Challenge Carbon Pharaohs: Interfaith Prayer Service in the Spirit of Passover & Palm Sunday:

We Challenge the Carbon Pharaohs of Our Generation

And We Seek to Create the Beloved Community.

May Every Land and all of Earth become a Land of Promise!

March 22, 2015

[ This service could be used in future years

as a framework for Earth-honoring prayerful actions

in many seasons , not only at Passover-time.]


[On translations from Hebrew: We translate “YHWH” in light of its “pronunciation” with no vowels as simply a Breath – the Breath of all life, rather than “Lord.” We translate “Yisrael” as “Godwrestlers.”  Mitzrayyim,” a double “Narrowness,” is the Hebrew word for “Egypt.” We translate it as “Tight & Narrow Space” or π“Narrowness.”  “Hallelu-Yah” is in Hebrew two words, meaning “Let us praise YAH/ God’s aspect as the life-breath.”  [Translations from Exodus are by Everett Fox in The Five Books of Moses (Schocken,1995), with some changes by Rabbi Arthur Waskow.]

The shofar sounds: “Sleepers, Awake!”      

T’ruah!  --- Shevarim!  --- Tekiah gedolah! ---- ”


[The assembly sings from Psalm 148, to the melody of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”:]

 Praise God, sun and moon, Hallelu-YAH.

Praise Yah, you stars of light, Hallelu-YAH.

 Praise God, you high heavens, Hallelu-YAH.

 All that flows in all the world, Hallelu-YAH.


Let them all praise God's Name, Hallelu-YAH.

 For God spoke and they appeared, Hallelu-YAH.

With God they take their stand, Hallelu-YAH.

 God's rhythm none must break, Hallelu-YAH.


Praise Yah from the Earth, Hallelu-YAH.

You sea-monsters and all deeps, Hallelu-YAH.

 Fire, hail, snow, and steam, Hallelu-YAH.

Stormy wind to do God's word, Hallelu-YAH.



Mountains high and tiny hills, Hallelu-YAH.


Trees of fruit and evergreens, Hallelu-YAH.


Wild beasts and quiet flocks, Hallelu-YAH.


Creeping bugs and winged birds, Hallelu-YAH.



 Men and women, young and old, Hallelu-YAH!


High officials and whole peoples, Hallelu-YAH.

[A  speaker recites (from Luke 4 and Isaiah 61)]

“Jesus came to Nazareth, to the synagogue on the Day of Shabbat as he regularly did. He took up the Scroll of Isaiah and read:

‘The Breathing-Spirit of all Life

“Speaks through me:

‘Good news to the poor and to the imprisoned Earth –

For God calls us to bring the Year of Jubilee,

Homebringing for the poor, release for the rich,

And restfulness for the Earth.’

[A speaker chants (The Holy Quran, Surah 1)]

"In the name of God, the infinitely merciful, the compassionate.

Praise be to God, Lord of the worlds.

The compassionate, the merciful, the ruler on the Day of Reckoning.

You alone do we worship. You alone do we ask for help.

Guide us on the straight path,

the path to those you have received your grace;

not the path of those who have brought down wrath, nor of those who wander astray." Ameen


[Speaker says:]

Psalm 148 sings out our ecstasies in the beauty of God’s Presence in the Earth, and the Psalm reminds us that we humans are not separate from this sacred flow: we too are woven into its life.

Yet in our generation, this wonder and this beauty have been desecrated -- not in one land alone but ‘round all the Earth. So in this crisis, even as we celebrate in earth-song, we know all Earth needs also the healing human hand.

One of the crucial stories of  Jewish, Christian,  and Muslim traditions – and indeed a story that has entered into many other human cultures as well – is the story of how tyrannical power can enslave human beings and ruin the Earth. It is the story of Pharaoh and the Plagues. Yet it is above all the story of how human beings can learn to join our breath with the Breath of Life, to free ourselves and the land from tyranny, into shaping eco-social justice  -- the Beloved Community, the Promised Earth.

We remember the pain and the joy of that struggle – from the Book of Exodus, an archetype of what we face today:

[Members of the assembly each read a paragraph:]

So Pharaoh of the Tight & Narrow Space made the Godwrestlers subservient with crushing-labor

     and embittered their lives with hard servitude in loam and in bricks and with all kinds of servitude in the field –

all their service in which they made them subservient with crushing-labor.

The Godwrestlers groaned from the servitude,

and they cried out;

and their plea-for-help went up to God, from the servitude.

     God hearkened to their moaning; God saw; God knew.

When Pharaoh refused any act of even partial liberation, his refusal so affected the Holy Breathing-Spirit that intertwines all life, that his refusal brought Plagues upon his own land and people:

Blood. Frogs. Mosquitoes. Wild Beasts. Mad Cow Disease. Boils. Hail ---

All these Plagues were ecological disasters. The seventh Plague, Hail, was a climate catastrophe, and we pause to hear that one more deeply :

YAH/ YHWH/  YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh  the Breath of Life spoke within Moshe:

        Stretch out your hand over the heavens:

        Let there be hail throughout all the land of Narrowness,

        on man and on beast and on all the plants of the field,

        throughout the land of Narrowness!

        YAH/ the Breath of Life gave forth thunder-sounds and hail, and fire went toward the earth,  and YAH/ Yhwh caused hail to rain down upon the land of Narrowness.

     There was hail and a fire taking-hold-of-itself amidst the hail, exceedingly heavy, the like of which had never been throughout all the land of Narrowness  since it had become a nation.

The hail struck, throughout all the land of Narrowness, all that was in the field, from man to beast; all the plants of the field the hail struck, and all the trees of the field it broke down;

     Moshe went from Pharaoh, outside the city, and spread out his hands to YAH , the breath of life, the wind and hurricane of change:

     The thunder and the hail stopped, and the rain no longer poured down to earth. But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had stopped,  he did not send the Godwrestlers free, as  Yhwh had spoken through Moshe.


     Pharaoh’s own servants said to him:

     Do you not yet know that our own land is ruined?

     Send the people free, that they may serve Yah the Breath of Life, their God!


But YAH made Pharaoh’s heart strong-willed, and he did not send the Godwrestlers free.

So Pharaoh’s stubborn arrogance brought three more plagues upon his land and people:  Locust. Darkness. Slaying of the First-born. Yet the Hurricane of Change passed-over the homes of the Godwrestling folk, bringing them  not death but new birth, as they passed through the womb of a doorway soaked in blood. And YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh/ YAH  called upon them to go forth to an uncertain freedom:

   Now the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, spoke through them: “Fierce Urgency of Now!”  So the Godwrestlers  baked the dough which they had brought out of the Narrow Land into matzot / unleavened cakes, for the Wind of Change drove them out of Narrowness, there was no time for the bread to rise, they could not linger!

[The community sings: African-American spiritual]]

When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land

When Israel was in Egypt’s land, Let My people go;
Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let My people go;
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh: Let My people go!

The pillar of cloud shall clear the way, Let My people go;
A fire by night, a shade by day, Let My people go.
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh: Let My people go!

As Israel stood by the water-side, Let My people go;
At God’s command it did divide, Let My people go.
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh: Let My people go!

When they had reached the other shore, Let My people go;
They sang the song of freedom o’er, Let My people go.
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh: Let My people go!

Oh, set all Earth from bondage free, Let all My peoples go;
And let all life be free to Be, Let air and water flow.
Go down, Moses, way down in every land,
Tell ALL Pharaohs: Let My creation grow!

[Speaker:]  The ancient tradition tells us the story of passing-over into freedom and community. And more than a thousand years later, the story awakened resistance to another Empire, to Caesars who ruled with the Pharaoh’s iron grip:

[After Mark 11:1–11, Matthew 21:1–11, Luke 19:28–44, and John 12:12–19.; Psalm 118]

As the time of Passover approached,

Jesus led a band of marchers in celebration and protest.

They brought palm branches to spread upon the path.

As they came near Yerushalayim,

Where the road descends from the Mount of Olives,

The entire band began to sing and praise God

At the top of their voices –

For all the transformative works they had seen:

From the Psalm they sang:

“Hodu l’Yah ki tov,

Ki l’olam chasdo

Give thanks to YAH/ YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh,

The Breath of Life  --

It embodies good! —

For God’s lovingkindness is forever.

Baruch haba b’shem Yah –

Blessed be those who come forth in the Name

Of the ONE Who breathes all life!”

Some along the road who disapproved

Called out to Jesus, “Rabbi, quiet down your followers!”


“I tell you,” he replied, “If they keep quiet,

The very stones will speak -- cry out!


[Reader:] Today the very stones are speaking. Coral reefs are moaning as they die, ice fields are groaning as they melt, mountains are wailing as they are destroyed to mine more coal, shale rock is shrieking as it is pummeled to harvest unnatural gas.

And suffering human communities have also begun to speak: Those who have lost their food to famine, their homes to superstorms, their  cities and countries to the rising seas. We join with them all, raising our own voices in song, in chant, and in prayer, to dissolve the autocratic power of the Carbon Pharaohs and to shape both a renewed democracy and a community that can embrace all life.

[Another reader:] What are we to make of these disasters? The Holy Quran 30:41 teaches:

"Corruption has appeared on the land and in the sea because of what the hands of humans have wrought. This is in order that We give them a taste of the consequences of their misdeeds that perhaps they will turn to the path of right guidance."

[Different members of the assembly each say one paragraph)]:

We gather today in the spirit of the prophetic tradition that unites us.  

We appeal today to the Carbon Pharaohs of our time, all who reap massive profit by pillaging and burning our planet.

We call today to you who devote billions to corrupting the political process, blocking democratic action to heal and renew the sacred web of life.

We call on you to recognize the horrific plagues you are bringing upon all humankind and all the life-forms of our planet.  

Turn now from this suicidal path, before it is too late .

Turn now!

