Hope with Our Hands

To be released in late December 2021

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A call to climate action, based on the Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam.

^ Draft sneak peek. Finished track, acoustic version, + a cappella version coming soon!

Lyrics

VERSE 1
This ground below us
Is holy, holy
This air that breathes us
Is holy, holy

CHORUS 1
So we're gonna hope with our hands
And pray with our feet
For the world that we love
For the world that we need

VERSE 2
This bush is burning
This water’s rising
Our Earth is hurting
Our people crying

CHORUS 2
So we're gonna hope with our hands
And pray with our feet
For the world that we love
For the world that we need

BRIDGE 1
Whoa oo whoa, whoa oo whoa whoa « 4x

BRIDGE 2
Hope with our hands,
Pray with our feet
For the world that we love
For the world that we need
(repeat 4x)

VERSE 3
So mercy, mercy
May we meet this moment
This world unfinished
But never broken

And courage, courage!
May we guard Creation
For every thousandth
New generation

CHORUS 3
So we're gonna hope with our hands
And pray with our feet
For the world that we love
For the world that we need

CHORUS 4
We're gonna hope with our hands
And pray with our feet
For the world that we love
For the world that we need

CHORUS 5
We're gonna hope with our hands
And pray with our feet
For the world that we love
For the world that we need

OUTRO
For the world that we love
For the world that we need

Chords

VERSE 1
| Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 | « 3x
| Em7 | Gadd9 A7 |

CHORUS 1
{ | Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 |
| Bm7 | Gadd9 A F#7 | } « 2x

VERSE 2
| Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 | « 3x
| Em7 | Gadd9 A7 |

CHORUS 2
{ | Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 |
| Bm7 | Gadd9 A F#7 | } « 2x

BRIDGE 1
{ | Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 |
| Bm7 | Gadd9 A F#7 | } « 2x

BRIDGE 2
{ | Bm7 | Bm7 / A |
| G9 | F#sus9 F#7 | } « 4x
| F#7 |

VERSE 3
| Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 | « 3x
| Em7 | Gadd9 A7 |
| Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 | « 3x
| Em7 | Gadd9 A7 |

CHORUS 3-5
{ | Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 |
| Bm7 | Gadd9 A F#7 | } « 6x
| Bm7 | Gadd9 Dadd9 | « 2x

Credits

Songwriting

Production

Personnel

Liner notes

Part 1: Story of the song

“Hope with Our Hands” is a call to climate action, based on the Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam.

I wrote it for Dayenu, a Jewish climate advocacy group I love, after they put out a call for songs grounded in Judaism, rooted in joy, and aimed to inspire activism.

I wrote this song because, when my daughter Ayla was born, the idea of “what we’re leaving for future generations” became a whole lot more real to me. I remember tucking her into her crib when she was a few months old, and thinking: “Someday she will literally inherit this world.” And I saw more clearly than ever: I want to do all I can to give her a world that is not just livable — but even more beautiful, even more harmonious, even more just, than the world we’ve known.

When I talk to folks about climate and other global / social issues, I hear the word “hope” a lot, like: “I hope we can address the climate crisis in time” or “I hope we win this election.” And I’ve found myself replying: “Well, let’s hope with our hands.” Or, as Frederick Douglass & Rabbi Heschel said, let’s to pray with our feet. With our “feats.” With action.

So this song is a prayer — but it’s a prayer to myself, and to all of us, to be the ones we’ve been praying for. To sanctify this world that we love. To protect it with our lives. And to do so with all of our passion, courage, and joy… knowing we are taking part in something holy together.

Part 2: Spiritual underpinnings

The “spiritual underpinnings” of this song include: 1) The Jewish principle of Tikkun Olam, and 2) The Work That Reconnects (WTR), created by author & activist Joanna Macy, which “unfolds as a spiral journey in four stages [which map onto the song’s verses]: Coming from Gratitude, Honoring our Pain for the World, Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes, and Going Forth.”

In the Work that Reconnects: “The Spiral begins by coming from gratitude, because that quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to source, stimulating our empathy and confidence.

“… In owning and honoring our pain for the world, and daring to experience it, we learn the true meaning of compassion: to “suffer with.” We begin to know the immensity of our heart-mind.

“… Experiencing the reality of our inter-existence helps us see with new/ancient eyes. We can sense how intimately and inextricably we are related to all that is. We can taste our own power to change, and feel the texture of our living connections with past and future generations, and with our [sibling] species.

“Then we go forth into the actions that call each of us, according to our situation, gifts, and limitations… We don’t wait for a blueprint or fail-proof scheme, for each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities.”

Regarding Tikkun Olam: While I’m not a scholar of the many centuries of Jewish thought, I wanted this song to reflect some of the spiritual depth and rigor of our teachings. We often translate Tikkun Olam as “repairing the world,” but there is so much more to it.

