Bio-Mimicry. When I first heard that phrase, I knew exactly what it meant. What could improve on millenia of applied intellegence, that is actually the warp and weft of life. Humanity has managed to control our environments and liberate ourselves from the limitations of weather, seasons, etc. Those same technological acheivements have removed us from the wisdom of cyclicality, modesty of consumption and many other life-affirming dynamics. The world is the finger print of God, according to Job. Earth’s systems are our siblings. And so we live now into winter, like nature, like a tree. The torah portions of this season include Jacob’s dreams, and Laban’s and Joseph’s and Pharoah’s. The dark is predominant to the light. The movement is inward and still. The planet’s surface in our region is covered and stiff. It is a time of hibernation.Now we live into another kind of winter, a political, social and medical winter. We need to contract inward to preseve our health. We need to be still, in order to not stir the virus. Like a tree in the deepest winter, we need to tend to the core, from where new life emerges. We treasure and concentrate the sap of life at the core of us. We tend to the ember of the heart of the tree, always responding to life. In this season, holding and preserving and protecting.The kind of help we need in this season is core work. We have to call forth something new, fortitude and vision; trust and creativity, to feed the heart’s ember. Sacred community, learning community, generous community and a creative community supports this vision and strength. The God in me sees the God in you.Wash your hands in the new “I love you.”Wash your hands!
Dear Friends, As members of the Interfaith Opportunities Network and the Interfaith Council of Franklin County, we feel called to write to you with a deep challenge. We ask you to reflect on and re-imagine a holiday that is deeply meaningful to many people of faith. Many of us treasure Thanksgiving as an opportunity to come together with loved ones, to practice gratitude for the blessings in our lives, and to give thanks to the Source of those blessings. Many also value it as a religious holiday less closely identified with a particular faith than Christmas, Easter, the Jewish High Holidays, or Ramadan. It is often celebrated as a time when people from different faiths, cultures and races can come together as one. Many also value it as a time when families can attempt to bridge political and other values that often divide us from each other. In this year, however, as many of us are looking more deeply than before at systemic racism and 400 years of colonization of Native homelands, we are learning that there is much to this holiday that was hidden from us until now. We are also thinking about how to incorporate new understandings into our ways of marking this holiday. We invite you to join with us in this reflection and to share your re-imaginings with others in our interfaith community. We are learning that our traditional understanding of the Thanksgiving story is fundamentally flawed and damaging to the Native peoples whose homelands we now inhabit. It reinforces the idea that this nation is primarily for whites as opposed to Indigenous folk and People of Color and for Christians as opposed to other faiths. It hides the history of Native land theft and genocide. It ignores important historical facts, including the reality that one of the first references to declaration of “a day set apart for public thanksgiving” by the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was in response to the massacre of over 700 Pequot men, women and children in Mystic CT. This narrative also reinforces the invisibility of Native peoples living today in our region and undermines the work these peoples are doing to preserve their cultures and advance their rights and respect. For all these reasons for the past fifty years, many Native Americans have marked Thanksgiving as a National Day of Mourning. We do not have to abandon Thanksgiving as a holiday or the things we value about it. If, however, we are going to be truthful and move towards right relationship with the Native peoples living among us, we need to re-imagine this holiday and reshape our narrative surrounding it. * Let us acknowledge that whatever harvest meal was shared between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag in early fall of 1621 it was not a celebration of interfaith and interracial mutual respect as the traditional Thanksgiving narrative suggests. * Let us recognize that our first Thanksgivings were declared by Puritan governors in New England who were at least in part thanking God for their victories over Native peoples in our region. * Let us remember that the holiday was born in a religious community that believed it had a divine right to invade, conquer, subdue, convert, enslave, and (if necessary) exterminate the Indigenous peoples who had been living in this region for 10,000 years before Europeans arrived here. * If we celebrate this holiday today let us do so with a sense of humility and need for forgiveness for what those who conquered these lands did and continue to do to the original inhabitants of this land. * And, finally, let us commit ourselves to practice truth, right relationship, healing, and justice with these same Native peoples going forward. In peace, Katie Tolles & Peter Blood, co-conveners, Interfaith Opportunities Network Rabbi Andrea Cohen-Kiener & Rev. Kate Stevens, Interfaith Council of Franklin County Rev. Kelly Gallagher, Justice & Witness Ministries, Southern New England United Church of Christ
