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Eicha for the Earth: Guidelines for a Ceremony of Celebration, Lament and Action

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Tisha B'Av — the midsummer day of Jewish mourning for the ancient Temples in Jerusalem, and of hope for a transformed future — can be focused on the endangered Earth as today the Temple of all peoples, all lifeforms.

 

What follows is the text of how such an Earth-centered prayerful process could have these themes:

  1. Celebration of the Earth;
  2. Lament for the Earth;
  3. Action to Heal the Earth;
  4. Renewed Celebration of an Earth Renewed.

 

Although at The Shalom Center we have put considerable energy intoworking this out, it is not carved in stone. We encourage communities to work out their own changes or additions.

 

After the text, you can find suggestions in more detail about using the liturgy or parts of it on Tisha B'Av itself or in creating an event on the Sunday before Tisha B'Av.

 

1. CELEBRATION OF THE EARTH

Recite together:

 

“Come with me, my love, come away,
For the long chill months are past,
The rains have fed the earth
and left it bright with blossoms.
Birds wing in the low sky,
dove and songbird singing in the open air above.
Earth nourishing tree and vine,
green fig and tender grape,
green and tender fragrance.
Come with me my love, come away!” (Song of Songs 2:11-13, translated by Marcia Falk)

 

Chant:

"Kamti ani, liftoakh l'dodi; Kamti ani, liftoakh l'dodi;
I will open to you my beloved; Will you open, open to me?" (by Rabbi Shefa Gold from Song of Songs)

 

2. LAMENT FOR THE EARTH

Eicha for the Earth: Woven from the underlying sense of the meaning of the Book of Lamentations, traditionally read on Tisha
B'Av, this lament for the Earth can be chanted according to the ancient wailing Lamentations melody.

Click here to read Eicha for the Earth.

 

3. ACTION TO HEAL THE EARTH

This part of the observance may include vigils, visits to official or business offices, letter-writing, etc.:
We call on the peoples and the governments of the United States and of the world:

  1. To forbid, now and forever, the drilling of new oil wells into the depths of Mother Ocean, the destruction of mountains for the sake of the coal within them, and the leveling of great forests that breathe their majesty throughout our planet.
  2. To end all subsidies to producers of fossil fuels, and to provide as first priority throughout the world the support of the public in money and attention for conservation of energy and swift emplacement of responsible and sustainable energy sources; sun, wind, and earth-based geothermal.
  3. To honor and affirm the Breath of Life by swiftly and strongly capping the emission of carbon dioxide, methane, and other heat-trapping gases.
  4. To share the wealth of the world so that nations and regions, domestic and world-wide, that are trapped in poverty gain help from the rich in lessening the devastation of climate crisis already under way and in achieving economic development through a non-fossil-fuel path.

 

4. RENEWED CELEBRATION OF AN EARTH RENEWED

End by reciting together Psalm 104 or 148 or a more recent
poem of celebration of the Earth; by circle-dancing; and by chanting again
from the Song of Songs:

“Hallelu-YAH!
Praise YHWH/Yahh the Breath of Life from the heavens,
Praise Yah in the heights,
Praise Yah, you messengers; Praise Yah, you multitudes!
Praise Yah, sun and moon
And all you light-filled stars!
Praise Yah, Heavens beyond the heavens.
Praise Yah, waters beneath the heavens.
Praise the Name of YHWH/ Yahh Breath of Life,
For through Its intertwining all comes to Be,
Each finds its place in the dance of All:
YHWH/ Yahh carves them a role that no one can erase.
So sing praise, all that is earthy and grounded,
All that flows in the deeps like the great sea-monsters,
Fire and hail, snow and fog,
Storm-winds blowing from the Mouth of God.
Lofty mountains, gentle hills,
Fruit trees and evergreens,
Roaring beasts and lowing herds,
Crawly bugs and soaring birds,
Powerful rulers and empowered peoples,
Prosecutors and public defenders,
Men and women sprouting promise,
Bearded elders bent by life and beardless youth not yet on path,
All sing praise to the Breath of Life —
For Yahh stands alone in radiance,
Filling with splendor earth and sky,
Making all peoples a horn of plenty.
For the sake of all who love Yahh
Or who come near through Wrestling God,
Let us praise the Breath of Life — Hallelu-YAH!” (Psalm 148, translated by Rabbi Arthur Waskow)

 

Chant:

"Vayasem midbarah k'eden (3x),
v'arvatah k'gan Yahh;
Turn the barren place to Eden (3x);
And the desert to a garden breathing Life." (by Rabbi Shefa Gold from Song of Songs)

 

 


 

 

Rabbi Arthur Waskow is a former member of the Green Zionist Alliance slate for the World Zionist Congress and the director of The Shalom Center, where these guidelines were first published.

 

 

 

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