cohen’s “Eicha for the Earth” (the entire Lament is at the Website) and “Between the Fires: a Spirit-Focus for Kindling Candles of Commitment” by  Rabbi Arthur Waskow:

Tisha B"Av: Grief for our Wounded Temple Earth

Dear friends,  Chodesh tov!  --  May the renewing of the moon for the moonth of Tammuz bring a renewing of the energy for a Green New Deal in the Biden presidency. As the moon darkens and brightens, so (it seems) do the prospects for a crossing of the Red Sea into a world of polentiful and joyful manna,  attuned to Earth as mother, friend, a great Unity of which we are one fruitful species, not the conqueror/ exploiter/ destroyer.

Will the greening of America be part of the "infrastructure" bill that is struggling to be born?  That is in great part up to us --  the American people -- and to whether we insist. 

As we enter Tammuz,  we have begun thinking about Tisha B’Av (July 17-18). Traditionally, it is a time of grief remembering the destruction by invading imperial armies of the Hily Temples in Jerusalam. I suggest that we intertwine the traditional theme of grief for the ancient Temples with the theme of grief for the endangered, wounded Earth.  For today all Earth is the sacred Temple of all the interbreathing life that makes up this planet -- and it is in great danger of desolation by Corporate Carbon Empires -- the Pharaohs, the Caesars of our day.

 There is ancient warrant for the idea that the kernel of a Jewish Tisha B'Av contains deep sacred meaning that goes beyond the Jewish people. It is embodied deep into the experience of the Temple as a focus of universal holiness.

The Book of Lamentations that bewails the destruction in a limping, painful trope or melody, is called in Hebrew "Eicha"  -- "How?!" as in a howl of "Alas."  The ancient rabbis asked, "When was the first Eicha?" And they answered it was in the Garden of Eden when God called out "Ayyeka--  Where Are You?" to the human race  as we despoiled Earth's abundance,  foreshadowing the first and universal Exile For "Eicha" and "Ayyeka"  share the same Hebrew consonants, with only the signs of breathing vowels distinguishing the two.

And in Rabbinic and Kabbalistic thought,  the ancient Temples were microcosms of the created universe, where light (by burning olive oil in the Menorah), minerals (salt), vegetation (fruit, spices, pancakes, grain), animals (sheep, goats, bulls, doves) and the joyful sound of human song (by the Levites) were all brought near to YHWH, the Interbreath of Life.  

So there is warrant for intertwining the traditional concerns of Tisha B’Av with the planetary concern of our own generation..

 One possible resource for synagogues, havurot, and other sacred congregations is an entire  Tisha B’Av service centered on the English-language Eicha-trope-chantable “Eicha for the Earth” composed by Rabbi Tamara Cohen. It was chanted first at the US Capitol during the summer of 2010, the summer of the BP oil eruption in the Gulf of Mexico, and since then at such other venues as the National Havurah Institute. You can see it and other elements of an Earth-oriented Tisha B’Av service at

 Part of this resource is a remarkable essay by Rabbi Cohen on a number of different ways in which the suggested texts could be used in many different contexts for Tisha B’Av. 

To all this could be added a simple and important sacred act: writing a letter or paying a visit to your Senators or Congressperson to urge the inclusion in the Jobs and Infrastructure Act of massive grants for solarizing homes, building electric railway systems and  frequent service stations for electric autos,  requiring retrofitting for all public buildings in renewable energy, organizing coastal wind-turbine arrays, financing restorative agriculture and urban organic garden/ farms, etc.   This could begin now; The Shalom Center will get back to you with more details.

As we approach Tisha B'Av and other sacred says, keep this in mind:  As our parents age, and sometimes grow worn and weary, many of us their children lend a healing hand. Most of our holydays are the offspring of a long love affair between Earth and the Jewish people -- and other spiritual communities. Now that both Earth and human Earthlings -- adamah and adam, in Hebrew -- are in serious wounded trouble, let us reawaken and reframe their offspring, our festivals and fast days, to rejuvenate our endangered parents, 

 Please share this letter with your friends, colleagues, and congregants. And if you have been forwarded this Shalom Report, please feel welcome to subscribe to a weekly letter -- free!  -- by clicking here: 

Moses Too Bossy or Korach Too Racist? -- Exploring Torah

Moses. Korach.

Up there: a far-sighted leader -- or is he arrogant, a tyrant? Down here, facing him: an ambitious troublemaking rebel -- or is he a democratic visionary?

Are critics -- inner, outer -- traitors, heroes, or something else entirely?

These are archetypal questions, and what makes a Writing sacred is that it demands we face the archetypal questions. The Bible takes up these questions in the story of the forty-year trek through the Midbar, usually called the Wlilderness. Looking deeply at the word itself: M’Dvar – the Place Without Words, or Beyond Words. 

