Jewish Prayers From the Heart and Pen of Alden Solovy

Who, Still Broken

img_0711One of the ways my wife Ami z”l attempted her own life was with gasoline. She poured gas onto a grassy midway, ignited it and stepped into the fire. Thankfully, when her clothing caught fire, she dropped and rolled. In the decade since, I’ve struggled with the High Holiday prayer Un’taneh Tokef; in particular, the famous couplet: “Who by fire. Who by water.” Today, after an angry sea pulled back from Haiti, more than 800 are dead. Today, a boy lays in an induced coma after he was set on fire. Today, I wrote this meditation. It includes direct and indirect references to the Un’taneh Tokef, as well as allusions to the Kedusha and to the tradition of prostration during a special Alienu added for the High Holidays. This piece appears in This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day from CCAR Press.

Who, Still Broken
Who by fire,
Screaming with seared flesh?
Who by water,
Gasping for one more breath?

Rock of Life,
Tell me that these are not
Your tools of justice.
Tell me that these are not
Your verdicts or Your punishments.
How do You bear the cries
Of Your children?
The starving,
The battered,
Buried in rubble
Or washed to sea?

No, this is not my God.
Neither Judge nor Witness,
Prosecutor nor Executioner,
Issuing severe decrees
In a kangaroo court
Of intimidations
And forced confessions.

.כִּי כְּשִׁמְךָ כֵּן תְּהִלָתֶֽךָ
Ki k’Shimcha cain t’hilatecha.
For according to Your name,
So is Your praise.
Your name is Righteousness. Forgiveness. Love.
Your names are Mother, Father and Teacher.
Your names are Source and Shelter.

.קָשֶׁה לִכְעֹס וְנֽוֹחַ לִרְצוֹת
Kasheh lichos v’noach lirtzot.
You are slow to anger
And ready to forgive.
But I,
I am slow to change,
Slow to amend my ways.
I can be consumed by the fire
Of my own anger.
I can drown in the sea
Of my own sorrow.
I need Your guidance,
Your gentle hand.

.וְאַתָּה הוּא מֶלֶֽךְ, אֵל חַי וְקַיָּם
V’atah hu Melech El Chai v’kayam!
For You are forever our Living G-d and Sovereign!

Yes, I will fall to my knees
Before You.
For you are Holy,
Your Majesty fills the universe.
My origin is dust
And I will return to dust.
Until then,
God of Mercy,
תְּשׁוּבָה, תְּפִילָּה, וּצְדָקָה
T’shuva, tefillah u’tzdakah —
Repentance, prayer and righteousness —
Will allow me to rise,
To stand before You
Human,
Humble,
Fallible,
Still broken,
And still whole.

© 2017 CCAR Press from This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day

Postscript: This meditation reflects a certain anger, redemptive by asserting a gentler conception of G-d, as well as G-d’s justice, mercy and redemption. See also “Cry No More” and “At the Gates.” Please consider donating to support my daughter Dana’s participation in the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Out of the Darkness Greater Los Angeles Walk to raise funds aimed at reducing the suicide rate 20 percent by 2025.

Please check out my ELItalk video, “Falling in Love with Prayer,” and This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day. For reprint permissions and usage guidelines and reprint permissions, see “Share the Prayer!” To receive my latest prayers via email, please subscribe (on the home page). You can also connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Source: Abq Jew

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