Beyond Prayer – Channeling a Torrent of Tears

Statement by the Massachusetts Board of Rabbis in Response to Orlando

My dear ones are drowning in the sea while you linger in prayer… (Talmud, Tractate Sota 37a)

The Massachusetts Board of Rabbis cries out with Americans across the land for the carnage wrought in Orlando. Adding to a torrent of tears, our hearts break with grief for the dead and wounded, for their families and communities. As the list of place names continues to grow in rapid-fire succession, we are stunned in spite of ourselves by the slaughter unleashed by one more semi-automatic rifle in the hands of yet another gunman. In mournful chant, we cry out Eicha/How, the word with which the Book of Lamentations begins and by which it is called in Hebrew. During this month of Gay Pride, we reach out in tearful embrace to the LGBTQ community in Orlando and everywhere else, with words of comfort to remind, you are not alone. Standing together, we are all lesbian and gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. We reach out to the Latino community, knowing too that we are all Latino now. When there is no safety to be found among one’s own, it is for all of us to be that place for each one.

As we condemn this act of terrorism and hate, we also decry all efforts to divide people from each other, whether with walls of stone or walls of words. We call on political and religious leaders, cartoonists and editorial writers, and Americans in every walk of life, to eschew language that demonizes our Muslim neighbors, recognizing all terror as its own religion of hate. As in our “Call for Open Hearts and Open Doors to Syrian Refugees,” we again affirm the universal religious essence in all the ways of its expression, that “the true language of faith is one that affirms the image of God in every human being. In response to the fear that touches us all, we warn against the false dichotomy between security and compassion” (see full statement: Only through openness of heart and generosity of spirit shall we yet become a nation that is truly one and indivisible, diversity celebrated as in the fluttering of a rainbow flag.

The Massachusetts Board of Rabbis has issued numerous statements that cry out for justice in the world around us. In the quest for wholeness and repair, our

Statements become as one in Orlando. Chastened by our own words, we wrote several years ago in response to gun violence: “The Massachusetts Board of Rabbis is horrified by the epidemic of gun violence in our cities, in our state, and throughout the country. We call for action to stop the bloodshed. We are joined in anguished spirit with those whose lives have been shattered…; we grieve with all the parents of slain children. They are our children, and we pledge not to stand idly by their blood” (see full statement:

Working for the full inclusion and safety of the transgender among us, the “T” in LGBTQ, representative in their vulnerability of all who are vulnerable in their gender and sexual identity, we have written with hope for the community we are meant to be: “The Massachusetts Board of Rabbis celebrates the breadth of diversity within the Jewish people, as among all humanity. Delighting in the myriad ways that human beings are created in God’s image, we encourage the greatest spirit of openness in our communities, that we might be blessed through the unique holiness of all who enter… “ (see full statement:

As rabbis, words are our medium, whether gathered to form a statement of conscience or sung as prayers of the heart. Even as we issue one more statement, Orlando reminds us that words are not enough. Believing deeply in the power of prayer, we also know that God waits for us to become the embodiment of our prayers. The courage to act is a sacred challenge directed to all of us, politicians and voters, business leaders and stockholders, teachers and students. We call for courageous response to the NRA’s perversion of the Second Amendment, and against the notion of freedom without responsibility, of individual liberty without regard for collective wellbeing. We call for the national will to finally remove from the hands of haters the tools that give ultimate expression to hate. From the political to the personal and back again, change depends on all of us, beginning with a great welling up of love and compassion in all the day-to-day worlds of our lives. Pulse throbbing with urgency, we honor the Pulse nightclub and all of those slaughtered and wounded in its place of sanctuary. Channeling a torrent of tears, we can together turn a great wheel of change that none shall be afraid of hate or terror and peace shall fill the land.