Thoughts on Prayer and Tragedy
We are forced this weekend to face multiple tragedies. As Americans, we must cope yet again with the spectre of gun violence on a mass scale. As of writing, the massacre in Texas was reportedly carried out by an anti-immigrant terrorist. Much closer to home, in the nearby city of Dayton, an emotionally disturbed young man killed many innocents, including his own sister. Had it not been for the quick and courageous action of the Dayton police, many more victims would be mourned today.
As Jews, we enter into Tish B’Av; the commemoration of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple long ago – a day of mourning over what our tradition considers to be a national tragedy.
It sounds trite to once again offer our “thoughts & prayers,” as if by doing so we’ve made some difference. It feels “not enough.” Inadequacy rebounds from the limitations of our routine appeal. We ask for healing for the injured, seek consolation for those who suffer, and express solidarity with those determined to resolutely carry on. We need more. Tisha B’Av prayer is not limited to asking God’s blessings. It includes the demand for justice:
“How long will our tormentors be allowed to rest in tranquillity, while the faces of my young ones are inflicted by thorns? They sit in arrogant judgment over God’s children and inflict punishment upon them.” (From Kinot for Tisha B’Av)
Who are these hate-filled gunmen to torment us with their distorted ideologies? How dare they feel empowered to inflict upon our communities and upon our youth their perverse judgements. We acknowledge our horror and dismay. Prayer demands more. Let us not rest until the arrogant are undone and true justice prevails.
Rabbi Mitch Levine