The Forty Years of Pregnant Pause (Rabbi Jeff Roth points out that every biblical "forty" may stem from the forty weeks of human pregnancy)  are barely begun when rebellious Korach, whose name means "Frozen," claims: "The whole community is holy -- all of them! Why do you, Moses and Aaron, raise yourselves above them?" (Num. 16: 1-3 ff.) 

As the story plays out, Korach and those who joined with him in challenging Moses' leadership are swallowed up by Earth. 

Is this a punishment?  So peculiar a result that the ancient rabbis taught that the mouth of the earth that swallowed up Korach was one of the special items in the world that God created in that eerie time just after the six workdays of Doing, just before the first Shabbat of Resting. 

But what was wrong with Korach's challenge? To many contemporary ears, Korach seems a grass-roots communitarian democrat. Whether in secular or religious life, we are suspicious of self-anointed leaders, even those who have a far-seeing vision and decent values. 

During Martin Luther King's lifetime, he was often criticized by the band of little-known grass-roots civil-rights workers who understood his limitations. "De Lawd," they mocked him. They feared that his charisma would distract attention and support from the hard, gritty work of day-to-day organizing. 

Martin Buber asks this same question: Was Korach wrong? Buber certainly criticized such world-renowned leaders of his own day as Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, for centralizing power and authority in themselves and in the State. Buber identified with the prophets much more than the kings, and admired Samuel's challenge to the people who urgently demanded that he choose for them a king.

As Samuel said, "We have a King -- in Heaven! An earthly monarch will tax and conscript you, will shatter your free communities and your connection with God." Indeed, the Haftarah for this Torah portion hearkens back to that collision between the people demanding a king, versus Samuel and God opposing the demand.

And in his book Paths in Utopia, Buber fervently criticized Marx, Lenin, and Stalin for their centralizing politics, their call for an elite and vanguard party to transform society. Buber instead argued for a transformative politics rooted in decentralized communities. 

So, Buber asks in his book Moses, what's wrong with Korach's position? Don't we -- indeed we!! -- want the whole people to be holy, and not have to depend on an elite?

But then Buber says: Korach thought the whole people was holy regardless of how it acted. One might even imagine that he was espousing a kind of racial holiness. (Buber doesn't use that language.) The People was so holy, thought Korach, that  it could kill, or worship gold, or rape the earth -- it could do anything, and still be holy. A kind of "populism" that has become all too familiar to us. 

Moses, on the other hand, understood that the people had to become holy, over and over, forever and always -- had to act and act, do and do again, to make holiness out of ordinary life. 

And in this way Buber explains and justifies the failure of Korach.

But there is more to ask: Why is it Korach's destiny to be swallowed up by Earth?

Perhaps we should hear between the lines of the story, God speaking to Korach in the moment of crisis: 

"Korach, though Moses is right, you are not entirely wrong. I want the whole people to become holy, but they have not yet gotten there.

"Indeed, Korach, you are right -- but only in potential, only like a seed. You think the holiness already full-grown, fully fruitful. It is not. It is a tiny seed, and it needs not only time but hard work to germinate and grow, time and nurture in the womb of Mother Earth. 

"Korach, you need to become seed deep in the earth, growing toward the season of your sprouting.

"Korach, you are what your name says: frozen. You do not yet understand growth, thawing, all the wisdom a seed learns through the winter as the earth thaws and the seed sprouts. 

"Learn to be seed, Korach! Into the earth, Korach! Learn to be seed! Through these forty years of pregnancy, as I carry the People in My belly, as they learn to grow -- you too must learn to grow!" 

So that is why the earth swallowed Korach. 

And that is why, a little later in the story, when each tribe planted its barren stick in the resistant earth, it was the Levites' stick that sprouted, flowered (Num. 17: 23): Korach's family did learn to thaw and grow. 

And the Israelites who had stubbornly refused to learn from plagues and fires and earthquakes, threats of death, responded to the flowering stick of new life. 

God – Who had failed as a teacher by threatening plague and fire -- grew into a Teacher Who can grow through teaching, grow into the Teaching, teach the People how to grow by watching growth.

Can we ourselves grow into teachers who can create the ends we seek through the means we use -- can create new life and growth as a beckoning to new growth and life? 

In a few congregations nowadays, on Yom Kippur the people do what all Israel did in ancient days: prostrate themselves, to become reborn. Even the few who do this whole-body dance do it by sinking down upon a carpet inside a synagogue. Rarely do we do this in such a way as to embrace the earth itself, sink into it, smell the fresh grass, sense a scurrying beetle. 

Yet if we ourselves want to grow our seeds of holiness into a fuller fruiting, perhaps we should invite the mouth of the earth to open for us, let ourselves once more become the adamah (earth) from which adam (the human earthling) can be born.