“Olam” means “world,” but also connotes “all of time,” and relates to “helem,” or “concealment.” So, what we call “the world” is a realm of time & space which “conceals” or exists upon or within a more fundamental reality. Jewish mystics call it the “running and returning” of all phenomena, from and to the infinite light of its source.

“Tikkun” often translates as “repair” or “rectification,” but it may more accurately translate as “fixing up, refining, or perfecting. Rabbi Yitzchak Luria taught that all creation contains divine sparks, which we are here to uncover and bring together. Rabbi Tzvi Freeman writes: “Yes, we must admit, much of our world is fractured, fragmented and very messy. But it’s not broken. It’s been disassembled—purposely. The Creator made a world that was designed to fall apart—so that we could put all the scattered pieces together and create a better, more harmonious, self-sustaining world … Effectively, He made us His partners in the creation of heaven and earth. This changes everything.”

I wanted the song to reflect this view: Our world is not broken, it is unfinished. We are not powerless victims of fate, nor all-powerful deciders of our planet’s fate — we are here to partner with the force of ife itself, to further reveal the beauty of this world and allow it to shine freely.

Part 3: Lyric commentary

VERSE 1
“This ground below us // Is holy, holy”: When God first spoke to Moses, God said: “Take off your sandals. Where you stand is holy ground.” To me, this call to reverence is our most powerful starting point for the actions we set out to take for our world.

“This air that breathes us // Is holy, holy”: The Hebrew word for “soul” is “neshama,” or “breath”. From Genesis (2:7): “And Hashem God formed the man of dust from the earth and He breathed into his nostrils breath of life.” I love this view of “air that breathes us,” rather than “air we breathe.”

CHORUS
“Hope with our hands”: “Hope” as a verb is passive. It implies we’ve “done” something, and can now sit back. In contrast, Joanna Macy writes: “Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have. It is a process we can apply to any situation, and it involves three key steps. First, we take a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction.”

“Pray with our feet”: I thought this came from Rabbi Heschel, who said after the civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery: “I felt my legs were praying.” As far as I can tell, Frederick Douglass actually said it first: “Praying for freedom never did me any good ‘til I started praying with my feet.”

VERSE 2
“This bush is burning // This water’s rising” alludes to God’s messages to Moses and Noah respectively, and also, of course, to the urgent feedback our climate is giving us today.

VERSE 3
“So mercy, mercy // May we meet this moment”: Rabbi Fred Scherlinder Dobb points to Exodus 34:6-7: “God does not wipe injustice clean; rather God visits the actions of parents onto children and grandchildren, to the third and fourth generation.” He then writes: “Four generations is also the lifespan of atmospheric carbon. God’s final attribute [justice], which seems so unfair in a personal moral context, simply reflects reality when we think of these [climate] reverberations communally, socially, and ecologically.”

In this way, mercy is not something we receive passively, but something we create by our action.

“This world unfinished // But never broken”:

If we see the world as broken, we’ll see our work as “fixing” it. To me this is not only an exhausting approach that leads to burnout, but incongruent with the wisdom teachings I look to in Judaism and elsewhere. We might view Tikkun Olam not as being about “repairing” the world, but instead perfecting its shape and form, to reveal the hidden splendor within. This also closely mirrors Amanda Gorman’s prophetic poem, “The Hill We Climb,” read at President Biden’s 2021 Inauguration: “And yet the dawn is ours // before we knew it. // Somehow we do it. // Somehow we've weathered and witnessed // a nation that isn't broken, // but simply unfinished.”

“And courage, courage // May we guard Creation”: The Hebrew word for “courage” is ometz lev, “heart strength.”Hassidic Rabbi Nachman of Breslev is famously mis-quoted to have said: “lo lefached,” meaning “don’t be afraid.” In fact, his actual recorded teaching is “lo l’hitpached,” meaning, “do not “cause yourself to be afraid.”

Rabbi Marc Margolius writes: “... courage is not about denying or repressing fear. Rather, the fundamental principle of courage is choosing not to frighten ourselves beyond the fear we already experience. Fear is unavoidable, perhaps even required. Courage involves moving forward despite our fear, and not exacerbating our anxieties.”

“For every thousand // New generations”: I find no greater source of courage than the longing to be a good ancestor. Judaism teaches us to live by this intention in a radical way: By pointing our attention not just to one generation or even seven into the future, but one thousand generations.

Rabbi Scherlinder Dobb writes: “Jewish liturgy encourages us to think intergenerationally. Every day the traditional prayers proclaim “L’dor vador,” from generation to generation. And each holiday, when we recite the divine attributes (from Exodus 34:6-7), we hear God’s concern for how our actions impact the third, fourth, and even thousandth generation.”

Here’s is that radical intergenerational view in Exodus 34:6-7: “YHVH! YHVH! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin.”

To me, this feels like a fitting end to the song: Holding in our hearts all of those who are not yet here, whose fate in an almost unimaginably distant future is bound to our actions today.