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Kavanot from our rabbis

This past Shabbat, we were fortunate to have four rabbis who are members of Hevreh share their own kavanot (intentions) for this moment as part of our Shabbat service. Those teachings, and additional liturgy are shared here with their permissison.

Rabbi Howard Jaffe: A Kavanah + A Prayer for the Innocent (written by Rabbi Lauren Werber)

What a difficult week this has been. It has been easy to feel helpless, but in fact, we are not helpless. Let us consider three different ways in which we can respond meaningfully to what we are experiencing:

Every one of us who has heard from friends, family, and acquaintances from beyond the Jewish community who have reached out to express their support and solidarity know just how much every single one of those messages and contacts have meant. When we think of our brothers and sisters in Israel, we can multiply that feeling by an infinite amount, and recognize that every message, every email, and every phone call from us means more than we can possibly imagine.

And we can give of our treasure. We can make a material difference by supporting any of the many efforts that require funding right now. The needs are incalculable, and all of us doing whatever we can is again, more meaningful than we might be able to imagine.

And we can pray. Yes, we can pray, just as we are doing now. But we pray not to ask God to intervene, to stop the fighting in the bloodshed. We do not pray with the expectation that because we have asked God to do so it will happen. We pray because prayer grounds us and centers us. We pray because through prayer we express our greatest hopes and highest aspirations, and through our prayers, remind ourselves of our deepest values. We pray that we might be mindful of those hopes, aspirations, and values that they might guide us especially in times such as this.

And so, in this spirit, we offer this prayer, written by Rabbi Lauren Werber:


By Rabbi Lauren F. Werber

Golda Meir is said to have stated:

"We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children."

We as a people – our children, our friends – have been called to the unthinkable.

In the name of freedom and security,

For the sake of the undying dream of peace,

With hearts on the edge of breaking,

Our people have been called to kill and to be killed.

Through the gruesome harshness of battle,

Despite the soul-crushing savagery of war,

In the face of barbarism of almost unimaginable proportion,

Help us, Spirit of Holiness, to soften our hearts,

To safeguard our souls,

To hold tight to our humanity and compassion.

Just as You reminded us when we crossed the sea toward freedom

That our enemies remain Your children,

Remind us today and every day

That death and devastation must never feed our souls,

Must always pain us to our very core.

May we remember to cry for all victims of terror and hate,

In our land of Israel, In Gaza, and wherever they suffer and fall.

May we remember that we do not seek vengeance and we do not revel in killing,

But rather, we grieve that we are called to destroy in order to create.

Bamakom sh’ein anashim, in a place where no one is human,

Hishtadel l’hiyot ish, we must strive to be human.

As we fulfill this terrible and holy mission,

As we witness inhumanity and devastation,

Help us to be human,

to feel the pain of all who hurt,

And still to fight, even with our lives, for a better day.

Spirit of Holiness, safeguard our souls as we march to war.

Rabbi Shira Stern: A Teaching Before Mi Sheberach, Our Prayer for Healing

When I need to be comforted, I often go back to original texts, often those I read to my children when when they were small. And one of my favorites – still – is from the story of Winnie the Pooh.

Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne

Piglet?" said Pooh. "Yes?" said Piglet. "I'm scared," said Pooh.

For a moment, there was silence. "Would you like to talk about it?" asked Piglet, when Pooh didn't appear to be saying anything further.

"I'm just so scared," blurted out Pooh.

"So anxious. Because I don't feel like things are getting any better. If anything, I feel like they might be getting worse. People are angry, because they're so scared, and they're turning on one another, and there seems to be no clear plan out of here, and I worry about my friends and the people I love, and I wish SO much that I could give them all a hug, and oh, Piglet! I am so scared, and I cannot tell you how much I wish it wasn't so."

Piglet was thoughtful, as he looked out at the blue of the skies, peeping between the branches of the trees in the Hundred Acre Wood, and listened to his friend.

"I'm here," he said, simply. "I hear you, Pooh. And I'm here."

For a moment, Pooh was perplexed.

"But... aren't you going to tell me not to be so silly? That I should stop getting myself into a state and pull myself together? That it's hard for everyone right now?"

"No," said Piglet, quite decisively. "No, I am very much not going to do any of those things."

“But - " said Pooh.

"I can't change the world right now," continued Piglet. "And I am not going to patronise you with platitudes about how everything will be okay, because I don't know that.

"What I can do, though, Pooh, is that I can make sure that you know that I am here. And that I will always be here, to listen; and to support you; and for you to know that you are heard.

"I can't make those Anxious Feelings go away, not really.

"But I can promise you that, all the time I have breath left in my won't ever need to feel those Anxious Feelings alone."

And it was a strange thing, because even as Piglet said that, Pooh could feel some of those Anxious Feelings start to loosen their grip on him and could feel one or two of them start to slither away into the forest, cowed by his friend, who sat there stolidly next to him.

Pooh thought he had never been more grateful to have Piglet in his life.

Tonight, as we prepare to pray for healing for those we know and love, for those who are devastated by the death and destruction in Israel, and for all those souls who have been kidnapped, we turn to God to say:

Help all of us. We feel so torn, so overwhelmed. We need Your power to help us create shleimut – wholeness – in our lives once again. We need healing of body and mind and spirit. We need You to help see us through this, for we cannot do this alone. We are scared. And scarred. And we need You. Mishberach – You who have repaired torn hearts in the past – help us too. Heal us now. All of us. El Na Refa na Lanu. O, Please God, Heal us all now.

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