Rabbi Waskow: Crossing These (Election) Thresholds

Arthur+WaskowRabbi Waskow at the Shalom Center provides sharp insight into the American soul:

In this election campaign, the American people came to the edge of three thresholds. We crossed two of them and turned back from the third.

The first threshold was the choice of a fascist to be the Presidential nominee of a major party, with the strong support of voters who feel excluded, both economically and culturally, from the emerging new America.

The second was the choice of a woman to be the Presidential nomine of the other major party, with the strong support of the two largest racial minorities in American society. Crossing that threshold, on the basis of that support, looks toward the redemption of several anti-democratic elements that have dogged American history. Looks toward, but does not fulfill, the redemption we need.

The third threshold was to face up to the crucial fact that while the continuing impact of racism is one of the deep issues facing the American people, another is the widening gulf of economic inequality and the power that gives to Hyperwealth and Corporate Pharaohs. Among them are the Carbon Pharaohs that are burning the Earth, our common home –- committing global arson for the sake of their profit and power.

The great majority of younger voters did face up to that truth, but the majority of voters turned back at the edge – for now. But the question will not disappear, and answering it will require not only election campaigns but also a movement that can bring together responses to racism, responses to economic domination, and responses to cultural marginalization.

All three of these decisions the American public has just taken force us to face questions more profound than even who gets elected President this fall – though that choice will itself deeply shape the American future.

Boiling beneath the election returns are five questions. They are expressed in politics, but they are deeper than politics. At bottom they call into question not only individual spiritual yearnings but the spiritual life of our society as a whole:

1. How can we address the real fear and rage felt by many of those “original Americans” who voted for Trump, as they feel “their country” being swept away from them by Blacks, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, feminist women, and GLBTQ people? — and all while not only their incomes but even their very life expectancies are falling, for the first time in American history?

Read the rest here.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow’s Midrash for Election Day

I am a manThe Torah of our Choosing by Rabbi Arthur Waskow (A midrashic interpretation of Deuteronomy 17: 14-20):

You may set, yes, set over you some to hold office
Who are aware that the Breath of Life is One,
Uniting all, breathing into life all God’s Creation.
You may not give power to those so alienated
As not to feel that you are kin to them.

Indeed! — the officials whom you choose
must not multiply the horses of a cavalry,
a standing army to invade other nations and oppress our own;
Your choice must not return the people
to living in a Tight and Narrow Place – that’s slavery!
For the Breath of Life has said to you:
You must not return yourself or others
to ignorance, to poverty, to subservience, or despair –-
all slavery!

The ones you choose must not become addicted to sexual obsessions,
Or to taking bribes or favors from the wealthy
For in these ways their hearts will be turned aside
From wisdom and compassion.

But it shall be when they sit in the halls and seats of power,
They are to clarify their understanding of Most Sacred Wisdom
And face the caring public; share their vision
in ways that could with honor
face the wisdom of our wisest forebears,
prophets and holy teachers,
and so be worthy of our trust.

Their understanding of the Sacred Wisdom
is to remain beside them,
to read it and rewrite it as each day, each dawn,
Brings new knowledge and new insight to our lives —
To make certain that the rulers whom we choose
Will remain steadfast in knowing that all Creation
deserves, demands, our wonder and our healing,
so that their hearts not rise in arrogance above their kinfolk,
all Earth and all her life-forms –
that they not turn-aside from what connects us all.

Only in this way can we prolong our days
among all peoples, all life-forms
we and all our children.–Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Read more from Rabbi Waskow at The Shalom Report.

Becoming the Rebbe, Becoming the Light

zss-celebratory-prayerOne doesn’t mourn the death yesterday of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, one becomes him. Let the Holy Ones dance! Reb Zalman has been one of those great wisdom leaders whose spark has kept ours alive without most of us even knowing it. As one of the most influential “change-makers” of his generation, he gave birth to a worldwide Jewish renewal movement, that often overflowed beyond the cup of Judaism. Communities of commitment and joy sprung up in his footsteps, rooted in the mystical experience of God so rich in the Hassidic tradition.

The ALEPH wrote in their obituary for the Rebbe:

“He was visionary in creating fully-inclusive community, making Jewish mysticism and joyful observance available to several generations of American Jews, and engaging in deep ecumenical relationships with leaders of the world’s religions. …

Reb Zalman was also committed to interfaith “deep ecumenism.” He explored “spiritual technologies” and sustained friendships with many significant leaders, including Ram Dass, Fr. Matthew Fox, Fr. Thomas Keating, Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan, Br. Thomas Merton, Br. David Steindl-Rast, and Ken Wilbur, among others. Where others saw walls, he saw doors. …

Continue reading “Becoming the Rebbe, Becoming the Light”

Rabbi Waskow’s 10 Plagues of Climate Change

Rabbi Waskow arrested. (Photo Credit: John Zanga, #NoKXL Actions, D.C.)
Rabbi Waskow arrested. (Photo Credit: John Zanga, #NoKXL Actions, D.C.)

It gladdened my heart to be with Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other people of good will outside the White House on Thursday for the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate’s public witness marking Passover and Holy Week.

Rabbi Shneyer blew the shofar to announce the danger President Obama is putting the planet in by not denying the Keystone XL pipeline. And we prayed together to claim our human right of eminent domain over corporate interests that endanger the earth.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center, one of the great Jewish leaders of the justice movement in America, at age 80, was one of the 15 who were arrested and taken to jail in Anacostia.

Here’s an excerpt from Rabbi Waskow’s Huffington Post article describing the event:

“In a circle of 70 people in the midst of Pennsylvania Avenue, we had just completed a religious service. Rabbi David Shneyer had blown the shofar of warning and liberation. We had heard the Muslim call to prayer from the Quran, an invocation of the Four Winds in the spiritual tradition of the First Nations, and a Christian prayer.

Continue reading “Rabbi Waskow’s 10 Plagues of Climate Change”

Remembering Zinn: ‘You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train’

howardzinnI’m celebrating the life of Howard Zinn today. The New York Times obit is worth a read to recall his days with with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and, later, traveling to Vietnam with Daniel Berrigan.

Zinn was a wonderful example of the old adage that “teaching is just learning in public.” He put his considerable intellect and passion at the service of popular movements and generated a magical space for new life to come forth. The title of his memoir reflects his personal philosophy: You can’t be neutral on a moving train.

There’s a nice reflection on Zinn by Rabbi Art Waskow over at Sojourners. Waskow writes to Howard:

“If ever the memories, the teachings, of a tzaddik — a practitioner of tzedek, justice — could bring blessing to those who are still scrabbling for justice on this stricken earth, it’s the memories and teachings you left us.”

Below is an excerpt a lovely essay remembering Zinn by Henry A. Giroux, It’s titled Howard Zinn: A Public Intellectual Who Mattered:

Howard refused to separate what he taught in the university classroom, or any forum for that matter, from the most important problems and issues facing the larger society. But he never demanded that students follow his own actions; he simply provided a model of what a combination of knowledge, teaching and social commitment meant. Central to Howard’s pedagogy was the belief that teaching students how to critically understand a text or any other form of knowledge was not enough. They also had to engage such knowledge as part of a broader engagement with matters of civic agency and social responsibility. How they did that was up to them, but, most importantly, they had to link what they learned to a self-reflective understanding of their own responsibility as engaged individuals and social actors.

Read Giroux’s whole essay here.