Our Torah portion this week contains a very famous blessing which has been used throughout history to bless our people at times of joy and celebration. This blessing is used by Jews and Christians alike, and creates a spiritual bond between our faith communities. For the Jewish community, this blessing is recited at weddings, baby namings, brises and b’nai mitzvah ceremonies. Parents use this blessing every Friday night to bless their children for Shabbat, and throughout the Jewish calendar year, this blessing is used to invite God’s grace and love on the entire community of Israel.
The blessing is often referred to as the Priestly Benediction, as it was extended over the Israelites by the priests according to the explicit laws of the Torah. As it is written:
May God bless you and protect you!
May God be mindful of you and be gracious to you!
May God bestow favor upon you and grant you peace!
If ever there was a time that we needed this blessing it is today. As our nation finds itself in a state of chaos and despair, we (as individuals and as a nation) long to know that there is hope and healing ahead.
Yet, hopes and prayers are not enough. If we truly long to receive blessings in the future, we need to work together in the present, and that demands empathy and action.
Here is a list of things that we can do as we try to navigate this period of chaos and confusion:
We Can Mourn Together
1. Next week Tuesday, George Floyd’s funeral will be taking place in the City of Houston. There will be many ways to participate, support and express our love. Setting aside the time to honor the memory of George Floyd can go a long way in opening our hearts and our minds to creating a better understanding of pain and anger at the heart of this crisis.
2. Pick up the phone and call a friend who is black. Share your love with them. Listen to their story, and allow them to express their feelings.
3. Pick up the phone and call someone you know in law enforcement. Share your love. Allow them an opportunity to mourn and to express their fears and frustrations.
We Can Learn Together
There are countless resources available which can help us gain an understanding of the complexity of the issues at hand. While learning is just the beginning, it is an important part of gaining the empathy necessary to drive knowledgeable conversation and action.
Here are some resources (many of these authors have given TED Talks as well):
How to Be An Anti-Racist by Ibram X. Kendi
The Color of Love by Marra B. Gad
White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria by Beverly Daniel Tatum
We Can Act Together
We are currently in the process building coalitions for action within the faith communities of Houston. In the meantime, here is a list of things you can do:
As we venture forth in these troubling times, let us commit ourselves to bringing blessings to the world. Our Torah portion looks to God for such blessings, our world today is looking to each of us.
May we bring blessings to humanity through our heartfelt efforts to heal the hurt that surrounds us.