The Season of Flowers and Torah Dedicated to Lila Sivan, the apple of my eye.
“With each and every Divine sound the entire world filled with the fragrance of spices carried on the winds of the world.” The longest day of summer arrives in the moon of Sivan, themoon of flowers.Sivan hosts Shavuot, the culmination festival of the seven week counting period which began on Passover. To mark the Festival of Weeks, Jewish folk fill our homes and synagogues with the flowery abundance of early summer bloom and breath in the season’s glorious fragrance to sweet our days.
In the midst of fragrance, Jewish folk spend Shavuot night studying Torah in all its diverse expressions: text, dance, ritual, storytelling, food customs and ethical conversation. What is the essence of torah’s teaching? How do we live out our most treasured values in our own time? Authentic torah thrives when we root its teachings in core values of active love, the sacredness of human dignity across all borders, the preservation of equity, reparative living, pursuit of liberation, cultivation of thriving communities and a culture of peace. In our time, 5782/2022 Jewish folk living on Turtle Island are witness to the ongoing impacts of 500 years of colonial settlerism, the transAtlantic slave trade, environmental degradation, war and militarism. How do we remain faithful to our ancient values in this moment?By collectively engaging in reparations teshuvah and cultivating a culture of healing and repair.
Shavuot is called cHag HaBikkurim - the Festival of Ripened Fruits. During cHag HaBikkurim, our ancestors went on pilgrimage carrying baskets ofharvest to local shrines where they conducted public feasting and dancing, engaged in massive food ‘give aways’ to fulfill their shared communal practice and belief: the land’s abundant harvest belongs to everyone across all borders and boundaries. Our ancestors recited the ancient story of liberation and tied it to the creation of a society based on mutual aid and reciprocal relationships, and whose fruits are collective well-being. Such a beautiful vision.
Indigenous Land Back Reparations
The Festival ‘Ripening Fruit’ is a perfect time to deepen our relationship to indigenous plants as part of the work of teshuvah reparations for the harms of colonial settlerism.cHag HaBikkurim gives us the opportunity to deepen our relationship to earth stewardship (called shomeret adamah in Hebrew).
Our ancestors instituted ceremonial observances that encourage us to be in a reciprocal relationships with plants. Jewish tradition honors the land through cycles of rest and protocols that obligate us to give back to the land and water by protecting life by observing the practices of earth stewardship. Stewardship, not ownership and exploitation, is torah’s understanding of right relationship with all that lives upon the earth.
Alas, in every state of the United States, colonial settlers, including Jewish folk, continue to live on stolen land with histories of genocide of indigenous people. Along with policies of massacre, indigenous peoples were forced into unpaid labor as a key component of colonial strategies to steal their land. In this year of Shmita, may we dedicate ourselves to carrying out reparations teshuvah by learning about and acting in solidarity with the rising movement of indigenous rematriation of Turtle Island. On cHag HaBikkurim, I invite you to dedicate the holy day to Indigenous rematriation of native plants and farming. Begin the ritual of the holy day with indigenous land acknowledgments that include naming indigenous plants that grow on the territory where you are currently settled. Learn some indigenous plant torah of your place along with what indigenous peoples are doing in your territory to rematriate the land. Spread awareness about ways we can take reparative acts.
cHag Habikkurim Land Acknowledgment Prayer I am/we are congregation _______ and am/are settled on unceded (Ohlone) __ land. I give thanks for the blessings of indigenous plants of: (Tongvi/Ohlone lands - pinyon, nopal, wild cherry, acorn, mesquite beans, manzanita berries, coast buckwheat, and white sage.) (Share some torah about one of the plants you learned about from consulting an indigenous source) I dedicate this seed of __________ to the rematriation of Turtle Island. (Store the seed in a specially designated pot to be planted after the holy day). “I will take from the lofty crown from the topmost branches a tender branch within which lives a seed
I will take this seed and plant it upon a sacred mountain with blessings of the rematriation of Turtle Island. May this seed grow and become a noble tree And bear much fruit So that humans and animals can live in its shade And all the birds will nest in its branches. This is the seed I will plant For the sake of creation.” (A riff on Ezekiel 17) A group of Jewish Land Back solidarity activists are collaborating on new halachot which guide our actions in the use of indigenous plants, culture and activism. We are Jews committed to repairing the history of colonial settlerism through reparations teshuvah including restitution through land back actions. I will be offering another Ger course in the fall. Stay tuned for more information about the community of Jews in solidarity with indigenous land back activists.
Stay tune for 5783, and Rabbi Lynn’s Rabbinic Jubilee for a year long study of the Torah of Reparations Teshuvah.Let us build upon hope for a future of thriving communities.
BEAUTIFUL IMAGES OF THE GIVING Of TORAH FROM MIDRASH/ORAL TRADITION At Mount Sinai Shekinah’s voice came forth in beauty reverberating from the south, so the people ran to the south undulating from the north, so the people ran to the north spiraling from the east, so the people ran to the east resounding from the west, so the people ran to the west. The voice soared toward heavens and burst out of the earth. The voice transformed itself into the languages of every living being Every human, animal, plant and elemental ‘nation’ heard the voice. Just as flint strikes a rock and causes sparks to fly in every direction so each and every word that issued forth at Sinai sparked new illuminations. At Mount Sinai, prophets of every generation to come received what they needed for their prophesy. All souls destined to be in relationship to torah Danced at Sinai. The sacred name, the breath of life, engraved itself like red henna flowers on fullness of their being. What a feast that must have been. May the spirit of life bless you and keep you, illuminate your hearts with graciousness And fill you spirit with peace.
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JUNECALENDAR:Way of the Mishkan ClassTuesday June 14
Public Courtyard: Tending the Flames of Justice Join Rabbi Lynn for an overview of the core values of Shomeret Shalom practice. How do we come together in the struggle for justice in building a post colonial world. What are core values that we can share across cultural, spiritual and religious heritage? What reparative acts are able to heal the wounds that divide us from each other?