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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category



Love and Prayer as Resistance: Interfaith Action at Standing Rock

Jan23

by: Paige Foreman on January 23rd, 2017 | 3 Comments »

Seminary students huddle around a table with bright red ministerial stoles in an intimate, round chapel at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley, California. The students were supposed to leave at 3:00 PM, but about twenty people from the  Starr King community want to bless them before they leave. The room is packed with parents, professors, students, friends. Together they pray, singing hymns about water. Many cry, moved by what they know is happening at Standing Rock and the show of support around them. Even though they are not ordained, the group insists the students have the red stoles.

“In the Episcopal tradition, the color red is the color of witnessing,” said Rev. Deb Hansen, an interfaith minister and Starr King student.

Immediately after the service, the eight students piled into two cars and drove for 30 hours to respond to North Dakota Episcopal priest John Floberg’s clergy call for solidarity in early November. A ninth student from Virginia would meet the group in North Dakota. A week ago, 140 protesters were arrested there after a violent confrontation with the police.

They drove together through the snowy Donner Pass, stopped at a diner in Reno, watched the sun rise over brilliant red sandstone in Utah, and gazed at the deer that lined the roads in Wyoming. They drove past oil wells and wind farms. In Wyoming they saw an armory—a giant, two-story grey block surrounded by a chain-link fence topped with razor wire. And about two hours later, one of the cars — in which the passengers were two women, a gay man, and black man — was stopped for speeding by a state trooper.


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Social Action Education as Spiritual Practice – Lessons from Standing Rock

Dec30

by: Rabbi Rain Zohav on December 30th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Every time we take action, we are also educating. If we are lobbying, we are educating our legislators. If we are protesting, we are educating the public and the “powers that be”. And we are educating ourselves in how to be effective and live our values.

In this moment, the Water Protectors at Standing Rock are a strong example of the intertwining of education, action, and spiritual practice. I was privileged to be able to answer the call of Chief Looking Horse for clergy to come to Standing Rock to pray and be in solidarity with the water protectors on Sunday, Dec. 4. This is perhaps the first lesson for allies to any cause: Listen and wait to be invited if you are supporting groups whose oppression you do not share. In the Jewish tradition, our central prayer, the Sh’ma, is all about listening. Listening to the Divine who is One: transcendent, immanent and reflected in the face of every human being.


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Drowning the World in Oil : Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come

Dec16

by: Michael T. Klare on December 16th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s note: here is another important article from our media ally tomdispatch.com and the introduction is written by its editor Tom Engelhardt. Sadly, the Left can point out the problems, but has no serious strategy to change the consciousness of Americans so that they might not go further down the road toward a self-destructive society. We at Tikkun have that strategy–a plan that could split the Right, because not all of those who moved in that direction in 2016 are actually racists, sexists, homophobes, Islamophobes, anti-Semites, or otherwise deranged. Many, in fact, are not any of these things. But to reach them, we need a significant change in the culture and consciousness of the Left. We have the strategy for how to do that. What we don’t have is the financial backing to make it happen. The strategy is outlined in the Winter 2017 issue of Tikkun magazine. But we need your help right now to keep Tikkun alive as a visionary voice in times of growing despair. Please stretch beyond your normal giving to help us–make a tax-deductible contribution at www.tikkun.org/donate or send a check to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave, #1200, Berkeley, CA 94704 or call and give your credit card info and donation to Staci at 510-644 1200 (between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (3 hours earlier than Eastern Standard Time). We can change this world–but only if we have strategies that go beyond “resisting” Trump–because although that is important, it won’t change the minds of people whose minds need to be changed if our world is to be saved from environmental destruction. –Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

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The Trump administration-in-formation is a stew of generalsbillionaires, and multimillionaires – and as in the case of retired Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, the likely new secretary of defense, even the military men seem to have made more than a few bucks in these last years. In retirement, Mattis, for instance, joined the board of military-industrial giant General Dynamics as one of 13 “independent directors,” reportedly amassing at least $900,000 in company stock and another $600,000 in cold cash.

