Praying for the Planet – the purpose of Hoshanah Rabba and Shemini Atzeret

"Vision" by Bonnie Sachs, 2015, detail, used with permission, (https://bonniesachsart.com)
"Vision" by Bonnie Sachs, 2015, detail, used with permission, (https://bonniesachsart.com)

Our prayers for water and rain are usually treated as playful, and of course they can be. But what we are praying for is actually climate stability, for predictable and sustaining amounts of rain, something our world needs so much and will be in need of more and more as the next decades unfold. So remember that we are praying for something very real, desperately real. For an end to drought and flood, for an end to the conditions that turn wildfires into “giga-fires”. For an end to climate instability that foments wars and drives refugees from their homes.

We offer seventy sacrifices over Sukkot because we are praying for the seventy nations, say Chazal (the rabbis). That is, we are praying for the whole world.

If you want a liturgy that speaks to the changes happening to our planet, check out these Hoshanot for the Planet. The first Hoshana includes this plea: “Save our prayers from being empty words!”

May it be so, and may the best intentions of our prayers become true,

Chag Sameach!

About the Author
Rabbi David Seidenberg is the creator of neohasid.org, author of Kabbalah and Ecology (Cambridge U. Press, 2015), and a scholar of Jewish thought. He teaches around the world and also leads astronomy programs. As a liturgist, David is well-known for pieces like the prayer for voting and the best English translation of Laments. David also teaches nigunim and is an avid dancer. His website includes lots more about Sukkot, including Hoshanot for the Earth and Egalitarian Ushpizin in Aramaic.
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