I hope you are enjoying the season and these beautiful days of Sukkoth. Sukkoth is a time to take rest in the frail shelter, a poignant symbol for life itself. We read the book of Kohelet during Sukkoth. This profoundly wise book of the Torah struck me a particularly relevant this year. As the author, Kohelet, “King in Jerusalem” muses on values and folly, what is important and what is good. And his opening words are “Utter Futility, saith Kohelet, Utter futility. All is futile.” He carefully examines all the distractions and whims with which we amuse ourselves and analyses one after the other. He concludes that wisdom, wealth, and revelry matter little in the end, as we all return to dust, like the beasts. His simple recommendation for a good life is this: Be happy and enjoy that which the God has blessed you with. Live within your means and practice appreciation. Please give yourself the great gift of reading it yourself. There are important messages for our times.I want to thank again everyone who supported our services over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Please see our calendar for the many and various gatherings we are hosting in the sukkah this week, including a gathering of Jews of Color on Thursday and a gathering of young adults on Wednesday. You are welcome to drop in at all times. We have left a lulav and etrog in the sukkah, so you can observe that mitzvah.Also, please note that there is a bin outside the office entrance for non-perishable food donations. We are gathering food for a local pantry until the end of Sukkoth.Blessings~Rabbi Andrea
Shanah is a rich Hebrew word, meaning both REPEAT and CHANGE, as well as YEAR, of course. Isn’t that ironic? Repeat and change seem like opposites. Rosh Hashana, then, means the beginning of doing it again AND the beginning of change AND the beginning of the year. In this time of pandemic we are doing a lot of the things we have always done (repeat) but in a new way and in a new context (change).The restrictions of the pandemic have required us to reprioritize. What seemed superfluous (stopping at the store for 1/2&1/2) may now have been revealed to be essential (Will the food system be disrupted? Does my neighbor have enough to eat?). What we did as a matter of course and perhaps mindlessly may be long in the rearview mirror or important in a new way. We are all balancing our activity and our idleness, our social contacts and the need for isolation on a new scale of priorities. Our finances, plans for retirement, our relationships with our children or our parents, and our hopes for our future are all beset by the unknown. Yet we are who we are. Our self comes with us into the newness. Repeat and change.Through it all, I continue to turn to the tools of our tradition to find solace, meaning and connection. How will I spend this day, these moments? What is important and life-giving? What words of the Torah and the siddur/prayerbook feel true right now, and helpful? Whatever tools we find – in Judaism, in our gardens and forests, in our families – we must find the way to follow what we need, what we value and what we sense to be true. Every day of unknowing is an opportunity to ask again: What do I want to repeat and what do I want to change?I wish for you and me and all of us a time of gentleness and acceptance, a time of change and renewal, a time of humility and courage.Shana TovaRabbi Andrea
Most of what I understand from being a white skinned liberal is in question for me now. The events of this summer have moved my understanding from my head into my heart and body.I am not defending myself by repeating that I have Black family members. I am not defending myself by repeating that I choose voluntary simplicity over intergeneration class privilege.I am not defending myself by repeating that I have Black skinned friends and work for justice and fairness.I am not defending myself by repeating that I am a Jew, a member of a different oppressed group. Etc. I am not defending myself.I have white skin privilege because I walk in the world in white skin. I was born into it. I have never experienced anything else. I have no idea how it feels to not have white skin privilege.I was born into a system and miseducated in a system that gives Whites supremacy in every aspect of institutional life. Therefore, I am a white supremacist. Say it with me people, if you are white skinned. We are white supremacists because we are in a social structure that gives us automatic supremacy. Not because we are evil or racist, individually. The only possible response to KNOWING this is to actively work to dismantle racist structures and thoughts. This is White on White work. I know that many of you are further along in the process of dismantling racism in yourself and the social structures around you. I experience myself as being at a new beginning of a life-long work. It is the inner work that I am urgently calling myself to now. Our progressive social work and our alliances with non-white people will not be properly grounded if we skip this step.Please excuse me to the extent that I am preaching to the choir. I find that many of us need to, as Robin D’Angelo says “sit in the discomfort.”