Oh yes, and there’s one other requirement for admission to the Trump administration: your basic civilian appointee must be ready to demolish the system he or she is to head. Betsy DeVos, the president-elect’s pick for education secretary, wants to take apart public education; Tom Price, the future secretary of health and human services, is eager to dismantle Obamacare and Medicare; Scott Pruitt, the proposed new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, seems to want to tear that agency limb from limb; and the announced new “labor” secretary (and you really do have to put that in scare quotes), fast food CEO Andy Puzder, is against raising the minimum wage and thinks the automation of the workplace is a total plus, since machines can’t take vacations or arrive late.

Let’s face it, the most extreme government of our lifetime is going to be a demolition derby. Think of it as the Reagan administration of the 1980s on steroids — and keep in mind that Donald Trump will be the president of a far more fragile country than the one Ronald Reagan and his cronies presided over. Things could begin to fall apart fast for ordinary Americans. For instance, the new Republican Congress is expected to swiftly pass a promised “repeal and delay” version of the obliteration of Obamacare, officially wiping that program off the books and yet postponing its departure and the arrival of whatever is to replace it until after the 2018 elections. In the interim, however, the result is likely to be a “zombie” health care marketplace from which insurance companies are expected to begin to jump ship, potentially leaving significant numbers of those 20 million Americans who got medical coverage for the first time via Obamacare with nothing. And after EPA chief Pruitt has helped let Donald Trump’s “energy revolution” of extreme fossil fuel exploitation loose to do its damnedest and, as TomDispatch regular Michael Klare makes clear today, America’s skies are once again veritable smog-fests, there will be plenty more health needs on whatever’s left of the horizon.

Donald Trump, as Politico points out, is already at war with labor, and prospectively with those “failing government schools,” and the American safety net, and the environment, not to mention the planet – and that’s before we even get to actual war, which will be overseen by a crew of Islamo- and Irano-phobes. If, as Klare points out today, Trump himself has a serious case of nostalgia for the America of his youth (and mine), with its untrammeled growth and its fossil-fueled wonders, don’t think that nostalgia doesn’t reign in military affairs, too. In that case, however, it wouldn’t be for the oily vistas of the mid-twentieth century, but perhaps for the age of the Crusades. Tom

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Drowning the World in Oil 
Trump’s Carbon-Obsessed Energy Policy and the Planetary Nightmare to Come 
By Michael T. Klare

Fracking oilScroll through Donald Trump’s campaign promises or listen to his speeches and you could easily conclude that his energy policy consists of little more than a wish list drawn up by the major fossil fuel companies: lift environmental restrictions on oil and natural gas extraction, build the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, open more federal lands to drilling, withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, kill Obama’s Clean Power Plan, revive the coal mining industry, and so on and so forth ad infinitum. In fact, many of his proposals have simply been lifted straight from the talking points of top energy industry officials and their lavishly financed allies in Congress.


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Eight Steps Obama Should Take Immediately

Dec7

by: Cat J. Zavis on December 7th, 2016 | 4 Comments »

Pensive Obama. President Obama swept into office eight years ago on a promise of hope and change founded on the importance of empathy, i.e., understanding the experience of the Other. Many people were inspired and deeply moved by his vision of hope, stated desire for change, and his seeming care for the well-being of all. And now many are deeply disappointed. We believe he has lost his way and has failed to stand for the values he articulated eight years ago. This is my call to President Obama to return to his highest values, values that are hard to hold when the weight of the world is on your shoulders, but values that we need even more now than we did eight years ago.

If what I share below resonates with you, please do two things: (1) copy it and send it to President Obama; (2) sign the Move-On petition I started here.

Dear President Obama,

You have less than two months in office and the incoming President-elect has, both through his statements and appointments thus far, indicated that many of the rights and issues you and those that elected support will very likely be dismantled in the next four years. In fact, the prospects for the next four years look rather bleak, if not downright terrifying.

