Like many of you, I have struggled to figure out how to respond to the travesty in Tucson. I was shocked at the carnage, sickened by the loss of life, and outraged at both the perpetrator and the system that allowed such an obviously unstable individual to be left to his own devices. Despite this, though, I expected that discussion of this tragedy would soon subside, blending into the ether like the countless other murderous rampages that occur every year in this country.
So I have been surprised at the degree of national anguish expressed over what transpired. From talking heads on cable news to the halls of Congress, the impact of Tucson has continued to reverberate. Why has the country reacted so strongly? Somehow, this tragedy has ripped our collective moral fabric. The reason, I think, goes beyond the first attempted assassination of a female Member of Congress. It is as if the past months and years of growing public rage, vitriol, and unabashed political hate finally became anthropomorphized in the bloody figure of Jared Loughner and caused all of us to recoil in horror. The simmering of discontent, building from 9/11, through the passions fueled over the Iraq War and President Bush on the left followed by the health care debate, T ea Party rallies, and anti-Obama rhetoric of the right, all wrapped up within the suffering brought about by the recession, has reached a near-boiling point in American society. Regardless of Loughner's actual motives, we saw in his actions the endpoint of the dangerous trajectory we had been moving along. And it shook us to our cores.
At times like these, I am grateful to be part of a faith with a rich history of dealing with personal and communal catastrophe. When we reach points of civic paralysis and trauma, it is the spiritual resources of our religious traditions that offer rich resources to which we can turn. Specifically, I think what we need now is a prayer for healing, not just for the local victims of the Tucson shooting, but for the country as a whole. We need to start applying salve to the open wounds of our society, to begin the process of repair and restoration. To that end, I would like to offer a variation of the traditional Jewish prayer for healing, the Misheberach.
May God who blessed our ancestors bring blessing and healing to the victims of the Tucson shooting, both those who were present and those who, though not physically present, have nonetheless been shattered by its impact. Though our collective spirit seems in tatters and our will close to broken, may You, God, Source of all resources, grant us a renewal of strength, vigor, and hope with which to face the future. May we continue to recognize the multitude of resources You provide that enable us to navigate through the turbulent waters of life. May You grant us physical and spiritual well-being, together with all others who are suffering. And let us say, Amen.
p.s. I would like to dedicate my Misheberach to the late Debbie Friedman, z''l, a Jewish singer-songwriter extraordinaire who just passed away and whose own Misheberach has inspired myself and countless others.
Josh Ratner is a 37 year-old rabbi in Connecticut. Josh is originally from San Diego, California, and spent time working as an attorney for five years prior to commencing rabbinical school. Josh presently lives in Woodbridge, CT, with his wife (Elena) and three children (Dimitri, Elijah, and Gabriella). Josh is particularly interested in sustainability and other environmental issues, particularly from an interfaith perspective.