MiShebeirach for Circles of Pain

bullet_hole

photo: Treona Kelty

Introduction: Every bullet leaves pain in circles rippling outward, like the diameter of the bomb the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai once described. Amichai’s bomb extends from 30 centimeters to the immediate range of dead and wounded, out to a solitary mourner “far across the sea,” finally encompassing “the entire world in the circle.” (Chana Bloch’s translation.)

Monday’s shooting on Benning Road killed Ayana McAllister, 18, home from college on spring break, and injured her roommate, Aqueelah Brown, 19, who was visiting. It traumatized Ayana’s sister, N’Daja, 19, who was also present. Friends and acquaintances suffer in ripples outward from two family circles that will never be the same, from school communities forever changed, and from Fort Chaplin Apartments, where such shootings are too commonplace. And somewhere in that web of sorrow and confusion are neighboring toddlers who experience, without knowing in any conscious way, the calculations their caregivers make every time they leave the house.

Note: In Jewish tradition, “Mi Shebeirach” [“May the one who blessed…”] prayers use a formula that calls on memory and relationship, a personal-divine history of sorts, to make a request of God. Traditions vary today and have varied throughout history regarding timing and content of such prayers, but requests for healing are a common use in most traditions. There are many articles on the topic. Here’s one interesting piece from Sh’ma written not long after the death of Debbie Friedman (February 23, 1951 – January 9, 2011). Friedman, singer/song-writer and faculty member of the Hebrew Union College, created a musical “Mi Shebeirach” that was extremely popular in the late 20th Century and had a strong influence on how the prayer is perceived and used.

See also related prayers and meditations

Mi Shebeirach for Circles of Pain

May the one who blessed our ancestors,
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah,
and our extended family,
Lot and his kin, Hagar, Ishmael, Esau, Bilhah and Zilpah
– a clan that knew its share of trauma and grief –
bless and heal those recovering from violence, loss, and terror.
May the Blessed Holy One be filled with compassion
for all those experiencing ripples of violence.
May God swiftly send all who need it a renewal of body and spirit.
May our community health be restored
and our collective strength revived.
And let us say, Amen.

Seek the Peace of the City

Houses of worship across the United States are separated by many things: culture, religious denomination, style of prayer, theology and language. We’re also separated by demographics and location, even in the same town.

I believe it was DC’s former police chief Isaac Fulwood who noted that 10 a.m. on Sunday is the most segregated hour of life in the city. Of course, many things have changed since Fulwood’s tenure in the late 80s — and Jews, as well as some other religious communities, don’t hold their biggest weekly worship on Sunday. But his basic point remains.

The relative segregation of our lives and our worship communities means that, in cities like the District of Columbia, some communities mourn violent deaths with terrible regularity while others, in the same city, remain largely unaffected.

It has been one of my deepest prayers that we can find ways, in our various worship communities, to ensure that our worship reflects the welfare of our own city, specifically, while never losing cite of our wider place as citizens of the world. One place we must start, I continue to believe, is for every house of worship in the city to acknowledge the violent losses of its citizens, even if those lost and their primary mourners are not members of the congregation.

#SayThisName

In this past week, the District of Columbia has been bereaved of the following individuals through homicide:

  • June 26 1200 block of Raum Street, Northeast
    23-year-old Kevin Cortez Johnson, of Southeast, Washington.
  • June 28 1600 block of E Street, Northeast
    33 year-old Darrell Michael Grays of Northeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 29 Unit block of Galveston Place, Southwest
    25 year-old Rodney Delonte Davis, of Manassas, Virginia.

We are still in the 30-day period of mourning for these individuals, lost to homicide:

  • June 8 5100 block of Southern Avenue
    21-year-old Qur’an Reginald Vines of Southeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 10 (after June 3 injuries) Gallaudet and Kendall Streets, Northeast
    57 year-old Anthony Ray Melvin of Clinton, Maryland.
  • June 13 3200 block of 23rd Street Southeast
    54 year-old Kenneth Fogle of Southeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 13 2300 block of 15th Street, Northeast
    44 year-old Donald Franklin Bush of Upper Marlboro, Maryland.
  • June 14, 5200 block of Central Avenue, Southeast
    26-year old James Brown of Northeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 17 1300 block of Orren Street, Northeast
    25 year-old Larry Michael Lockhart of Northeast, DC.
  • June 17 3300 block of D Street, Southeast
    28 year-old Antonio Lee Bryant of Southeast, DC.
  • June 18 800 block of 51st Street, Southeast
    42 year-old Brian Sickles of Southeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 18 1300 block of 5th Street, Northwest
    26 year-old Patrick Shaw of no fixed address.
  • June 19 3600 block of Calvert, Northwest
    53 year-old Joel Johnson of no fixed address.
  • June 20 (after June 16 injury)
    16 year-old Malik Mercer of Clinton, MD (former 10th grader at Ballou SHS in SE).
  • June 23 (after June 21 injury) 2200 block of H Street, Northeast
    26-year-old Arvel Lee Stewart of Northeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 23 1200 block of Holbrook Terrace, Northeast
    19 year-old Heineken McNeil of Southeast, Washington, DC.
  • June 24 at the Tidal Basin
    20 year-old Deante Tinnen of Southeast, DC.
  • June 25 16th & Galen Streets, Southeast
    21 year-old Stephon Marquis Perkins of Maryland.

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