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From Lament to Action

A Closing Prayer for a Tisha B'Av Vigil for Refugees, Immigrants and Asylum Seekers

August 13, 2019

Rabbi Annie Lewis recited this prayer at Independence Mall during a Vigil for Refugees on the 9th of Av, 5779.

To the refugees who have been turned away from this country,
To all who have been separated from their families and detained,
To all who have been raided, deported, massacred,
To all who seek sanctuary,
To all who are afraid,
We see you and we will not forget you.

To all who cry out from the border, from the margins, from the abyss,
We weep with you,
and we will walk you and we will sing with you.
We will stand with you and we will welcome you home.

Our ancient rabbis taught that on Tisha B’Av,
this saddest day in the Jewish calendar,
Messiah will be born.
As the walls of the Temple crumble,
As we stand in the space when “the old story ends
and the new one has yet to begin,”[1]
As we bear witness to the suffering of our human family,
As we sit in the despair, the uncertainty
And the vulnerability,
We catch a glimpse of possibility.

We find a spark of hope
that there will be a way out and back and forward from this exile,
that if we lift our hands, hearts and voices,
if we forge connections and wield our power,
We can turn things around.

To be a Jew is to never give up on the possibility of redemption.

And yet, when the sea of losses keeps rising around us,
it is hard to sustain hope.

We can’t do this work alone.
On this day we call out:
הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ יְהוָ֤ה ׀ אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ [וְֽנָשׁ֔וּבָה]׃
Help us to turn to You God, and we will turn.

Help us to turn our lament into action,
Help us to return to our best selves
as a community, as a country, as a human family,
Help us to turn to one another,
to our ancestors, to the generations to come,
to turn up the volume
to turn out by the millions
to turn this country and this planet around,
toward justice and righteousness,
toward dignity and life.

הֲשִׁיבֵ֨נוּ יְהוָ֤ה ׀ אֵלֶ֙יךָ֙ [וְֽנָשׁ֔וּבָה]׃
Help us to turn to You God, and we will turn.
Restore our courage,
Kindle our moral imagination
so that our souls might sense
that redemption is still possible.

As the earth turns
and the moon grows fuller tonight,
may new worlds emerge
from the wreckage.
In bearing witness today,
may we rise to the possibilities of tomorrow.

[1] Kathleen O’Connor, Lamentations and the Tears of the World