This week has been defined by new life, having just officiated at the Bris of our newest member Isaiah Raphael Joffee (Mazal Tov Aviva!). This week has been defined by the death of several member’s grandparents and more than one difficult cancer diagnosis, constant reminders that we are mortal, that life is fragile.
This week has also been defined by the slow drip of hope, with the release of 110 Israeli hostages and 240 Palestinian political prisoners. If you are like me, you have tracked the release of every single person. I have studied the faces of 4 year old Abigail Edan and 22 year old Ahed Tamimi. I keep returning to the images of them embracing their families. I am focused on their eyes. The hurt they harbor. The long road to healing ahead of them. The sounds of war all around them.
I am struggling to digest so much violence and injustice. I keep returning to prayer. What does it mean to pray for peace in a time of war? What might make our prayers effective?
A teacher shared with me a teaching of the great 18th century Hasidic rebbe, Noam Elimelech. It begins, “It is known that a tzaddik’s prayer is answered when praying for a sick person or for others in need. But why? … Why is a tzaddik’s prayer more effective than the prayer of any other person?”
To which he explains,
“This is because a tzaddik loves both God and every person in the world….Most people are not like this…Only a tsaddik who loves everyone has that power.”
I am struck by this ancient aspiration to love God so fully that we actually love absolutely everyone. When we open our hearts fully to the Holy One or Holiness, we are reminded of our fundamental interconnectedness to all life. And when we pray from that place, transformation is possible.
In the words of the poet Cathy Cohen, When Sorrows Come,
…I once dreamed of starlings
flying in patterns,
pulled to each other,
yet with space to maneuver
when threatened by hawks,
by danger. But lately I’m dreaming
of others who suffer – those close
and strangers, whose souls
we must touch
so prayers might flow more quickly from our lips
when sorrows come, when joys –
when sorrows come.
May we have the courage to try to love every person so fully that our prayers for peace and healing flow more quickly and are answered immediately.
Here are two spiritual resources that brought me comfort this week. A new Let My People Sing! Playlist and this beautiful dvar Torah by Ms. Ezra Furman.
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Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari brings Torat Hayyim, a living tradition, to Kol Tzedek through thoughts about prayer, justice, and community.