End your  support for the hyper-wealthy few against the struggling many;

End your enmity to labor unions and worker’s rights;

End your hostility to absorbing new immigrants into the immigration-woven fabric of the United States;

End your support for racist and anti-democratic barriers against the voting rights of Blacks, Hispanics, the poor, the young, and the old;

End your support of subsidies for instead of carbon taxes upon Big Coal, Big Oil, and Big Unnatural Gas;

End  your hostility toward the life-giving energies of wind and sun.

Turn now!  Transform curse into blessing!  

Withdraw  your billions from burning the earth, from corrupting  elected officials  and the electoral  process itself, from defaming the solid science that accurately describes our crisis.  

Devote them instead to healing our planet and developing renewable resources which harness the power of wind and sun.

May we, and all who walk this earth, turn from our own addictions to resources that threaten the web of life.

May we turn towards actions that renew and restore our world and our democratic society.

May we resist the Disease of Domination that subjugates all who are vulnerable: people of color, women, religious minorities, the poor, and the Earth; 

May we move towards a wiser, more just distribution of the Earth's abundance;

May we Move our Money (our purchases, banking, investing, and tax-subsidies) from supporting deadly fossil fuels to supporting green jobs, green energy.

May we demand of our leaders vigorous action to adopt such measures as  a carbon fee-and-dividend system, and strong, binding international agreements to swiftly and radically reduce greenhouse gases.


We call upon the wisdom of Passover and Palm Sunday to empower us all to bring a decent future to our families, neighborhoods, and workplaces; our planet; and our spiritual lives.  To create the Beloved Community.

So today we lift the Matzah that betokens the fierce urgency of Now, and the Palms that betoken the bravery of life-renewal in the Spring.


[Participants in the assembly take Matzah and Palms.]

[ALL SAY:]  And today we go forth to challenge the Carbon Pharaohs of our generation. We welcome all who wish to join with us in this prayerful, nonviolent action.

[The assembly sings the new last verse of “Go Down Moses” and then moves into “We Have the Whole World in Our Hands.” Buddhist bell-ringers and drummers begin: the assembly begins its journey.]

Oh, set all Earth from bondage free, Let all My peoples go;
And let all life be free to Be, Let air and water flow.
Go down, Moses, way down in every land,
Tell ALL Pharaohs: Let My creation go!



(If possible, while singing PASS a GLOBE FROM HAND TO HAND)

We have the whole world in our hands,

We have the rain and the forests in our hands,
We  have the wind and the honeybees in our hands,

We have the rivers and the mountains in our hands,
We have the lakes and the oceans in our hands

We have you and me in our hands,
We have the whole world in our hands.

We have trees and tigers in our hands,

We have our sisters and our brothers in our hands,

We have our children and their children in our hands,




For a brief video of this service and the street theater that followed it, see “Carbon  Pharaoh” by Herb Perr:


This prayer service was shaped by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center;  Sahar Alsahlani, Community of Living Traditions/Stony Point Center; Rabbi Phyllis Berman; Cari Gardner, Romemu Social Action; Viv Hawkins, The Shalom Center; Rabbi Marc Margolius,  West End Synagogue.

Among other participants in the service are Beth Ackerman, Riverside Church; Pat Almonrode,; Rev. Dr. Terence  Ellen, IMAC & Unitarian Universalists for Social Justice;  Donald Gardner, Shofar Blower;  Rabia Terri Harris, Community of Living Traditions/Stony Point Center;  Mark Johnson, IMAC & Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice; Ruhi Sophia Motzkin Rubenstein, Congr. Beth Simchat Torah; Lise Van Susteren, IMAC;  Sara Wolcott, Judson Memorial Church.

The action of which this service was a part was sponsored and organized by The Shalom Center, IMAC (Interfaith Moral Action on Climate Change), and a working committee of New York and other faith-rooted climate activists, chaired by Pat Almonrode with special assistance from Cari Gardner; The People’s Puppets; Isaac Luria, Auburn Theological Seminary; Rabbi Marc Margolius; Jacqueline Patterson, IMAC & NAACP Project on Climate Justice; Beth Ackerman; Sara Wolcott;  Mark Johnson; Catherine Skopic, IMAC; and important work by Rev. Dr.. Terence  Ellen,; Lise Van Susteren; Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; Basia Yoffe, Jewish Currents; David Eber, The Shalom Center; Janna Diamond; Rev. Donna Schaper, Judson Memorial Church;  and Vicky Furio, Union Theological Seminary.

 Special roles in street theater are being played by Rabbi /Kohenet Jill Hammer as the Prophet Miriam/ Mother Earth, and Brandon Michael Taylor as Pharaoh..



Indeed, this service could be used as a framework for Earth-honoring prayerful actions in many seasons of the year, not only at Passover-time.

For continuing connection with and information from The Shalom Center and Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, please link to:

<> and there, the free subscription link for the weekly Shalom Report


To support continuing interfaith work to heal our planet and all humankind from climate chaos, please link here:


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