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A Prayer for Justice, Blessing, and Praise on Shabbat Shoftim, by Virginia Spatz

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How lovely are these tents![1] Numbers 24:5 
not far from housing that has seen better days
and housing that has seen too many awful ones.

I love the place of Your house, reached through streets
collecting cigarette butts, the odd chicken wing, echoes of homicide.

Through Your abundant love, I enter Your house,
where these peaceful walls remind us: “If I am for myself alone, what am I?”[2] Hillel the Elder, Pirkei Avot 1:14 
while a few miles away homes reel from gunshots and mourning,
makeshift memorials of teddy bears and candles pooled with tears and rain.
Meetings and vigils and “let this be the last.”

My prayer seeks a favorable time –
Does joy come in the morning, where weeping has not tarried for the night?
Can we dance together, if we have not yet joined in lament?

You answer with your saving truth:
Your glory’s dwelling-place spans mountain top and pit.
We are shaken and we stand firm.
Remove our sackcloth and dress us to praise You, Source of Healing and Help.

This prayer is a kavvanah for the morning blessings, using language and images from the prayer “Mah Tovu” [how lovely are your tents], commonly recited in the early morning blessings, and Psalms 30. Offered with special intention for the healing of Congress Heights, Capitol View, and other neighborhoods in Washington, DC, rocked by persistent violence.

A photo of a street side homicide memorial in Buffalo, New York.” Memorials like these are common in the city of Buffalo. (credit:Joseph Augstell , license: CC BY-SA)


1 Numbers 24:5
2 Hillel the Elder, Pirkei Avot 1:14

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