Healing Earth, Saving Democracy: 3 Jewish HolyDays

Dear friends, as we begin once again to meet with care in public places, as it becomes possible once again for the American people to see each others’ faces and touch each others’ shoulders, to hear each others’ songs and see each others’ posters of joy and warning, now the streets once more can become a forum of democracy, along with the email and the Zoom, the letter to a Congressperson and the ballot box.

High time!  For we face two intertwined historic crises, which cry out in all these venues for democratic creativity and vigor.

The first is a crisis calling into question the future of American democracy.

The second calls into question the future of the web of life on Planet Earth.

The two are intertwined because the greatest dangers to the web of life are giant corporations that blind themselves for the sake of hyper profits to the burning, flooding, freezing, choking, of the planet that is our common home. Their anti-democratic power is entrenched in the governmental structures of our country, and our country holds the most portent and power for the future of our planet.

When the American people saw the possible future in the face of a would-be fascist, by a majority of seven million votes we voted NO, and tentative YES to a more just, more democratic, more Earth-responsive future. But the entrenched past of anti-democratic political structures (e.g. the US Senate, gerrymandered state legislatures, a stolen Supreme Court) has brought us to a hostile 50-50 split in real political power.

Add it all up, and it means that --

if democratic decision-making threatens the Carbon Pharaohs who endanger the planet and human civilization;

if democratic decision-making would end poverty for the million US children who live in despair;

if democratic decision-making would meet the need of a hundred million American women to choose birth control and abortion;

if democratic decision-making would end the lethal disparity in not only property but also length of life and degree of health between Black and white Americans;

then certain politicians and the Hyper-Rich behind them would rather abolish democracy than lose their own perks and powers. (In the cases of subordinating women and the LGBTQ communities, this comes more from the all-male monopoly control of two very large religious communities with a deeply mistaken and self-serving biblical theology, than from the corporations.)

In about half the states, legislatures are ready to pass anti-vote laws that they hope will turn the 2022 and 2024 elections to anti-democratic results. That effort could have been reversed by abolishing the Senatorial filibuster, at least in regard to voting-rights bills, and passing at least two such bills. But with a Senate balanced on a hair, Sen. Joe Manchin (West Virginia) has now made it very hard – 99.44% impossible – to end the filibuster or pass a voting-rights bill of any consequence.

So let’s be honest: We have a very hard job to save both democracy and Earth.  Almost the only conceivable way to win a pro-Green, pro-democracy Congress in 2022 is to turn out such a strong pro-Green, pro-Black/ Latinx/ Indigenous/ Asian/ Muslim, pro-Woman / LGBTQ vote that the voter suppression system is overwhelmed.

The Green values would include support for universal transformation to renewable energy and millions of well-paying jobs, solar co-ops, urban farms, restorative agriculture, and Resilience Centers everywhere in America.

Part of doing that might be unconventional but both politically and ethically important: grants directing money for solar co-ops to financially and psychologically marginalized rural and small-town voters as well as such neighborhoods in big cities.

Even if pro-Green, pro-Black, pro-Woman laws cannot be passed before November 2022, the struggle for them should be clear and strong

In the Jewish community, there are three remaining holy days this year for Jews to “Green and Grow the Vote” in preparation for 2022. (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can be times for rabbinic sermons on healing Earth and saving democracy, but probably not for public activism.)

Tisha B’Av (evening Saturday July 17 to evening Sunday July 18), when we traditionally mourn the destruction of ancient Temples and have in recent years turned to lamenting the wounding of Temple Earth.

Sukkot (evening Monday September 20 to evening Monday Sept 27),  the harvest festival that is traditionally celebrated on behalf of abundance for the “seventy nations” of the world, that honors a leafy, leaky hut that is open to our Mother Earth, that honors four species of trees and fruit by ceremonially waving them in the seven directions of the world, and that prays for the Breath of Life to save us all from deadly plagues, plastics, and poisons.

Hanukkah (evening Sunday November 26 to evening Monday December 6), when we kindle candles to bring light in a time of darkness, honor energy conservation and renewable energy (olive oil for lighting the Menorah that meets eight days’ sacred needs with one day’s oil), and yearn for the day that the Prophet Zechariah envisions when two olive trees will take a newly sacred place in our Holy Space.

All three of these sacred times could become times for Jewish visits and challenges to Senators and Congressmembers who are resisting changes that already have majority support from the American people.

During the next week we will start supplying you with materials to use for Tisha B’Av and Sukkot. 

And now we need to ask for YOUR HELP so that we can do this work quickly and well. Wewant to engage liturgists, song-writers,  illustrators who include and go beyond our own staff and Board to make this happen.  Doing this will take money. We ask you urgently to join with us in this effort.  Please click on the maroon “Contribute” banner just below,  and please make a contribution that befits both the emergency we face and the transformations we can achieve.

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


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