On Yom Kippur morning we read Isaiah’s exhortation on the worthlessness of ritual without righteousness. The prophet admonishes the people for fasting but ignoring G-d’s mandates: “Is this not the fast that I have chosen? To loose the fetters of wickedness… to deal thy bread to the hungry… to bring the poor that are cast out into thy house?” [Isaiah 58:6-7] This prayer for social justice asks the same question – “Is this the…” – for many more of our ritual practices. This prayer is appropriate for the spiritual journey of Elul, as well as for use on Yom Kippur
Is this the Fast? A Social Justice Prayer
To those who are upright,
Those who are steady,
Those who bring holiness
And light into the world.
Is this the fast we fast?
To remember the homeless and the needy?
To bring healing into the streets,
And justice into our courtyards?
Is this the sukkah we build?
To summon the hungry and forlorn?
To put food in the mouths of the poor
And bring strangers into our tents?
Is this the seder we host?
To end bondage in farm and factory?
To rally before the seats of power
In the name of the oppressed?
Is this the kashrut we keep?
To end mistreatment of flock and herd?
To live in harmony with the land?
To use our resources wisely?
Is this the Torah we learn?
To hear the word of G-d,
With humility and delight,
To thirst for truth and yearn for wisdom?
Is this the Shabbat we keep?
To shake off the bonds of the mundane?
To remember and keep the Sabbath?
To restore our lives and dream of the world to come?
Is this the prayer we pray?
To cry out to the Holy One in joy and sorrow,
In the name of wholeness and healing,
In the name of peace?
In your gardens and in your groves,
In your houses and your villages,
For you will be called a delight,
A lamp of awe,
A beacon of wonder,
A source of healing,
And a well of inspiration,
Among your people Israel.
© 2015 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.
Postscript: This prayer also alludes to another line from the Yom Kippur morning haftarah: “Peace, peace to him that is far off and him that is near…” (Isaiah 57:19), offering healing to those who walk a path of righteousness. The haftarah portion for Yom Kippur morning is Isaiah 57:14-58:14. Here’s a link to an annotated list of my prayers for the Yamim Noraim.
Tweetable! Click here to tweet this: “Is this the Fast?” A powerful social justice prayer based on Isaiah 58:6-7 from @ToBendLight.
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Photo Source: Northshore Community Church