Statement of Prayer and Solidarity
Rabbi David Evan Markus
Temple Beth El of City Island
June 6, 2020
Dear friends, let us pray.
Holy One of Blessing: Today is the Jewish Sabbath, a day of rest to restore our souls – our neshamot, from the Hebrew word for breath. But such a Sabbath rest is not possible for us today – not for any of Your children who carry the legacy of bondage in our bones. We cannot rest if we cannot breathe.
It has been 55 years since Dr. King marched across the Pettus Bridge from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, arm in arm with Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. They walked arm in arm for equal justice under the Constitution, and for a new spirit of equality throughout this country. They walked arm in arm because our shared creed is to walk together for justice. They walked arm in arm because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
That day, 55 years ago, was a Sabbath day much like this one – too much like this one. On that Sabbath day, Rabbi Heschel prayed not in synagogue but arm in arm in the streets. And he said that as he marched, his “feet were praying.”
On this Sabbath day, we too pray with our feet because Black Lives Matter. We pray for the family of George Floyd and the city of Minneapolis. We pray for the family of Ahmaud Arbery and the city of Brunswick, Georgia. We pray for the family of Breonna Taylor and the city of Louisville, Kentucky. We pray for everyone and everywhere unable to breathe today. We pray to fulfill at last the promise that all are created equal – that Black Lives Matter.
We pray for the millions across this country who are speaking together in one voice so united that, at last, it will become clear that Black Lives Matter. We pray that these words will become true on our streets and in our schools, hospitals and governments. We pray that gatherings like ours today soon will be unnecessary, because the equal justice and dignity that are the birthright of all Black Lives will flow in righteousness “like a mighty stream.” Only then can we ensure public confidence in our justice system that is our temple of democracy.
And until that day, we pray for the wisdom, resilience and courage to do what is hard, to do what we must, day in and day out – to keep praying with our feet for equal justice under law, with the strength that only peaceful presence can command. Only then can we rest in a Sabbath that truly restores our souls. Only then can any of us breathe.
Psalm 133 proclaims הנה מה טוב ומה נעים שבת אחים גם יחד / Hinei mah tov umah na’im shevet achim gam yachad: “Right here, how good and right it is for siblings to shevet (to sit, to dwell) together.” It is good and right that we will dwell together in peace and justice. And it is good and right that we now will sit together, take a knee together, for this holy cause.
May the Holy One be with us and our loved ones, with leaders of church and state united in this sacred purpose, with all who face the physical and spiritual violence of racism, and with all who stand and sit for justice.
And in that merit, in the words of this week’s Torah portion (Numbers 6:24-26): May the Holy One bless us and keep us, and shine on us with grace, and turn us toward peace for the beleaguered soul of our “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”