Passover and the Global
Climate Crisis

Is the Environmental Protection Agency a modern-day pharaoh? Sweep eco-chameitz from your life with these simple steps.

BY: Prepared by Rabbi Jeff Sultar

 

Continued from page 3

  1. Denied California the Clean Air Act waiver, thus blocking 18 other states from enacting the stricter greenhouse gas emissions standards as well. Sing: "Let my people go."
  2. Interfered with climate change science, revising NASA and other agency documents to remove language regarding climate change, and engaged in a systematic effort to mislead policy makers and the public about the dangers of global warming. Sing: "Let my people go."
  3. Advocated for more nuclear power plants. Sing: "Let my people go."
  4. Opened public land in the Rocky Mountains and Alaska to oil and gas drilling. Sing: "Let my people go."
  5. Declared carbon dioxide not to be a pollutant. Sing: "Let my people go."
  6. Weakened regulations governing air pollution. Sing: "Let my people go."
  7. Rejected the Kyoto Protocol, withdrawing the United States from the global warming treaty. Sing: "Let my people go."
Matzah as a Call to Action:

Though mentioned and discussed in response to Rabban Gamliel's assertion that matzah is among three things that must be mentioned in order for the Passover seder to be complete, we don't actually get to eat matzah until after the Maggid section.



So as we finally approach being able to eat a piece of matzah, let's take a moment to examine a key question: How does the bread of affliction transform into the bread of freedom?



Chameitz can only be made from ingredients that can also be matzah. The only difference between matzah and chameitz is what we do with those ingredients. Making chameitz is easy; all you have to do is mix the ingredients together and then donothing! The source of the substance forbidden during Passover is simply waiting and not doing anything. Inaction.



Making matzvah, on the other hand, is difficult. It takes great determination, swift action, and constantly working toward the goal. When this great effort is made, when we don't let obstacles stand in our way, when we take each step that needs to be taken, with our eyes always on the prize, then the bread of affliction transforms into the bread of liberation.



And One for After the Meal - The Prophetic Promise of Elijah:

On the Shabbat just before Passover, we read the words of the prophet Malachi, who describes God's promise to send Elijah the Prophet to turn the hearts of parents to children and the hearts of children to parents - "lest the earth be utterly destroyed." This call from 2500 years ago that the generations must work together to heal the earth from the danger of utter destruction comes alive with new force in our generation.



When we sing to welcome Elijah, we are giving voice to our own commitment to take actions in our own day to move this world closer to redemption - in our own lives, in our synagogues, offices, and institutions, and by working for changes in public policy.



This is what we mean when we sing of Elijah the Prophet coming to us: Elijah is not a person who comes and changes our world, but is rather the name we give to the change that we ourselves bring about through our determined and inspired action.



Sing:



Eliyahu hanavi, Eliyahu hatishbi Eliyahu, Eliyahu, Eliyahu hagiladi Bimherah veyameynu yavo eleynu Im mashiach ben David, im mashiach ben David Elijah the Prophet come speedily to us hailing messianic days.



Second Seder - Counting Toward Sinai:

During the seder on the second night of Passover, we begin counting the 49 days that link freedom from slavery to freedom to enter into a relationship of responsibility and purpose. Our tradition recognizes that big changes don't happen overnight, but rather take careful planning and preparation. Pulling our world back from the brink of the global climate crisis will require many small and large steps. No single step alone will solve the problem. But we can ensure, with each step, that we are at least moving in the right direction.



Just as our tradition gives us a 49 day period to spiritually prepare ourselves to stand at Sinai, the second seder is a good time to begin making a plan for what steps each individual, family and community will take toward addressing the crisis we face.



Third Day of Passover is Also Earth Day!

This year, Passover converges with Earth Day. And it does so at a time when the global climate crisis can no longer be ignored, calling for us to take bold action. Taking inspiration from "street theater," we propose holding "street seders" during Passover to oppose the pharaohs in our own day.



Let's bring matzah, bitter herbs and chanting of the environmental plagues of today to the ten regional Environmental Protection Agency offices, in protest of its refusal to allow California and eighteen other states to institute greenhouse gas emission standards that are stricter than federal levels. Let's bring street seders to ExxonMobil offices in five or six cities around the country. Let's make our voices heard at congressional offices, letting our Senators and Representatives know that legislation such as the Lieberman-Warner "America's Climate Security Act" matters greatly to us, and that we insist that it be strengthened and that it eventually actually become the law of the land.



And let's do so in a way that is not only a protest, but also a celebration, a re-affirmation, of our power to free ourselves from limitations both external and internal. At Passover, we invoke Elijah the Prophet, as the harbinger of a world redeemed through the actions that we take.



The Green Menorah Program of The Shalom Center has a suggested street seder to adapt and to use. For more resources, for further suggestions, and to let us know about the street seder that you are holding, you can go to http://www.shalomctr.org, and please contact us at greenmenorah@shalomctr.org



Seventh Day of Passover - Crossing the Sea:

Traditionally, the seventh day of Passover is associated with the Israelites crossing through the Sea of Reeds to escape the pursuing Egyptian army.



In a midrash from the Babylonia Talmud (Sotah 36), Rabbi Yehuda described how, "Each tribe said: "I am not going into the water first." During the endless debates, Nachshon from the tribe of Judah jumped into the sea. He was almost drowned when God suddenly divided the waters.



In other words, the miracle of the splitting of the sea wasn't simply a divine intervention. And it wasn't brought about by one strong central leader. Rather, one single person, a member of the crowd, took action that was so bold and so inspired and so filled with faith that the miracle then was activated.



What a powerful counter-balance to all the words associated with Passover! Time to stop talking; time to do!



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