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Psalm 122: A Psalm for Peace

Parshat Bamidbar
Saturday, May 15, 2021

Our tradition includes a whole lot of prayers for peace - Oseh Shalom, our responsive prayer for peace in the morning, Shalom Rav, Sim Shalom, and so on. At times like these, when rockets are firing back and forth between Gaza and Israel yet again, when over a hundred lives have been lost from this week’s violence and countless more have been injured, when families have been sleeping in bomb shelters, I wonder about the point of these prayers. Our prayers for peace haven’t done much yet. 

But we continue to pray for peace because it keeps us positive; it puts hope in our hands. These prayers for peace remind us to get back to work - to find solutions rather than harbor hate. And they remind us that our motivation should never be revenge, but rather, reconciliation. When we say Oseh Shalom or Sim Shalom or Shalom Rav, we ultimately remind ourselves that we are not alone in finding peaceful solutions to conflicts; we have our community, and most importantly, we have God.

A song of ascents by David.

I rejoiced when they said to me, “Let us go to the House of Adonai.”

We remember the joy that we or our parents or our grandparents felt when we finally gained our land of safety in 1948, that land we have prayed for for thousands of years. Our joy increased with the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, our renewed access to some of Judaism’s holiest sites. I even look back to just a few weeks ago, to the joy in the room when we began speaking about our Jewish Federation trip to Israel! For some of us, we look forward to time in Israel to visit family and friends; for some, to see the sites present in our sacred text; and for some, to experience with our very own eyes a place where Judaism is accessible, even normal!

Jerusalem built as a city knit together

Jerusalem, a city with so many different people’s lives intertwined each and every day. Its residents are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Druze. Its Jewish residents are secular, Reform, Masorti, Orthodox, and all different shades of Hasidic and Haredi - I can only imagine that the other faiths and cultures present there have at least that much diversity within their ranks. I read an article this morning in which author Matti Friedman rejected the notion of Jerusalem of Gold, and instead, called it “Jerusalem of Glue” - “The glue is on display in malls and taxis and hospitals, the places of no interest to journalists or politicians, where Jews and Arabs of different ideological stripes interact carefully in their daily lives to a greater extent than ever before, moving things forward to a future that’s unknowable but could be better. That has been the trend here in the past few years. But it’s the other force, the destructive one, that we’re seeing now.”

There the tribes ascended, the tribes of Adonai, witness to Israel

From across the world, we see Israel, the nation of our Biblical history under fire. We see our people, our family and our friends - under fire. Supporting our safety in and access to the State of Israel is praise of God’s name; when Israel is stable and peaceful, our people are at ease. 

To praise God’s name

There the seats of judgment dwelt, seats for the House of David

We beg for the wisdom of the judges of our past - to know how to achieve that peace for us and for all the inhabitants of our land of Israel. How do we support our land and our people without unnecessarily destroying life? How do we balance our anger with our need for humanity and morality?

Ask for the peace of Jerusalem.

May those who love you prosper. 

May there be peace within your walls,

Serenity within your homes.

Now, what we ask for is not revenge, but peace. Not just peace for us, but for all the residents of Jerusalem, of the entire land of Israel, of the West Bank and Gaza - people who come from generations who have craved safety. We ask for success for those with deciding power in Israel - success through wisdom and understanding, fueled by compassion and consideration. May we find an end to sleep interrupted by sirens, to families torn by missiles and broken glass. May this moment be a stepping stone to all parents knowing that they will wake up in the morning to find their children alive.

For the sake of my friends and my fellows, I ask now that peace be yours.

For the sake of the house of Adonai our God, I seek your welfare.

Peace in Israel and its territories will mean peace for us, for the Jewish people. It will mean peace for all those we love, whether they live in the line of fire or right here in Shreveport, aware of the unspoken risk of being openly Jewish in this world. We ask for peace for the sake of God, who led us to the land of Israel thousands of years ago and who helped us regain this land as a potential safe haven for the Jewish people less than a century ago.

I ask, now, for guidance on what words to use in speaking about this land so fraught with physical and emotional conflict. I ask, now, for guidance on how to visualize peace, so that I can continue in hope and positivity. And most importantly, I ask for the safety of all those in the line of fire, for the safety of my friends and teachers and for the family of those here in this congregation.


Thu, April 18 2024 10 Nisan 5784