Zichrono livracha, we say when we speak of the dead. May their names be for blessing …
This has been a week filled with a level of pain and grief and outrage that we can barely begin to process. So filled with noise, negativity, and a nearly mind-numbing litany of rapidly changing, glacially unchanging news. The voices of politicians and pundits and “experts” of every stripe and color wash over us like sludge thick with the smell of smug – analyzing and assuming and antagonizing as they go. And this is just the liberal media …
AND … there are the voices that strengthen us with hope; the voices that remind us of the instinctually loving ways that live deep within and at the surface in so many of us. The story told on the Senate floor of the teacher in Newtown, Connecticut who died with her body surrounding a student who adored her; or of the mother who was celebrating her son’s 21st birthday, and, as the Orlando shooter turned toward them, died protecting her son from the bullets sprayed toward them. And the voices that remember the voices of those whose lives were cut tragically short this week ~ kind co-workers, courageous friends, inspiring classmates, and beloved children.
The voices of my friends and colleagues* remind me of the tremendous strength, courage, intellectual power, creative talent, and political savvy of the LGBTQ community and its many allies. This is a community that has accomplished so much in my lifetime. And I take comfort in knowing that this is a community that will continue to help us to connect with the best and most authentic in ourselves and continue to inspire us to do better in our religious, educational, political institutions and beyond. This is a community that lives and breathes inclusivity in ways that so many of us aspire to be inclusive and welcoming.
This week’s Torah portion, Parshat Nasso (Bamidbar/Numbers 4:21-7:83), begins with a census taking, spends some time with ancient practices of discerning and making ritual reparations for wrong-doing, before coming to what is best known and most well-used within this passage of Torah. God tells Moses to speak to Aaron and his sons about how to bless b’nei Yisrael (the children of Israel). Say to them, God says:
May God bless you and protect you ~ יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ יְהוָ֖ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ
May God deal kindly and graciously with you ~ יָאֵ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה ׀ פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ
~ יִשָּׂ֨א יְהוָ֤ה ׀ פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם May God show favor upon you and grant you peace
For many of us, Jew, Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Buddist, Hindu … it is in times of great turmoil that we reach out for some spiritual toe-hold. We
turn to our religious wisdom tradition for some way to soothe our aching hearts and weary heads in the face of chaos that feels over-whelming and nonsensical. This week, although peace seems so far away, a sense of the sacred, of a tent big enough to comfort all who are in mourning, all who feel violated, all whose sense of security has been shattered, may these words of blessing buoy us and lift us to move forward with purpose, with action, with grace, and with peace.
Join members of The Little Minyan Kehilla throughout the weekend for Columbus’ Pride events. We will gather as a community on Saturday evening for havdalah at the Columbus Commons with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Indigo Girls. For more information, contact us at 614.459.9593 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
*These beautiful words of blessing were offered by Rabbi Sharon Mars this week in Columbus at a vigil remembering victims of Orlando at Trinity Lutheran Church:
“Before I offer these concluding words of benediction, I’d like to refer to what Lin Manuel Miranda said the other night upon accepting his Tony award:
‘Love is love is love is love…’
God of Love,
Source of Love,
Creator of Love—
Hear our voice.
You have commanded us to love You—
V’ahavta et Adonai elohecha—
With all our heart,
With all our soul,
With all our might—
But then all these things
Happen to your creatures, O God,
And we are left speechless.
Hate seeks to eclipse love,
And we are made afraid.
Violence tries to blot out peace,
And we are struck dumb.
We fumble for words
Because they are all we have
We grasp for straws,
We gasp for answers.
Before we can collect our thoughts,
Before we can bury our dead,
Before we can form a syllable of protest,
All these words spill off some of the tongues of those in fear
Intended to wound those of us who live by love.
God of Love,
Use Your powers of love
So that those ugly words should find no ears to fill.
Use Your powers of love
To ensure that instead of empty platitudes
There are full-voiced multitudes
Demanding safety and acceptance,
Commanding peace and love
For our dance clubs,
For our bathrooms,
For our classrooms,
For our courtrooms.
Let us not be satisfied
By moments of silence for long.
Let us be satisfied instead
By moments of loud and proud cries of love,
Insisting on the right to love
Whomever we choose to love,
Wherever we choose to love.
You whom we call Adonai,
You whom we call Allah,
You whom we call Jesus,
You who called us to love each other—
Help us to love ourselves.
Help us to love those who cry out in need of love
You command us to love You
In order to multiply the love of acceptance,
The love of mercy,
The love of justice
In the world.
Now command each of us
To follow Your love
To its natural conclusion:
A world dignified by love,
A world magnified by love,
A world sanctified by love,
A world we are proud to live in
And allowed to love in.
May Your words of love be in our hearts,
God of love,
As we seek to improve upon the world You birthed into being,
The world which we were birthed into
To fill with love
In partnership with You .
Let that love
Whisper to us when we walk by our way,
Anchor us when we sit in our homes,
Soothe us when we lie down,
Strengthen us when we rise up.
And when we raise up our voices
To insist on creating the world we wish to see,
Let that love seep into every pure heart
Across this blood-saturated and tear-stained land.
Let that love find its way into every mind
Which chooses love over fear.
Let that love build bridges
Of understanding and healing
So that Your word has the final say:
Love your God.
Love each other.
And we say: