Hope with our Hands (digital demo single & songbook)
Hope with our Hands (digital demo single & songbook)
Hope with our Hands (digital demo single & songbook)

Hope with our Hands (digital demo single & songbook)

Regular price $1.00 USD Sale

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

What you'll get:

BUNDLE #1: Digital Single (75 MB)

  • High-quality MP3 file (44.1kHz)
  • High-quality WAV file (44.1kHz 24bit)
  • High-quality cover art PNG

BUNDLE #2: Digital Single & Songbook (75 MB)

Everything in Bundle #1, PLUS a digital songbook PDF containing:

  • Lyrics and chords for singing and playing the song.
  • Liner notes on the story of the song and the meaning of the lyrics.

BUNDLE #3: Collector's Edition (242 MB)

Everything in Bundle #2, PLUS high-quality MP3 & WAV files for the:

  • Acoustic mix
  • A capella mix
  • Isolated choir parts for singer learning & practice

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
We're gonna pray with our feet
For the world in our hearts
Realized and redeemed

VERSE 2
This bush is burning
This water’s rising
It’s time for atoning
And sanctifying

CHORUS 2
So we're gonna hope with our hands
We're gonna pray with our feet
For the world in our hearts
Realized and redeemed

BRIDGE 1
Whoa oo whoa, whoa oo whoa whoa
Whoa oo whoa, whoa oo whoa whoa
Whoa oo whoa, whoa oo whoa whoa
Whoa oo whoa, whoa oo whoa whoa

BRIDGE 2
[ Hope with our hands
Pray with our feet
For the world in our hearts,
Realized and redeemed ] « 4x

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

And mercy, mercy
May we guard Creation
For every thousand
New generations

CHORUS 3
We're gonna hope with our hands
We're gonna pray with our feet
For the world in our hearts
Realized and redeemed

We're gonna hope with our hands
We're gonna pray with our feet
For the world in our hearts
Realized and redeemed

For the world in our hearts
Realized and redeemed

Credits

Written by ZO TOBI
Inspired by Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action
"Pray with our feet" attribution: Frederick Douglass
Demo recorded at STUDIO Z in April 2021
Performed & produced by ZO TOBI
Performed by ZO TOBI on GARAGEBAND
Cover art photo: Tim de Groot on Unsplash

Liner notes

“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. They wanted songs focused on climate, grounded in Judaism, aimed to inspire activism. My songwriting happy place. :-)

While I’m not a full-on scholar of the many centuries of Jewish thought, I wanted this song to reflect some of the spiritual depth and rigor of our teachings, especially around the teaching of Tikkun Olam. We often translate this 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.” In this way, what we call “the world” is the realm of time and space, which “conceals” or exists on top of a more fundamental reality. Quantum physics might call this string theory, while 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 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 this song to reflect this view: Our world is not broken, it’s a reflection of reflection to be uncovered. We are not powerless victims nor all-powerful dictators of transformation — we are here to be humble, reverent partners with the force of life itself, to which we always, always belong.

With that said, here’s more in-depth lyric-by-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 the source of our action for Tikkun Olam.

“This air that breathes us // Is holy, holy”: The most common 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 (nishmat hayim – the first word is a variation of neshama, the second means ‘life’).”

CHORUS

“Hope with our hands”: “Hope” as a verb is passive, as though 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 marching with MLK Jr.: “I felt my legs were praying.” Actually, Frederick Douglass first said it: “Praying for freedom never did me any good ‘til I started praying with my feet.”

“For the world in our hearts, realized and redeemed”: Often we talk about "vision” as something external to move “toward.” Rabbi Yitzchak Luria taught that all creation contains divine sparks, and that we’re here to reveal and reunite them. Tikkun Olam implies that a perfected world is already in us, to be realized and redeemed — meaning, “give[n] actual or physical form” and “(a pledge or promise) fulfilled or carried out.” I’ve phrased it “realized and redeemed” vs. “to realize and redeem” to connote that we do not lead the process of ecological redemption, but rather take part in it, humbly, alongside and within the web of life to which we belong.

VERSE 2

“This bush is burning” alludes to God calling upon Moses to be a vessel for liberation, and to the increased fires brought on by the climate crisis. “This water’s rising” alludes both to God bringing the flooding in Noah’s world, and also to our current climate-related sea level rise.

“It’s time for atoning and sanctifying”: What do we do in the face of the climate crisis? I think of Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur, in which we “atone and sanctify” with teshuva, tefillah, and tzedakah.

Teshuva often translates as “repentance,” but means “return” — as in, to our original state of goodness.

Tefillah, “prayer,” actually means “union”: “In contrast to “prayer,” with its emphasis on G‑d fulfilling one’s request, tefillah stresses man’s striving to achieve union with G‑d” — and, ecologically speaking, I’d say, the web of life.

Tzedakah, often translated as “charity,” in fact means “justice”: Transcending our selfish impulses by giving what we have for the sake of others — just as God (and Creation) has done for us.

VERSE 3

“So courage, courage // May we meet this moment”: 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.”

“This world unfinished // But never broken”: If we see the world as broken, we will see our work as “fixing” or “repairing” it. To me this is exhausting, and not a recipe for staying in it for the long haul. And, the spiritual teachings I look to state that it’s simply not true. This is what I see as the core teaching of Tikkun Olam: It isn’t about “repairing” the world, but instead perfecting its shape and form, to reveal the hidden splendor within.

“And mercy, mercy // May we guard Creation”: 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, neither justice nor mercy are some phenomena we receive passively, but are both simply the result of our action.

“For every thousand // New generations”: I find no greater source of courage than the core impulse to be a good ancestor. Judaism teaches us to live in accordance with 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 intergenerational “mercy” 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: Pledging our allegiance to those who have not yet been born, whose fate in an almost incomprehensibly distant future is bound to our collective actions today.

Chords

Key: D
Time: 4/4, 104 BPM
Tuning: DADF#AD

VERSE 1 (8 bars)
| Bm | G D | « 4x

CHORUS 1 (8 bars)
| Bm | G D | « 4x

VERSE 2 (8 bars)
| Bm | G D | « 4x

CHORUS 2 (8 bars)
| Bm | G D | « 4x

BRIDGE 1 (8 bars)
| Bm | G D | « 4x

BRIDGE 2 (17 bars)
| Bm | E | G | F# | « 3x
| Bm | E | G | F# | F# |

VERSE 3 (16 bars)
| Bm | G D | « 4x

CHORUS 3 (20 bars)
| Bm | G D | « 10x

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