The Baal Shem Tov, or Besht —  the founder of Chasidism — 
met the soul of the Messiah during an ascent to heaven. 
The Besht asked him, "When will the Master come?" 
The Messiah answered, "When your wellsprings break forth to the outside!" 
(from a letter written by the Besht to his brother-in-law about one of his soul ascents) 


 

A Hoshana for the planet

The native American-led protest camp against the Dakota access pipeline (DAPL) was one of the more extraordinary environmental causes of the decade. The Dakota pipeline protest focused on protecting sacred water as well as sacred land, both important themes of Sukkot.

photo by Arlo Iron Cloud, from indianz.com

The protests and prayers inspired me to write a Hoshana for the planet related to ills we are facing today, including new pipelines and all the risks they entail, both because of potential failures and spills, and because they are extending the life and reach of the petroleum industry. This Hoshana is focused especially on aspects of climate change (drought, flood, and ocean acidification) and other impacts of the oil and gas, though it also includes a few other ecosystem threats that we face today.

Besides the pipeline, severe drought is a problem in many places, leading to vast wildfires, even after the drought ended in California. The year I wrote this (5775/2016) we also had a drought in Western Mass. Drought is a serious problem for Israel as well - a Ben Gurion Univeristy report predicts that the northern border of the Negev could extend into Lebanon under climate change conditions. We need our prayers for rain to be more than just light-hearted rituals. We need to really pray for rain and for the well-being of the water cycle. In fact, all of the Sukkot prayers are asking for a stable climate, where the right rains fall at the right time.

Similar to traditional Hoshanot, this Hoshana goes (approximately) in alphabetical order, though I don't try to hit every letter. Please feel free 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 this Hoshana helps you focus on what matters in all of your Sukkot and Shemini Atzeret prayers.

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Hosha na – Please save!

Please save aquifers from poison and drought! Hosha na!

Save bees from pesticide and fungus and collapse! Hosha na!

Save bedrock from fracking and earthquakes! Hosha na!

Save the breathing of this blue planet! Hosha na!

Save clouds from withholding their treasures / Hosha na ananim mil’ham’ni’a otzroteihem! Hosha na!

Save Earth and all that fills her / Hosha na Eretz u-m’lo’ah! Hosha na!

Save the forests from clearcutting, and from conflagration! Hosha na!

Save flesh and spirit and soul in every being / Hosha na basar v’ruach u-n’shamah b’khol b’ri’ah! Hosha na!

Save glistening rivers from becoming rivers of oil and blood! Hosha na!

Save habitat and home and species! Hosha na!

Please save! Keep drought from decimating! Hosha na!

Save lodgepole and ponderosa from pine beetle! Hosha na!

Save mollusk shells from being eaten away by the sea they drink and breathe! Hosha na!

Save northern plains from flowing oil! Hosha na!

Save our will and vision from despair! Hosha na!

Save our prayers from being empty words! Hosha na!

Save pipelines already pumping from leaks! Hosha na!

Save refugees from drowning and war and hate! Hosha na!

Please save! Renew the face of the Earth / Hosha na! Chidush p’nei ha’adamah! Hosha na!

Save sacred lands from being stripped and stolen and despoiled! Hosha na!

Save seas from inundating cities! Hosha na!

Please save! Show us the rainbow rejoicing in his colors / Hosha na! Her’eh lanu et ha-keshet sas u-mit’pa’er b’govanin shelo! Hosha na!

Save the weave and web of Life! Hosha na!

Please save a world suspended in space / Hosha na olam t’luyah al b’li mah! Hosha na!

Hosha na! Save, please!

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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