This prayer for the living is meant to be prayed in community as a responsive reading. It was written by Rabbi Rachel Barenblat. You can follow her work at velveteenrabbi.com She is a poet, spiritual director, and the rabbi of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, MA
For every aspiring ballerina huddled
scared in a basement bomb shelter
For every toddler in his mother’s arms
behind rubble of concrete and rebar
For every child who’s learned to distinguish
“our” bombs from “their” bombs by sound
For everyone wounded, cowering, frightened
and everyone furious, planning for vengeance
For the ones who are tasked with firing shells
where there are grandmothers and infants
For the ones who fix a rocket’s parabola
toward children on school playgrounds
For every official who sees shelling Gaza
as a matter of “cutting the grass”
And every official who approves launching projectiles
from behind preschools or prayer places
For every kid taught to lob a bomb with pride
And every kid sickened by explosions
For every teenager who considers
“martyrdom” his best hope for a future:
May the God of compassion and the God of mercy
God of justice and God of forgiveness
God Who shaped creation in Her tender womb
and nurses us each day with blessing
God Who suffers the anxiety and pain
of each of His unique children
God Who yearns for us to take up
the work of perfecting creation
God Who is reflected in those who fight
and in those who bandage the bleeding —
May our Father, Mother, Beloved, Creator
cradle every hurting heart in caring hands.
Soon may we hear in the hills of Judah
and the streets of Jerusalem
in the olive groves of the West Bank
and the apartment blocks of Gaza City
in the kibbutz fields of the Negev
and the neighborhoods of Nablus
the voice of fighters who have traded weapons
for books and ploughs and bread ovens
the voice of children on swings and on slides
singing nonsense songs, unafraid
the voice of reconciliation and new beginnings
in our day, speedily and soon.
And let us say:
On “every aspiring ballerina huddled,” see Twenty minutes in a Tel Aviv bomb shelter, Jewschool.
On children distinguishing bombs by sound, see A message to Israel’s leaders: Don’t defend me – not like this, Ha’aretz.
On “mowing the grass,” see Israel, Gaza, and the patterns of the past, Washington Post.
On “projectiles / from behind preschools or prayer places,” see Dealing with Hamas’s human shield tactics, Jerusalem Post.
“Soon may we hear…” is a reference to the final blessing in the set of Sheva Brachot / Seven Blessings recited at every Jewish wedding.
As a mother, as a human being, as a Jew, and as a rabbi, this prayer/poem is the best articulation I can offer of what my heart and soul are feeling right now. I pray for God to heal the hearts of all who suffer: Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and non-Jews, “us” and “them,” combatants on both sides, those who fear on both sides, those who mourn on both sides, those who benefit from the existing systems in place and those who struggle within those systems. Please, God, speedily and soon. — RB
All are welcome to share and to use this prayer in your community if it speaks to you, as long as you preserve its origin / attribution.