By Audrey Merwin
It was only about a month and a half ago that we started to include the prayer for rain once again in T’filah: Mashiv haruach umorid hagashem, “You cause the wind to shift and rain to fall,” (Mishkan T’filah, p. 78). In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, some of us may wonder, did it have to happen all at once? As in any time of trouble, we ask “Why?” Why was it so severe? Why did it cause so much destruction and devastation and loss? And why did it have to happen to us?
Often, we can find the best answer to an incomprehensible situation in our own response. This simple prayer to increase the harvest actually can help bolster our response to natural disaster. If we take the alternate meaning of the word ruach (spirit) and associate the word geshem (rain) with abundance (as in “rainmaker”), we are encouraged to enrich our spirits even on the heels of a devastating disaster. If we look, we can find hope in acts of kindness and take strength in examples of courage and resilience.
Consider these stories:
A child clutches a stuffed animal handed to her by a volunteer as she enters a shelter,
A family of five who live in a flood zone are welcomed by a friend who, living up the hill, has heat, hot water, and electricity,
Numerous families on a block that has power leave electric strips in front of their homes for people to charge up their phones,
Volunteers help an EMS crew carry a woman who needs oxygen 24X7 down five flights of stairs and transport her to a hospital in a safer zone, and
The mayor of a town hoists a passenger out of a car submerged in water to safety in a front loader truck.
If you stop and think about what you’ve experienced or heard about Hurricane Sandy, you may have a few “good” stories to tell. I hope you’ll share them in the comments section below.
In the meantime, you may find comfort in some of the resources provided by the URJ. Our tradition and communities offer a wealth of material to help us deal with natural disaster. From commentary to prayers to poems there is something there to resonate with just about anyone.
For those of us who have lost friends or loved ones, may we find strength and comfort in reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish in the warmth and supportive surroundings of our communities.
For those of us who made it through unscathed, we can feel sustained in our congregations by reciting Birkat Hagomel, the Thanksgiving Blessing (Mishkan T’filah, p. 109): “Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, who has bestowed every goodness upon us.” And, while it may not be a holiday, it can’t hurt to recite Shehecheyanu (Mishkan T’filah, p. 387): “Praise to You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, sustaining us, and enabling us to reach this season.”
Audrey Merwin edits Reform Voices of Torah, the Monday edition of Ten Minutes of Torah.