You have an opportunity to show strong leadership and take decisive and immediate action on a number of significant issues.

I call upon you to take the following actions in your last month in office:


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If Life Wins There Will Be No Losers

Dec5

by: Martin Winiecki on December 5th, 2016 | Comments Off

The Dakota Access Pipeline approaching the lake.

A message of solidarity from Tamera Peace Research Center to Standing Rock:

In the name of humaneness, we express our gratitude to the courageous water and land protectors at Standing Rock. This camp of Sioux and many other First Nation people, accompanied by activists from across all camps is a true light of hope in a world that has lost any prospect for the future. They are not fighting against anyone; they are defending the sacred. They are protecting what needs to be protected for us to live. We call out to say thank you for your perseverance in spite of the brutal attacks; thank you for taking such a clear stand for life in this worldwide struggle between the powers of life and those of capital. Thank you as well to the spirits of the buffaloes and eagles for their visible support and presence. Through Tamera and the global Healing Biotopes Project, we seek to support this stance by all means.


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The Miracles of Christmukah!

Dec1

by: Dan Brook and Richard H. Schwartz on December 1st, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Small christmas tree and chanukah candles side by side.Christmas and Chanukah periodically coincide and do so again beginning on Christmas Eve 2016, the first night of Chanukah 5777. Some are calling it Christmukah. Some are calling it another miracle!

Hope springs eternal. Indeed, it’s always been an integral part of Jewish and Christian history, spirituality, and politics. Without hope, there wouldn’t be a Chanukah; without hope, there might not even be a Jewish community; without hope, there might not be democracy or America. That’s the power of radical hope!

Christmas has been celebrated for over 1600 years and Chanukah has been celebrated for 2181 years. The two holidays may be united in our gratitude for Light, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Latkes. We don’t know if Jesus ever ate latkes, but as a Jew, it is highly likely that he celebrated Chanukah.


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Witnessing Standing Rock: A Short Guide

Nov30

by: Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on November 30th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Three women holding up a sign saying "water is life." I traveled to Standing Rock in order to help sustain the camp and be a witness. Here are some humble suggestions of what you might do if you travel to Standing Rock, and if you are in solidarity with indigenous struggles locally.

Work in the kitchen! Mounds of garlic are peeled daily to feed the thousands of people eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. There are five main kitchens throughout camp, so there are many opportunities to go into a nearby kitchen and ask when a good time to volunteer is. Working in a kitchen is a great way to contribute directly to the basic ongoing daily needs of the camp and to meet people!

Go to an early morning ceremony. Standing Rock is a prayer camp and attending an indigenous led ceremony is the best way to learn about the spirit of Standing Rock. Morning ceremonies start at 6 AM and may be led by women. The ceremony I attended by the sacred fires on Friday morning was led by a medicine woman named Blue Lightning, who I had the honor of getting to know while I was there. She asked me to be guardian of the east gate because she learned I was one of the first woman rabbis from young Jewish people from the Bay Area who contributed to building several tents for her family encampment. The morning ceremony was dedicated to “untangling” energies that need to come back into harmony. People were invited to dance in four concentric circles around a four directional altar created with crystals and shells. When the sun rose, about a hundred people walked down to the river for a pipe ceremony led by Lakota women who have greeted the dawn in this way by the shores of this river for hundreds and hundreds of years. This is their land.

Be in service. While I was at Standing Rock, I remained in service to Blue Lightning’s intergenerational family, which consisted of elders, parents, and children. I was able to serve in this way due to my relationships with Bay Area Jewish young people in their 20′s and 30′s who contributed funds for and built several winterized tents, each one complete with insulation, a wood stove, lots of heaters, a porch, chairs, cots, blankets, rugs, tables, and a complete kitchen with shelves, cooking utensils, a stove, storage bins, and wash station for Blue Lightning’s family encampment. The kitchen was dedicated by Blue Lightning to be a meeting place for elders. It’s warm and welcoming. I spent time setting up the kitchen and attending to immediate needs of the elders.

