On the weekend after the driest January in recorded history, the Network of Spiritual Progressives partnered with student, labor, and community organizations for the March for Real Climate Leadership. Thousands marched through Oakland to highlight California’s climate crisis and call on Governor Jerry Brown to ban fracking in California.
Before marching to the convergence place at Lake Merritt, indigenous groups came together in song and prayer, high school student groups demanded a habitable planet for their generation and generations to come, and an intergenerational commitment to a more equitable world filled the air at the Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland City Hall.
Dozens of people, including a contingency of Faith Against Fracking and passersby, gathered with Beyt Tikkun and The Network of Spiritual Progressives for a Tu B’shvat Seder, a celebration of the trees and our connection to the earth. The celebration demonstrated the NSP’s vision of integrating spiritual politics with activism. As Rabbi Michael Lerner, co-chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives told the crowd, “our Environmental Seder is not only about an internal feeling of well-being and connection to nature, but also about social transformation.”
Through the Seder, participants gained a deeper understanding of how Jewish teachings are deeply steeped in reverence for the universe, the importance of being stewards of the earth, and living environmentally responsible lives. By integrating celebration of the delicious bounty of the earth (in the forms of food and drink) with the four worlds as articulated by the Kabbalists, i.e., Jewish Mystics, participants got a taste of embodying celebration and gratitude for the earth. Jewish teachings also call us to respond to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement, and engage in social activism to transform our society. Judaism is not a religion of simply improving ourselves, it is also a religion steeped in our responsibility to transform systems of injustice.
The First World, the world of Assiyah, focuses on concrete actions in the physical world. As Rabbi Lerner articulated at the Seder:
Our Environmental Seder leads us to commit to action to protect the environment and repair the destruction already done. This will require a major transformation of the earth’s economic and political systems – a task that we can begin now though it will take many generations to complete this work. This world is symbolized by the eating together of fruit that have a tough exterior to protect the fruit of the earth. So we must take tough steps to protect the environment in the world of ASSIYAH – action.
The Second World, the world of Yetzira, focuses on emotions. In this world, we turned our attention to the grief, rage and sorrow at the state of the world and the destruction of the planet. How is it that we’ve lost our way? This is the world in which we focus on causing a transformation of the raw materials of the world. We then ate soft fruit with hard centers symbolizing the internal feeling world.
The Third World, the world of Briyah or Creation, encompasses our thinking. How do our thoughts both interfere with our capacity to engage in social change work and how do they enhance our social change work? We become aware of the creative process of our mind and the universe in this world, symbolized by soft fruits that can be eaten whole and remind us to remain soft in the face of the harshness of the world.
Finally, the Fourth World, the world of Atzilut, centers on the spiritual world. Rabbi Lerner led us through a beautiful meditation asking us to stand like a tree, to remind us of our deep connection with and to the universe, allowing that energy to flow through us and inspire and call us to do all we can to protect that universe.
After the Seder, NSP members and friends joined the March with a revived spiritual connection to the natural world. During the March, NSP supporters shared with others our visionary ideas of an environmentally sustainable and socially and economically more just society, such as the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment that would, among other things, restore democratic control over our political and economic systems to the populace by getting private funding out of elections, and place limitations on corporations to help ensure environmental and social justice, and the Global Marshall Plan that would eliminate domestic and global poverty by revising trade agreements and requiring 1-2% of the GDP be dedicated to poverty amelioration efforts. These idealistic visions of a new global order will, through a shift of consciousness and solidarity of all the world’s people, bring us toward a world of love and justice.
We believe in an end to fracking and reckless environmental destruction in California. And, as we shared at the NSP celebration, we are committed to a much larger societal transformation then a ban on California fracking. We have a transformative approach grounded both in concrete proposals such as the ESRA and GMP and in consciousness raising. Join our Love and Justice Movement – Integrating Spirituality, Activism and Internal Transformation to Build an Environmentally Sustainable World of People Who Care for Each Other and Rejoice at the Grandeur of the Universe!
Won’t you join us?