In an intense and complex week, one theme runs through everything, the preciousness of life. That’s what I’m focussing on this EcoShabbat.
But first I want to acknowledge that today brings the memorial to that fateful eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, when in 1918 the Armistice was signed which finally ended The First World War. Since then, this date has been marked as Armistice Day in Europe and Veteran’s Day in The States. (AJEX, the Jewish Military Association, holds its ceremony at The Cenotaph one week later).
It’s terrible to know that, in the words of Wilfred Owen, there’s another old man in Europe today who, unlike Abraham when the angel told him to spare his child,
Would not so, but slew his son
And half the seed of Europe, one by one.
Tonight, therefore, I will miss the beautiful synagogue service which marks the beginning of Shabbat, so as to attend a concert at the Ukrainian Cathedral, ‘The Cry, a Requiem for the Lost Child,’ in memory of the thousand children killed in Ukraine. Kenneth Nowakowski, the Eparchial Bishop, wept when I asked him to speak in our synagogue. It’s basic solidarity to stand with him in return.
Children were the subject at the service led by the Association of Jewish Refugees last Wednesday to mark Kristallnacht, November 9, 1938, the Night of Broken Glass. That was when my grandfather, rabbi in Frankfurt, went into hiding, only to give himself up because he learnt that the Gestapo were waiting in his home. He feared he might be putting his wife and daughters at even greater risk.
In the terror which followed, the cry went out across Britain ‘Get the children out!’ the title of Mike Levy’s remarkable book subtitled The Unsung Heroes of the Kindertransport. A note on the cover reminds us that these issues aren’t over: ‘In support of Safe Passage, legal routes to sanctuary.’ There are few, if any, such routes for children of war and terror today.
Meanwhile COP 27 struggles to find a safe passage forward for our entire planet, one-and-a-fifth hands tied behind its back by the world’s economic and fuel crises and the paucity of courageous political leadership.
Nevertheless, I’m buoyed up by a resilient hopefulness based on what so many people are doing, locally, persistently. I was privileged to hear Charlie Burrell, who established Knepp, describe the swift return of species unseen for decades. (See his wife Isabella Tree’s wonderful book Wilding) The glimpse of a butterfly once thought extinct is joy!
I participated in the conversations of the Elijah Interfaith Institute yesterday. (Please join us this Sunday). I carry with me the words of Hindu and Buddhist colleagues: All is oneness. God’s presence fills all creation; let it fill your consciousness too. Let it descend to the heart. Let its light guide your conscience and actions. Then you will seek not to hurt or harm any creature.
As we move into EcoShabbat, I take from this week the gritty hope which feeds determination. I tell myself (and others!) Notice; be aware! Be there to care! One life flows through all things: if we nourish it, it will nourish us.
We must work for life in whatever ways we can.
Our EcoShabbat focus– What’s Local To See:
Look out for the display in shul this Shabbat of our local wildlife.
Complete this survey to tell us which of these local animals, birds and trees you see over the next three weeks. Post your photos, stories, anecdotes in our Facebook group. Prizes will be awarded for the best responses.
Hear my Thought for the Day from this Thursday – ‘On Hope’