Participate in an action that feels right to you. There is nonviolent direct action training at camp. There is also an ongoing conversation about whether or not a particular action is sanctioned by elders. I chose to attend a Thanksgiving Day silent vigil by the river organized by indigenous youth with the sanction of the elders. The action had several components: some people remained in silence on the camp side of the river while others crossed over the river on a plank to get to Turtle Island, which is sacred ground to the Lakota. There were indigenous men protecting the nonviolent nature of the action by not allowing anyone to climb up the hill to the ridge where dozens of militarized police stood in wait threatening them with violence over a bull horn while telling people they didn’t want a confrontation at the same time. People were still traumatized by Sunday’s attack, which injured 166 people. While I was there, the police installed bright floodlights by the river. They also placed barbed wire along the ridge of Turtle Island and the river’s edge. If you are planning to be part of a direct action, please check in with the legal tent on Facebook Hill to be trained and find out about arrest procedures before you participate.

Listen to stories. Being in camp with an indigenous family allowed me to hear lots of stories such as Blue Lightning’s family stories; Lakota, Shoshone, and Ute histories; tribal origin tales, creation tales, and teachings about prayer; the story of this particular Pipe Line; eminent domain, broken treaties, and Native sovereignty rights; and stories about Standing Rock itself. Jane Fonda’s appearance at camp over Thanksgiving started some conversations. The threat of police violence sparks rumors, so don’t believe every story. Dallas Goldtooth is a good source for staying in touch with what is actually happening. Indigenous news sources are the best way to stay informed.


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A Choice of Planets, a Choice of Oceans: Congress Goes All Out for Outer Space, Ditches Mother Earth

Nov22

by: Jon Swan on November 22nd, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Curve of the earth as seen from outer space.

During his second term in office, Pres. George W. Bush designated four large Pacific island areas as national monuments, thus protecting them from energy extraction and commercial fishing. The last three were created on January 6, 2009, two weeks before Bush left office, and at a White House ceremony commemorating the signing, he explained that the sanctuaries would benefit sea birds and marine life, open up new territory for scientists to explore, while, “for the American people, they will be places that honor our duty to be good stewards of the Almighty’s creation.”

The creation of the first of these sanctuaries, to be managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, was the result of an informal seminar set up by James Greenwood, a former Republican Pennsylvania congressman, and attended by Elliot Norse, president of the Marine Conservation Institute, oceanographer Sylvia Earle, and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau. A highlight of the evening was a screening of Cousteau’s documentary Voyage to Kure, which takes its name from a remote coral atoll at the extreme northwest end of the Hawaiian archipelago. The atoll is a nesting area for a wide species of birds, including nearly all of the world’s population of Laysan albatrosses. It also happens to lie in the path of a current that brings great tangles of fishing nets and tons of debris onto the beaches. Bush reportedly said over dinner that night that he got “a pretty good lecture about life” from Earle.

Fast forward to November 2014, when Republican Congressman John Culberson was named chair of the House Commerce, Justice, and Science spending panel, whose jurisdiction includes both NASA and NOAA. Culberson, like Bush, was a Texan, and, like Bush, he invoked the Almighty, albeit under another name, to justify his spending priorities. In a January 2015 Science magazine article about Culberson, Bill Nye (“the Science Guy” who heads the non-profit Planetary Society) is quoted as saying of the Texas congressman: “He quotes the Bible and says he believes that a higher power has put life on other worlds. He wants to find it on his watch.” The place in space Culberson was confident he would find evidence of life was under the frozen crust of Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, considered by many scientists to be the most likely place in the solar system, apart from Earth, to harbor some form of life.

