Tradition & Innovation
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Healing Service

By Rabbi Joy Levitt, Carol Rivel, and Debbie Friedman, z"l

Opening Kavanah

So much devastation. So much loss. So far away and really so close by. And so quickly. 

Our ancestors, faced with the overwhelming power of the floods, sought answers in the moral fiber of the world and in a God who corrects for humanity’s lapses by wiping the slate clean. How else to explain the tragedy they beheld? 

The fisherman going out to sea as he had done every day for twenty years, just to put food on the table for his family. The family who had saved for a year to travel to an exotic beach for the vacation of their lifetime. The children playing on the beach. The adults going to work. They were no better than any of us; they were also no worse. They were, in fact, just like us. Men and women, children and teenagers, going about their lives the best way they knew how. And the waters swallowed them and in truth, we don’t know why. And the slate is not wiped clean. It is strewn with bodies and mud and children’s toys and wreckage that will never be entirely put back together.   

It turns out that we can travel to the moon and cure polio and send messages to the outer reaches of the universe over the internet but we don’t know everything. We aren’t all powerful.

So many questions. Theologians may ask why? Scientists may ask how? Newscasters may ask what? Family may ask where? In the face of all that we do not know, here is what we do know.

Moments after disaster struck, the people of the world started to figure out how to help. They gave money—governments—not enough but starting to respond. Individuals, in an unprecedented amount.  Doctors got on planes; aid workers rushed to the worst scenes. Parents who lost children took care of children who lost parents. The world became very small. We all became very connected. Even though most of us didn’t know a single victim. B’zelem elohim bara otam. In God’s image were they created. Like us. Why there and not here? Why them and not us? When we understand the unity of the world, we understand that there is here and they are us.

Tonight we find God in one another’s faces; in the faces of those who have rushed to help. In the faces of those who have sought to comfort. In the faces of those who are struggling to survive against the odds.

Scientists tell us that the quake was so strong that the planet actually wobbled. Scientists tell us that our day has been permanently shortened by three-millionths of a second. We all have less time now. The time is now.

Mikolot mayim rabim adirim mishbarai yam, adir bamarom YHVH

More powerful than the crash of the mighty sea and its breaking waves, You, Adonai, are exalted in Your heavens.

The Time is Now

Music by Debbie Friedman, z"l
Lyrics by Debbie Friedman, z"l & Tamara Ruth Cohen

The time is now
We’ve gathered round
So bring all your gifts
And all your burdens with you
No need to hide, arms open wide
We gather as one to make a makom kadosh
We come to tell, we come to hear,
We come to teach, to learn
We come to grow, and so we say 
The time is now, sing to the One
God’s presence is here
Shekhina you will dwell among us.
We’ll make this space
A holy place, so separate so whole,
Rejoice every soul who enters here

Look to This Day

Look at this day
For it is life,
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all
The realities and verities of existence,
The bliss of growth,
The splendor of action,
The glory of power—

For yesterday is but a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today, well-lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope

Look well, therefore, to this day.

—Sanskrit proverb

Kol Ha-olam Kulo

Kol ha-olam kulo
gesher tzar me’od (3)
Kol ha-olam kulo
gesher tzar me’od (2)
V’ha-eekar (2)
Lo lifachayd (2) klal
V’ha-eekar (2)
Lo lifachayd  klal

The whole world is a narrow bridge, and the important thing is not to be afraid.

—Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav

El Maley Rakhamim

El maley rakhamim shochayn bamromim
Ham’tzay m’nucha n’chona tachat kanfei ha’shekhina b’ma-a lot k’doshim u-t’horim k’zohar mazhirim lnishmaot k’doshaynu shehalchu l’olamim.  Ana ba’al harachamim hastiraym b’tzel k;nafecha l’olamim u’tzror bitztror ha-chayim et nishmatam. Adonai hu nachalatam v’yanuchu v’shalom al mishkavam v’nomar amen

God filled with mercy, dwelling in the heaven’s heights, bring proper rest beneath the wings of your shekhina, amid the ranks of the holy and the pure, illuminating like the brilliance of the skies the souls of the holy who went to their eternal place of rest.  May you who are the source of mercy shelter them beneath your wings eternally, and bind their souls among the living, that they may rest in peace.  And let us say Amen

Gomel Prayer

I bless you God, the Holy One, who cares for the world. With goodness, you protect me for all I am and for all I hope to be. So I give thanks for your mercy.  

May God who has been gracious to you protect you with all that is good. Kol tov selah. Kol tov sela. We bless you God the holy one and all that is good.  Kol tov sela.

We Go Round and Round and Round

Nisan, Iyar, Sivan, Tammuz, Av, Elul, Tishrei, Heshvan, Kislev, Tevet, Shevat, Adar.
B’rucha hamechadeshet kol et.

A sliver, a quarter, a half, then full light
Revealing yourself in the darkness of night
And we go round and round and round
And we go round and round

This is the cycle the rhythm of time
Days turn to weeks into months into years
And we go round and round and round
And we go round and round.

A sliver, a quarter, a half, then full heart
Revealing the mysteries that set us apart
And we go round and round and round
And we go round and round

Earth sleeps in the winter awaking spring
Light kisses the summer igniting the fall
And we go round and round and round
And we go round and round

A sliver a quarter a half and then whole
Renewed by your presence touching the soul
And we go round and round and round
And we go round and round

It is new it is ours we see it again 
It is scared it has no beginning no end
And we go round and round and round
And we go round and round

A Final Kavanah

How did the world begin?

For Jewish mystics the world began with an act of withdrawal.  God did tzimtzum.  God contracted to leave space for the world to exist. After this tzimtzum, “withdrawal,” some divine energy entered the emerging world, but this divine light, this divine energy was too strong, overpowering the worlds that tried to contain it, and the universe exploded with a cosmic bang. Shards of divine light, of holiness, were scattered everywhere in the universe. The sparks of holiness are often buried deep in the cosmic muck of the universe, they are difficult to behold and yet they are everywhere, in everyone, in every situation. They are the life and meaning of the universe.

We live in this world of shattering. We feel in our bodies and in our souls the brokenness of the world, and we feel at times the resonance in ourselves of that initial cosmic shattering. Our bodies, like that primordial world, try not to contain, but rather to hold on to the divine light and energy flowing around us and in us.  But as in the world’s origin, our bodies are too frail, made only frailer with the passage of time, and so we begin to leak our divine image/energy. Perhaps, then, illness is really the leaking of our souls. In this world of shattered hopes and expectations, we search for wholeness.

Moses shattered the first set of tablets, the first set of the ten commandments. And then he got a second set that he helped to write.  When the ark was constructed for the sanctuary, the rabbis tell us not only the whole second set of tablets was put into the Holy Ark, but the pieces from the first set as well.

Wholeness comes not from ignoring the broken pieces, or hoping to magically glue them back together. The shattered coexists with the whole; the divine is to be found amid the darkest depths and the heaviest muck of the universe. Every moment has the potential for redemption and wholeness. Our brokenness gives us that vision and the potential to return some of the divine sparks scattered in the world

— Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

Mi Shebeirach

Music & Lyrics by Debbie Friedman. z"l

Mi shebeirach avotaynu, m’kor habracha l’eemotaynu
May the source of life who blessed the ones before us
Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing
And let us say amen.

Mi shebeirach eemotaynu, m’kor habracha lavotaynu
Bless those in need of healing with r’fuah sh’layma

The renewal of body, the renewal of spirit

And let us say amen.


Complete Ceremony