Eight ways to help heal the earth on Chanukah
There are three levels of wisdom through which Chanukah invites us to address the planetary dangers of the global climate crisis — what some of us call “global scorching,” because “warming” seems so pleasant, so comforting.
We can encode these three teachings into actions we take to heal the earth each of the eight days.
1) The Talmud’s legend that for the Maccabees to rededicate the Temple desecrated by the Seleucid Empire, it took only one day’s oil to meet eight days’ needs: A reminder that if we have the courage to change our lifestyles to conserve energy, it will sustain us.
2) The vision of the prophet Zechariah, whose visionary passages are read on Shabbat Chanukah, that the Temple menorah was itself a living being, uniting the world of nature and humanity — for it was not only fashioned by human hands in the shape of a tree of light, as Torah teaches, but was flanked by two olive trees that fed olive oil directly into it. What better symbol of how intertwined we are with the wounded earth that sustains us?
3) The memory that a community of the powerless, led by people as determined as the Maccabees, can overcome a great empire, giving us courage to face our modern corporate empires of oil and coal when they defile our most sacred temple — Earth itself. And the reminder, again from Zechariah that we triumph “not by might and not by power but by My Spirit [in Hebrew, b’ruchi, or “My breath,” “My wind”], says YHWH, the Infinite Breath of Life.”
We are taught not only to light the menorah but to publicize the miracle, to turn our individual actions outward for the rest of the world to see and be inspired by.
So this Chanukah might be just the moment to join in The Shalom Center’s Green Menorah Covenant for taking action — personal, communal and political — to heal the earth from the global climate crisis.
After lighting your menorah each evening, dedicate yourself to making the changes in your life that will allow our limited sources of energy to last for as long as they are needed and with minimal impact on our climate.
No single action will solve the global climate crisis, just as no one of us alone can make enough of a difference.
Yet, if we act on as many of the areas below as possible and act together, a seemingly small group of people can overcome a seemingly intractable crisis. We can, as in days of old, turn this time of darkness into one of light.
Day 1 — Personal/household: Call your electric power utility to switch to wind-powered electricity. (For each home, 100 percent wind power reduces carbon dioxide emissions the same as not driving 20,000 miles in one year.)
Day 2 — Synagogue, Hillel or JCC: Urge your congregation or community building to switch to wind-powered electricity.
Day 3 — Your network of friends: Instant message buddies and members of civic or professional groups to which you belong and ask them to connect with people like newspaper editors, real estate developers, architects, bankers, etc. to urge them to strengthen the green factor in all their decisions, speeches and actions.
Day 4 — (Which this year is Shabbat) Automobile: If possible, choose today or one other day a week to not use your car. Other days, lessen driving. Shop online. Cluster errands. Carpool. Don’t idle a car engine beyond 20 seconds.
Day 5 — Workplace or college: Urge the top officials to arrange an energy audit. Check with the utility company about getting one free or at low cost.
Day 6 — Town/city: Urge town/city officials to require greening of buildings through ordinances and executive orders. Creating change is often easier on the local level.
Day 7 — State: Urge state representatives to reduce subsidies for highways and increase them for mass transit.
Day 8 — National: Urge your senators to strengthen and pass the Lieberman-Warner America’s Climate Security Act.
Give our planet a Happy Chanukah!
Rabbi Arthur Waskow is director of The Shalom Center, the author of books on “down-to-earth Judaism” and a frequent speaker at Jewish institutions. Rabbi Jeff Sultar is director of The Shalom Center’s Green Menorah Covenant. For more information on the covenant, contact Sultar at firstname.lastname@example.org.