A Prayer for San Bernardino

San Bernardino candle

Rabbi David Booth send this message to his congregation. He has worries and a prayer. I hope you will find some comfort in his words.

I am worried about my reaction to the tragedy in San Bernardino on two levels. First, I found myself numbed to it. By contrast with Paris, or Tel Aviv, or so many other incidents of murder and terror, I saw the headlines and initially gave it little attention. I’m worried that I’m getting used to it, inured to regular occurrences of mass murder and terror.

Yet we are created in the image of God. Every death, every murder, is a loss of infinite value. I dare not get used to such loss. I need to be shocked and upset and in mourning each time because each time the divine image is lessened; lovers, children, parents have been lost forever.

Second, these murders are done in God’s name. I believe in God who brings out the truest essence of people. As the process theologians put it, God is in part the lure, the pull to do good, to be a source of blessing. I am so disturbed by God being invoked in murder and in terror. It does damage to religion because people who might be drawn to faith that heals, faith that transforms, instead turn away. If it leads to such incidents, I want nothing of it, they say. I am heartbroken to see faith inspire murder, whether in Paris, San Bernardino, or Israel.

And yet faith is how we heal, how we comfort one another, and how we uncover our capacity to be a blessing in the world. Our endeavor as Jews is to be a blessing to all the families of the Earth. I believe God wants that of all humanity. Our job is to uncover our own ability to bring good and blessing to one another, to all people’s and nations. Faith is one path that helps us achieve that divine mission.

A prayer for this tragedy:

May God who creates peace, who is good and does good, inspire us not to violence, but to blessing. May we find the strength to feel loss even when it is repetitive, inexplicable, and awful. May God grant us the strength to access our own inner resources of compassion to offer comfort to those in mourning, to those who have lost loved ones, to those who are afraid.

And yet, God, we know that prayer is only beginning. Prayer is the inspiration for good action, the moment to connect with You, source of blessing. Help us then to find the political, legal, and military pathways to bring about an end to terror and violence. Guide our leaders and all of us in the democratic West to wisdom towards a path that can restore Your holy name as it belongs – as a source of peace and blessing and safety, to the whole world.

Then may it be fulfilled that each person may sit at rest under their citrus tree, content with their portion, renewed and inspired to be blessing to all the families that walk this Earth.


Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Booth