A time is set for every experience under heaven. A time for uprooting, a time for tearing down....
As I finish teaching my class on Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) at the Pelham Jewish Center, I have been thinking a great deal about one essential aspect of his message: Horrible events that are beyond our control strike our world and we must face this fact of life head on, even if it terrifies us.
A time for wailing...
Our hearts are broken as we allow ourselves to reflect on the gruesome loss of so many lives, killed by the ravages of nature. We shed tears and feel a creeping despair.
A time for seeking, a time for peace...
But Ecclesiastes simultaneously insists that we remember (perhaps as an act of pastoral presence or simple observation) that there will be a time for the inverse experience as well. In the face of horror, we grasp onto the belief that we will again know beauty and inner calm.
A time for planting, a time for gathering stones, a time for building up...
Sometimes we force a season to begin by sheer will. This is one of those times. We search for remnants of life within the disaster, and we support the sacred efforts of those who dedicate their lives to the grueling work of responding to families in crisis. We focus our efforts on rebuilding, one home, one life, at a time.
A time for healing, a time for being born...
Along with you, I pray that the families scarred by the devastating loss of a loved one, especially a child, will discover that despite the darkness of our world, it contains within it a mysterious possibility for rebirth and healing. Healing is rarely an end moment in time, but rather, a process that requires tremendous patience and love from friends, family, community, and our country.
May our brothers and sisters in Oklahoma find themselves on a path toward healing, and may we all take seriously our responsibility to help in the rebuilding of their communities.
For those looking to donate to the relief effort, you may do so through the Oklahoma Tornado Relief Fund of the UJA Federation of NY. 100% of the funds will be allocated to support local communities in the disaster area.
Wishing you comfort during this challenging time.
Below is a prayer written as a response to this disaster by Abby Jacobson, Emanuel Synagogue, Oklahoma City, OK
Lord our God, we stood before You just a week ago to receive the Ten Statements of Your Torah. We stood, as though with our ancestors, and listened to the Torah reader chant descriptions of the smoking mountain, the thunderous rumbling, and the long-awaited voice of God.
This afternoon, the people of central Oklahoma did not stand to hear the voice of God. We sat, we paced, and we huddled. We listened to the voice of the meteorologists and watched as dark clouds swirled together over a cone of destruction. The rain fell upward, not down, and the thunderous roar of the swirling winds carried, and we saw the awesome power of God. This was not Shavuot—the Feast of Weeks that marked our days of freedom. This was minutes that seemed like years and trapped us into watching the same images of destruction.
Merciful God, a great and powerful windstorm has passed, and it has torn apart the buildings and shattered the rocks before You. You told Elijah, the prophet, that You were not in the windstorm. Please, then, be in the still, small voices of the children crying out to be found. Be in the voices of the rescuers calling out for survivors. Be in the cries of those who are lost and of those who have lost.
May it be Your will that those who are missing be found alive and be cared for well, and may the people of central Oklahoma find strength in You and in one another as we rebuild what we can.