In June 2015, the House of Representatives passed HR 2578, the spending bill for NASA, NOAA, and other agencies that had been drawn up by Culberson’s nine-member spending panel. It awarded NASA’s planetary science division $1.63 billion – an increase of 13.4 percent, with a stipulation that the agency must not only apply $175 million to a mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, but that the mission must have a lander component. NOAA, for its part, received a mere $462 million for research related to both the atmosphere and the oceans, and $58 million for climate research, instead of the requested $89 million, and $10 million for ocean acidification research – a third of the requested amount. Furthermore, the spending bill cut funding for the oldest carbon dioxide observatories on the planet, thus disrupting the ability to track fossil fuel emissions in the U.S. Industry could hardly have asked for more.

With only minor changes, the bill became the law that was bundled into the $1.1 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act designed to keep the federal government running until October 1 of this year, and then, to prevent a shutdown of Congress during an election year, extended to December and then, in all likelihood, punted into the new year for a new Congress to consider the implications of the discrepancy in funding for NASA and NOAA. Does the discrepancy mean that the United States is more interested in finding some sign of life in planetary space than in preserving life on planet Earth? Does it mean that America’s elected representatives have concluded that Earth’s problems are intractable and it is time to move on, letting the rest of the world fend for itself? Or is the explanation simpler: space research and development have a constituency – and a Hollywood-enhanced glamour – which research related to the atmosphere and the oceans’ depths lacks?

Meanwhile, it may be pertinent to point out that the Gulf of Mexico, which laps the south Texas shore, vies with the Baltic Sea for hosting the world’s largest “dead zones” – areas that cannot support marine life due to depleted oxygen levels. It also seems worth noting that three Texas congressmen who helped to assure the passage of the 2016-17 funding bill – John Culberson, of Houston; Bruce Babin, who served as chair of the House Space Subcommittee of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee during the 113th and 114th Congresses and whose Houston congressional district is dominated by the Johnson Space Center; and Lamar Smith, who has twice chaired the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology – are all dismissive of claims that whatever warming there may be is caused by human activity (Smith’s position on the subject was summed up in a Washington Post headline last year: “Meet the House science chairman who’s trying to put global warming on ice”).

In a press release announcing his appointment as chair of the spending panel, Culberson said, “It will … be a source of great joy for me to help lift up NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) to ensure that America will always lead the world in space exploration and scientific discoveries.” Culberson’s failure to mention NOAA would seem to be indicative of the congressman’s lack of interest in an agency that deals with merely earthly matters – a lack notable in Congress as a whole since 2012.

In that year, NOAA’s budget for its Undersea Research Program was cut to zero for the next fiscal year, beginning October 1. Thus, it was left to millionaire Canadian filmmaker James Cameron, of Avatar and Titanic fame, to explore the deepest place on earth, the Mariana Trench, in the Marianas Trench Marine Monument created by George Bush three years earlier. Cameron made his solo descent on March 26, 2012, in a custom-designed submersible called Deepsea Challenger. According to New York Times science reporter William J. Broad, the submersible cost Cameron “roughly $10 million of his own money,” apart from whatever Rolex paid (A Rolex watch attached to an arm of the submersible functioned normally throughout the expedition). Ten million dollars is more than twice the amount NOAA’s Undersea Research Program received annually until October 1, 2012, when its funding dropped to zero.

The much-publicized descent into the abyss did not yield much in the way of scientific discovery. As Cameron said, “I didn’t feel like I got to a place where I could take interesting geology samples or found [sic] anything interesting biologically.” He also said, “I just sat there looking out the window, looking at this barren, desolate lunar plain, appreciating.” And, “I really feel like in one day I’ve been to another planet and come back.”

Not another planet, of course. Our planet. An as-yet-unexplored part – the deepest – of our planet. According to the text of a special National Geographic issue devoted to Cameron’s expedition, “Scientists are particularly interested in microorganisms living in the trenches, which they say could lead to breakthroughs in biomedicine and biotechnology. The Mariana Trench’s microscopic inhabitants might even shed light on the emergence of life on Earth. Some researchers, such as Patricia Fryer et al at University of Hawaii, have speculated that serpentine mud volcanoes located near ocean trenches might have provided the right conditions for our planet’s first life-forms.”

