As a cantor for Virginia’s largest synagogue, I sing songs of praise professionally. For me — in a sense — it’s always Thanksgiving. Leading my congregation in giving thanks is part of my job.

In singing our liturgy and chanting our Scriptures, I am regularly reminded how deeply connected our ancestors were to the natural world.

“How pleasant on the mountains are the feet of the messengers of good tidings,” exclaims the prophet Isaiah, “proclaiming peace and proclaiming good, proclaiming salvation!” (Isaiah 52:7) Good tidings come by way of the mountains. The messengers of peace must first climb over the mountaintops before reaching their goal.

I am only one of many leaders in Virginia’s faith communities who have been working to protect our natural world and to speak out for protecting God’s gifts of clean air and water. For us, the climb up the mountain has been challenging at times. When we name the harm that dirty energy has been causing to our neighbors, when we work to shift to cleaner power in our homes and communities, we haven’t always been greeted as bringing good tidings. Changing how we make and use energy can be a steep climb, particularly in Virginia with coal mining in our heritage.

But for those working to care for creation in Virginia, there are also times during the climb that are beautiful and when the view is too good to ignore, when our feet touch the mountains in joy. It is at moments such as these that we must stop and give thanks for how far we’ve come.

Today, I am filled with gratitude. This Thanksgiving is the first one since our country enacted national limits on carbon pollution from power plants, the single greatest source of the heat-trapping climate pollution that is causing our Earth to warm.

I’m particularly grateful that so many caring folks in our own communities are standing with our leaders to make sure the Clean Power Plan does as much good as possible in Virginia: Our governor has committed to fully implementing the plan in the commonwealth, especially by spurring innovation in renewable energy. Earlier this month, our attorney general joined two dozen of his colleagues to defend the plan against a challenge in federal appeals court. And last week, when Senate Republicans attacked the Clean Power Plan in Congress, both of our senators sided with our health and the planet’s future when they voted against the resolution.

As a professional giver of thanks, I’ve learned the importance of pausing as we climb to notice the beautiful view from the mountain. There was a time when we could not have counted on Virginia leaders to defend pollution limits or repair our climate. Today, we can all be encouraged by the way they have spoken out and taken action this fall.

As I do each week from the bimah at the front of my synagogue, I’d like to lead all of us in a song of gratitude and praise:

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Praised be the good people in all of our communities who are working to care for Creation.

Praised be the power in each of us to make choices and speak out for positive change.

Praised be our leaders, who are committed to Virginia doing our part to clean the air and repair our climate.

Good tidings, indeed, coming our way from the mountains!

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Rachel Rhodes is the assistant cantor at Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church. She is currently a GreenFaith fellow and works with area congregations on climate initiatives through Interfaith Power & Light. Contact her at

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