Hanukkah 2009 begins Saturday. A couple years ago, The Daily Green interviewed Rabbis Arthur Waskow and Jeff Sultar of the Philadelphia-based Shalom Center, who were working to make Hanukkah a holiday focused on sustainability, with a "Green Menorah" campaign. Their teachings are just as relevant today.
"Each year that we go deeper into what I call global scorching, [environmental sustainability] is even more important than the year before," says Rabbi Waskow. "The American Jewish public is readier to move than in the past, from a combination of Al Gore, Katrina, threats to polar bears, the diminishing Great Lakes, and so on."
Waskow says three levels of wisdom running through Hanukkah's rich and living traditions invite thought and action on planetary problems:
The Talmud's legend about using one day's oil to meet eight days' needs: a reminder to conserve resources.
The vision of the prophet Zechariah (read on Hanukkah), in which the Temple Menorah is viewed as a living being, flanked by two olive trees feeding oil into it, and uniting the worlds of nature and humanity.
The memory that a community of "the powerless" can overcome a great empire. 'Now we face great oil and coal empires, and if people feel helpless they should be inspired,' says Waskow.
Waskow says the spirit of Hanukkah is to turn individual actions outward for the rest of the world to see. The Shalom Center's Green Menorah Covenant encourages taking action, on personal, communal and political levels, to help the environment.
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