It is undeniably more thrilling to imagine finding life – even if it is only a speck of bacteria – deep within the frozen ocean of a distant planet, which Congress has directed NASA to do in its Europa mission, the centerpiece of its Ocean Worlds Exploration Program, than to look for the origins of life in the depths of the Earth’s ocean. Easier, too, than trying to heal a wounded planet, whose oceans are steadily rising and becoming increasingly acidic, and thus hostile to marine life. And it is more thrilling yet to imagine establishing human colonies in space, as billionaire Elon Musk plans to do on Mars, as do even such respected scientists as Freeman Dyson and Stephen Hawking, who, in his latest book, writes, “I think the human race has no future if it doesn’t go to space.”

There can be little doubt that the human race will have no future on the planet that gave birth to us if we turn away from the reality within which we live and focus our hopes and dreams – and spend our treasure – on starting a new life in outer space. Before year’s end, Congress must decide, in the form of its appropriations, which comes first – the preservation of Earth and its oceans or exploring other planets for signs of life and with an eye to relocation of our self-destructive species. Given the results of the recent election, it is not hard to predict what the choice will be.

 

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Jon Swan is a poet, translator, and freelance journalist whose reporting on environmental issues has appeared in Smithsonian, Orion, OnEarth, and World Rivers Review. He lives in Yarmouth, Maine.

I Stand with Standing Rock, Black Lives Matter, and Palestine: A Brief Essay on White Privilege

Nov2

by: Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb on November 2nd, 2016 | Comments Off

The author with a sign urging to end police militarization.

Within the mountains of conversations that comprise the Babylonian Talmud, I have been drawn to a single practice: strive not to benefit or profit from the fruits of violence. As a white, elderly Jewish woman of mixed Ashkenazi descent and the sixth generation of my family to live on this continent, I am part of the group of European settlers who arrived here and built their houses on land stolen by military force from indigenous people. Turtle Island, the name for this continent for 20,000 years before colonialism, was and is home to great civilizations and hundreds of sovereign nations that excelled and continue to excel in agriculture, astronomy, medicine, and the arts. On this continent, my Jewish relatives who arrived here in the 1840s were not targeted for genocide or slavery by state or society. In my eyes, there is no way I can avoid profiting and benefiting from the fruits of colonial violence that targeted indigenous people for genocide and slavery. We are all embedded in the ever-evolving colonial system, which, even after 500 years, continues to target indigenous people for mass incarceration, land confiscation, and military occupation. The same context is true for Jewish people living in Israel. Jews in Israel live on land stolen from Palestinians and continue to rely upon unjust apartheid laws that privilege them over Palestinians in all things solely based on differences in human identity. This is racism at its core and it is shameful, regardless of our spiritual or historical connection to the land.


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The King is the Field – Chabad Insights on the Divinity of Creation

Sep29

by: David Seidenberg on September 29th, 2016 | Comments Off

During the High Holidays, we strive to fashion our heart to become a dwelling place for God in the physical, earthly realm – a dirah batachtonim. However, the earliest aggadic (storytelling) midrash, Genesis Rabbah (fourth or fifth century), taught that “the root/essence of God’s presence was in the lower creatures /`iqar Shekhinah batachtonim haytah.” (19:7)

If the Shekhinah, the indwelling presence of God, was essentially in all creatures, how did we arrive at the idea that the primary dwelling place of God was within the human heart? This is the journey I would like to share below.

According to Genesis Rabbah, even though the Shekhinah was interwoven with the physical world from the beginning, human sin drove the presence of God further and further away from the world. This alienation was “put into practice,” so to speak, in later midrashic texts. Midrash Y’lamdeinu, in opposition to Genesis Rabbah, taught in the sixth or seventh century that humanity was supposed to be the locus of God’s presence in this world, and that this is what it means for us to be “rulers batachtonim.” (Batey Midrashot 1, B’reishit 9) If Genesis Rabbah describes how sin generated the flight of Shekhinah from a world that was once full of God’s presence, Y’lamdeinu describes instead a world which was never the home of Shekhinah.


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