Tikkun Olam on Tisha b’Av

By Ariana Siegel

On the Hebrew calendar, today marked the 9th of Av, about 1,940 years after the destruction of the second temple in Jerusalem. On the Gregorian calendar, today marked the 20th of June, about 3 months after the destruction of the BP oil well in the Gulf of Mexico.

The collision of these two devastating events on a single day was commemorated by an unusual coalition of religious and environmental organizations at a rally outside the Capitol. With support from groups including Greenpeace, Public Citizen, Moveon.org, as well as The Shalom Center, Shomrei Adamah of Greater Washington, Am Kolel, and the Teva Learning Center, attendees of the rally called on Congress to “Get dirty fuels out of our air and water,” and “Get dirty money out of our politics.”

The organizers’ intention was to approach several senators and congressmen that they have identified as having the worst records of accepting money from oil companies (among them Senator John McCain and Congressman Ron Paul) and advocate for them to purge those contributed funds before voting on two climate and energy bills to be put before Congress this month.

To shed light on the Jewish connection to environmental initiative, the organizers called upon Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center. In the opening speech of the rally, Rabbi Waskow explained to a congregation of poster-toting activists and camera wielding reporters that Tisha b’Av is a day of mourning, in which Jews pray and fast to memorialize the loss of the beloved second temple. But on this particular Tisha b’Av, in light of the devastating destruction set in motion three months ago, Rabbi Waskow insisted that Jews and all conscientious members of the planet realize that today, another sacred temple is under siege: the planet earth.

Draped in a talit-like green shawl with rainbow stripes, he said, “It is not enough to mourn the old temple. We are here to protect that sacred temple, mother earth.”

The connection between Judaism and environmentalism runs deep. As Hazon, a Jewish environmental organization, points out on their website, “The beginnings of a Jewish environmental ethic emerge out of Bereishit, Genesis,  through the two creation stories, which set up models of our relationship as human beings with the rest of creation, and which obligate us to tend and to protect the world.”

Toward the end of the rally, Rabbi Waskow returned to the podium, joined by several other members of the Shalom Center, and called out “Tikiyah” as the shofar released its prophetic blast. For Jews, the call to action could not have been clearer.

One response to “Tikkun Olam on Tisha b’Av

  1. Great post, Ari! What an interesting idea, to combine a holiday so rooted in the past with an issue that is so current and important.

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