I hiked with my kids up Cathedral Rock in Sedona at Sunset and saw a breathtaking view. When I returned to the car, my husband told me, “Another incident occurred.” I quickly looked on his phone and learned what had happened. Five Jews had been stabbed at a Hanukkah party in New York, and violent assaults against Jews in America had occurred each night of Hanukkah. The exhilaration I felt on the magnificent cliff just moments before vanished instantly.
As I looked further on the phone, I read an article that my sister Mira wrote for the New York Jewish News about her experiences of anti-Semitism at the University of Syracuse where she is a first-year student. In the article, Mira explained that she grew up in a “Jewish bubble” -- attending Jewish day school from pre-school to twelfth grade with summers at Camp Ramah and then a year in Israel before college. Mira was excited to go to college and meet diverse students of all different backgrounds. But then, a couple months into her college experience, 14 racist and anti-Semitic incidents occurred at the university in an eight-day period – throwing into question her sense of safety on campus. She concluded the article by saying, “And alas, my Jewish bubble has popped.”
I thought of everything else that has popped lately.
The joy of vacation. Pop.
My children’s innocence. Pop.
The sense of security of Jews in this county. Pop.
Five Jews are stabbed, and somehow all Jews are wounded.
In this week’s parasha, Judah explains that his brother Benjamin cannot go down to Egypt without his father because “nafsho keshurah binafsho” “his soul is tied to his soul.” Benjamin and Jacob’s souls were inseparable. Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that this Torah portion is also the first time that the term b’nai Yisrael (the children of Israel) is mentioned. Just as all parts of a human body are interconnected, the souls of the people Israel are intertwined.
With this idea in mind, I rewrote the Asher Yatzar, the prayer for the body, as a prayer for the Jewish people and all those in need of healing. I recite this prayer for those injured in the attacks and for all of us.
Tzur Chayeinu, asher yatzar et am yisrael b’chochmah, uvarah bo mishpachot, mischpachot, yeladim, yeladim. Galui v’yadua lifnei kiseh kvodechah she’ im nifga echad mehem or yehareg echad mehem, kulanu koavim. Baruch Ata Adonei, rofe amenu, b’nai yisrael, rofe et umot ha-olam u’mafli la’asot.
Rock of Our Lives, You created the people Israel, and the peoples of the world with wisdom, and created in them interconnected families and children. It is clear and known before the throne of Your Glory, that if one Jew or if one innocent person is injured or killed, all of us are pained. Blessed are you, our God, please heal our people, the children of Israel, heal the people of the world, and work Your wonders, and let us say Amen.