The Angels of San Bernardino: prayer after a shooting
December 04, 2015
The angels of San Bernardino
Were busy on their appointed rounds:
One hovering atop each blade of grass
Calling forth its skyward stretch,
One ready to tap the lip of each baby
About to be born into holy amnesia,
One giving directions to a lost passerby,
One restarting a paralyzed heart,
One for each shooter’s right shoulder
Desperate to redirect their savage aim,
One at the lifeless feet of each victim
As God took them with a kiss and a tear.
Help us to feel the angels now among us
Even when they seem absent or late.
Help us draw strength from their presence
Even when we feel most alone and unsure.
Help us be Your messengers for each other,
Your holy agents of justice, healing and hope.
Rabbi David Evan Markus and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Co-chairs, ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal
Busy on their appointed rounds – Tradition imagines that each angel is created for a single mission or purpose (Gen. Rabbah 50:2). Hovering atop each blade of grass –“Not even a blade of grass is without an angel that taps it and says, ‘Grow'” (Gen. Rabbah 10:6). Tap the lip – From the Talmudic legend that all babies learn the wisdom of holiness in the womb, but before birth an angel touches the lip and they are born forgetting what they learned (Talmud, Niddah 30b). One giving directions to a lost passerby – When Joseph was lost looking for his brothers, the angel Gavriel redirected Joseph and changed the course of history (Rashi Gen. 37:15). Lifeless feet of each victim – An angel attends the feet at the moment of death (Deut. Rabbah 11:11). God took them with a kiss – No less than for Moses himself (Talmud, Bava Batra 17a).
This liturgical poem, co-written by ALEPH's co-chairs, originally appeared at Kol ALEPH.