Baal Shem Tov, or Besht — the founder of Chasidism —
Two Hoshanot for the planet
All of the Sukkot prayers are asking for a stable climate, where the right rains fall at the right time, and crops and animals and ecosystems thrive. In a time of global climate disruption, we need our prayers for rain to be more than just light-hearted rituals. We really need to pray for rain and for the well-being of the water cycle.
I was first inspired to write a Hoshana for the planet by the protests against the Dakota access pipeline (DAPL) in 2016. The native American-led protest camp was one of the more extraordinary environmental actions of the decade. The Dakota pipeline protest focused on protecting sacred water as well as sacred land, both important themes of Sukkot.
That year (5777/2016) we also had a drought in Western Mass. Drought, made more severe by climate disruption, has engendered civil wars and vast wildfires, like the one in California that happened even after the drought ended. Drought is a serious problem for Israel and Palestine as well - a 2000 Ben Gurion University report projected ecosystems shifting 300-500 km north under climate change conditions, and Israel is only about 320 km from north to south. (Here's a link for more recent projections of the impact of climate change on Israel.)
The Hoshanah I wrote ("A Hoshana for our planet") focused especially on aspects of climate change like drought, flooding, and ocean acidification and on other impacts of oil and gas, though it also includes a few other ecosystem threats that we face today, as well as a plea for refugees. Similar to traditional Hoshanot, this Hoshana goes (approximately) in alphabetical order, though I don't try to hit every letter.
The second liturgy, a cycle of seven (brief) Hoshanot roughly corresponding to the days of creation, was written more recently. It includes issues climate change issues and extinctions like the first, but also more general appreciations and prayers for the order of the natural world.
For both of these liturgies, please feel encouraged to cut and paste, incorporate your own words and ideas, and add and subtract in order to make a Hoshana that fits your community. I hope these Hoshanot helps you focus on what matters in all of our Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret prayers. Here are the links for downloading, followed by the text of the first liturgy.
Hosha na – Please save!_______
Several lines translated into Hebrew are drawn from traditional Hoshanot, Psalms, and the line about the rainbow, from the prayer of the P'ri Eitz Hadar (the original Tu Bish'vat seder).
Some of the issues I included in this Hoshana are closely related to themes of drought and water that are already a big part of the Hoshanot prayers. Others are intertwined with water, like the refugee crisis which in many places can be profoundly exacerbated or driven by effects of climate change (because of drought or floods, and also because of resources wars), or are immediate environmental threats like the colony collapse disorder that is decimating bees.
While the traditional Hoshanot are focused on the realm of agriculture, this Hoshana is more focused on realms of Nature beyond agriculture, though of course these realms are profoundly intertwined with our agriculture and profoundly affected by our agriculture. Also, while traditional Hoshanot are focused on the land of Israel, this one is more focused on the geography of North America, and refers specifically to the Dakota pipeline in the verse "save the northern plains from flowing oil".
The Hoshana is ordered according to the English alphabet, but I don't try to hit each letter, and some letters are represented more than once. There are 24 lines. You may also notice that like the traditional Hoshanot, this one uses the beginning "Hosha na" sometimes as the verb followed by the thing needing to be saved, and sometimes as a completed exclamation followed by a separate sentence.
I hope this liturgy inspires you, and that you not only use it but also write your own liturgy. As always, I am interested in any ways that you might tweak this liturgy or create new liturgy inspired by it, so please share that with me!
Design in progress © Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg 2006