on the occasion of a bat mitzvah and a young military death, a prayer for mindfulness and action **
- In the midst of the Viet Nam War, the great folk-singer/writer Steve Goodman wrote: “Tonight there’s 50,000 gone in that unhappy land, and 50,000 Heart ‘n Souls being played with just one hand.” Today, here and around the world, there are still too many empty spaces in the lives of young people… too many un-drunk welcome-home beers, too many lives reduced to a photo on a t-shirt, too many unshared stories, and too many unmaterialized adulthoods.
In memory of the lost and for the ones we might yet save, let us pray:
As we celebrate the flourishing of some young people in our community, let us be ever aware of our many youth with no such opportunities for learning, support, and affirmation… or even the chance to grow up.
Keep us mindful: when young people suffer injustice or die in violence — whether in wars, declared or otherwise, or in seemingly endless street violence — it is the elders who have failed.
In honor of the many who do not thrive or survive, let us redouble our prayers for justice and peace.
for the body
Let awareness of the human body’s fragility feed our commitment to keep our young people away from either side of a weapon, so that they know neither the pain of wound or wounding. It is well known before Your throne of glory that only tiny barriers and miniscule passageways stand between life and death. Let us always protect, and never hinder, Your work as Healer of all flesh.
for the soul
Remind us of the purity of the human soul. Help us ensure that each of our young people knows the value of his or her own soul, let those in turmoil know the purity of their souls, and remind those in doubt that Ruach ha-olam, the Spirit of Eternity, is always as close as the next breath. God, in whose hand is every living soul, help us protect our youth from forces that would usurp Your power of life and death.
for daily miracles, capacity for learning
Keep our focus on the miracles that surround us and flow from our consciousness of our surroundings. Let these daily blessings keep us from believing that anyone’s freedom or well-being is dispensable.
Teach us the way of justice and peace-making before another generation suffers from their elders’ failures.
Psalm 92: “…only a fool…”
We proclaim Your steadfast love at daybreak and Your faithfulness each night, reminders, night and day, that there is something better and stronger to hold and to seek. We contemplate Your great works and the subtlety of Your designs: Only a brute would allow another generation to grow in an atmosphere of avoidable pain and fear. Only a fool would celebrate new ways to destroy. Help us create a world where all get the chance to bloom and thrive and flourish.
Psalm 150: Soul of All
Let the soul of everything alive bless Your name and may our praise protect against anything that silences the praise and breath of another.
Creator God, Teaching God
In mercy You illumine the world and those who live upon it. Extend Your illumination so we may see our way around war and injustice and poverty. Shine a new light on Zion, so we may soon be worthy of its light.
We are stumbling and deserving of rebuke for every young life lost to violence, direct or indirect. Enlighten our eyes to ways more reflective of Your deep love. Teach us to recognize Your salvation, celebrate where it is becoming manifest, and acknowledge where it is still far from reality.
If we turn away from Sinai’s words and serve only what is common and profane, making gods of our own comfort or power, then the holiness of life will contract and generations after of us will suffer from shallowness of our choices.
These meditations follow the order of Jewish morning prayers and are meant as intentions for those prayers, but can be used independently, I hope, by anyone.
In memory of Sgt. Julian Clement Chase, USMC, (Wilson SHS, Washington DC 2008), killed in action on Memorial Day, 2012, and all other young people on every “side” lost to wars their elders have failed to stop.
“Tonight there’s 50,000 gone in that unhappy land, and 50,000 Heart ‘n Souls being played with just one hand.”