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Open Our Hearts and Our Hands 

Rabbi Michael Swarttz

It’s only been about five weeks since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the coast of Texas, and preceded to devastate a large portion of that state’s coast, along with Houston, as well as doing serious damage to neighboring states.  Since that time, we have seen damage and desolation on numerous Caribbean islands, in Florida, Mexico, and Puerto Rico from other hurricanes and earthquakes.  And then just last night, the most destructive mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas, which I’m sure will lead to absolutely no changes in that state’s or our nation’s gun laws.


Our TV screens, our smart phones, every way in which we keep up with what’s happening in the world have bombarded us with pictures of destruction and pleas for help and relief from victims.  Our hearts go out to the victims; we cannot help but feel compassion for them.  But the feeling is not enough; action is needed.  And unless we are willing to drop everything, travel to one of the disaster areas and volunteer, the best we can do is to give of our resources to help the victims.  While there are specific funds and initiatives to help victims of each of these events, the Jewish Federations of North America has a hurricane fund to disperse to people in need from all of the recent hurricanes.  100% of the money raised goes for hurricane relief.  Both Jewish and non-Jewish victims receive aid.  While you can certainly find other avenues to help, I offer this as an option, as it is one I trust and to which Carol and I have contributed.


Let us not give in to compassion fatigue, which is so tempting in light of the seemingly constant news of disasters and catastrophes to which we have been exposed these past weeks.  Let us “open our hearts in prayer and our hands in generosity,” in the words of the following prayer from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.  It was written several years ago in response to a terrible earthquake in Haiti; I have amended it slightly.


Rabbi Mike


Prayer in Response to Natural Disaster

Adon ha-olamim, Sovereign of the universe,

We join our prayers to the prayers of others throughout the world, for the victims of the [natural disasters] which have brought destruction and disaster to so many countless lives.
Almighty God, we pray You, send healing to the injured, comfort to the bereaved, and news to those who sit and wait. May You be with those who even now are engaged in the work of rescue. May You send Your strength to those who are striving to heal the injured, give shelter to the homeless, and bring food and water to those in need. May You bless the work of their hands, and may they merit to save lives.

Almighty God, we recognize how small we are, and how powerless in the face of nature when its full power is unleashed. Therefore, open our hearts in prayer and our hands in generosity, so that our words may bring comfort and our gifts bring aid. Be with us now and with all humanity as we strive to mend what has been injured and rebuild what has been destroyed.

Ken Yehi Ratzon, ve-nomar Amen.
May it be Your will, and let us say Amen.

Thu, June 13 2024 7 Sivan 5784