A Rabbinic Statement Supporting the Lakota Nation in its Opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline

From the Shalom Center:

We are living in the midst of a profound spiritual crisis in American society, expressed in the current election campaign and in many other forms as well.

One of the most poignant is the nonviolent protest in North Dakota, led by people of the First Nations, against the imposition of the oil-bearing Dakota Access Pipeline upon the sacred ancestral lands of the Sioux Nation. The pipeline is desecrating their graves, threatening to poison the water of the Missouri River, and endangering the entire web of life of Mother Earth by increasing the burning of fossil fuels.

Already hundreds of representatives from many of the First Nations living in the United States, gathered for the first time in history beyond all previous divisions and alliances, together with growing numbers of other Americans and of indigenous peoples from other countries, have gathered to face this onslaught with prayerful nonviolent resistance.

Yet as they pray, police have already used dogs, pepper gas, and clubs – and with rifles loaded and lifted threaten to use deadly force — to impose this destructive pipeline on the region, on the nation, and on the Earth.

As spiritual leaders and teachers of the Jewish people, we affirm Torah’s commitment to protect the Earth from which the human race was born (Gen 2: 7) and which we are commanded to allow to rest in rhythmic celebration of the Creator (Lev. 25: 1-12, 23).

Indeed, Torah adds that if we block this rhythmic rest, the exhausted earth will erupt against us (Lev 26: 34-35, 43). These commands and warnings were rooted in our ancestors’ deep experience of the sacred unity of all life.

They are confirmed by scientists today.

And already we are seeing these ancient prophecies and modern scientific predictions come to life — in higher rates of asthma and cancer where coal, oil, and fracked unnatural gas are extracted, refined, and burned; in unprecedented floods and droughts and superstorms all around the planet.

On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stood together in Riverside Church in New York City. Dr. King spoke out not only against the Vietnam War but even more deeply against what he called the deadly triplets afflicting America — racism, militarism, and materialism. And he called for a commitment to nonviolent activism to bring about a “revolution in values” for America.

In the Dakota confrontation, all three of those triplets have borne monstrous offspring in one clarifying moment:

Corporate greed has in this case taken the “materialism” triplet to its extreme; the armed police have brought militarism home; the trampling on Native rights and needs echoes the earliest racism of our past.

For all these reasons, we urgently call on President Obama as Commander-in-Chief of the Army Corps of Engineers to firmly and clearly prohibit the Dakota Access Pipeline from encroaching on the Missouri River, and we urge all state and federal agencies to affirm and respect the role of the Native communities in defending the weave of life upon the continent we know as North America, and they have for centuries called Turtle Island.

And we call on Jewish communities and their leaders throughout our country to speak out in congregations and publicly, to gather in prayerful vigils in our own communities, and to assist the Lakota protest as it moves into a stern Dakota winter by sending money to buy clothing, food, and other supplies for a lengthy steadfast stay. Please send your gifts by clicking here: http://www.ocetisakowincamp.org/

We encourage our communities to call North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple at (701) 328-2200 to leave a message stating your opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline; to call the White House at (202) 456-1111 or (202) 456-1414 to tell President Obama to rescind the Army Corps of Engineers’ permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline; and to call the Army Corps of Engineers (202) 761-5903 and demand that they rescind the permit.

In his Riverside speech, Dr. King lifted up “the fierce urgency of Now.” And in our lives today, facing both a spiritual crisis in America and a world-wide spiritual crisis in the relationship between adam and adamah, humanity and Earth, the urgency of Now is far more fierce.

This letter has so far been signed by more than 270 Rabbis and Cantors at the initiative of Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s Shalom Center

Shabbat Hol HaMo’ed Sukkot: We Must (find time to) Celebrate

It is easy to miss our fall Harvest Festival of Sukkot in the stress created by the confluence of the Jewish New Year, marked by Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur, with the start of the school year and the ramping up of fall activities for all of us after what is at least supposed to be a less busy summer season. We lose track of this opportunity to notice and be mindfully grateful for all the abundance of our lives. We are busy and distracted and who can hear, anyway, the still small voice ringing quietly throughout.

The Talmud calls it a bat kol, a “daughter of a voice”, meaning that it is quiet, likely overlooked, and always a voice of clear, shining truth. We can only hear it if we quiet ourselves down to notice that which we are rushing to do, or that which we have already given up on because we can’t possibly do it.

The bat kol, we are told, is always calling. 

Right now it is sounding through the cacophony of media reports, and the attendant anxiety, over our upcoming election. It is trying to get your attention while you worry about what you’ve forgotten you promised to do this week. If you can hear it, it will guide you toward a deeper place of peaceful focus that might very well lead to higher productivity, while giving you a deeper sense of serenity in the midst of even your sense of chaos.

The bat kol is telling you to notice the abundance of Sukkot in all the resources at your hands, and all the possibilities within your reach. Yes, there is much that calls us to action, but there are so many hands and hearts already showing the way. Here are a few; all the information you need is at the bottom of this email.

* Native Peoples in North Dakota are blazing a path; all you have to do is send support. If it is not in your hands to help financially, it is also a mitzvah to help spread the word on social media. 

It is not up to you to finish the work, but neither are you exempt from doing your part. – Pirke Avot 2.16

* Our local Community of Welcoming Congregations, of which we are a proud part, is marking 25 years with a gathering to support our work in furthering the cause of inclusion for LGBQ people in religious congregations. It is also a mitzvah to show up to help celebrate.

These are the obligations without measure, whose reward, too, is without measure….to celebrate with bride and groom. – Mishnah Peah 1.1

* The vision of Jewish mystics offers us the insight that the world is as full of love as it is of hate; as full of acceptance as it is of condemnation. All that is required of us is to quiet down and listen to that bat kol, that still small voice, ringing underneath the worry and the anxiety to tell you that fear does not empower. Anger does not protect. Cynicism does not build. The bat kol insists: we must celebrate all the good that does exist, if we would strengthen its impact in our world, and in our hearts.

Every day a bat kol goes forth from Sinai to lament the fate of the world caused by those who cause disrespect for that which the community holds sacred. – Pirke Avot 6.2

During Sukkot, our Harvest Festival, may you see all that you harvest. May you look at the chaotic demands of your life in this world and see the underlying hints of mitzvot waiting for you to do them; may you hear the cries for help all around you and hear the voice of your community reassuring you: maybe you can’t do this alone, but look at all that we have done – and will do – together.

Shabbat shalom and mo’adim l’simkha, may the Intermediate Days [of the Festival] be for joy,