Yesterday, as the tornadoes made their way through our area and I was monitoring hallways and calming students I was asked what prayer to we say. “Rabbi, can we say a prayer for the tornado to go somewhere else?” “Rabbi, should we sing the Shema?” Aside from the smile on my face at knowing our students have internalized the concept of prayer as a form of comfort, I was left to teach.
As Jews we are taught in the Talmud that we should never make a prayer that wishes destruction to come on someone else. When you hear a fire truck we are not allowed to say “I hope it isn’t going to my house” or “I hope that goes somewhere else.” Our human nature pushes us to wish for our own safety in times of distress, but we are asked to move past that and know that whatever is happening is already in motion. We can pray for safety of ourselves and others. At that moment we sang Shomer Yisrael, God, guard Israel.
This morning, as we all came back to the building, safe and sound we discussed what prayers we could say. We said the blessing upon seeing an act of nature: Oseh ma’aseh bereshit, blessed is God, the one who makes acts of creation. We discussed the miracle that with all of the tornadoes and damage there was not one fatality yesterday due to the weather. We imagined the tornado that might have developed as God separated the sky from the waters below in creation and prayed that we continue to only see acts of creation.
We learned the brachah for hearing thunder or seeing a storm, sh’kocho u’gvurato maleh olam, God, whose power might fill the whole world. And yet that power appeared to have protected us. We ended our discussion by benching Gomel, Praised are You, God our God, King of the universe who graciously bestows favor upon the undeserving, even as He has bestowed favor upon me.
Thank you God for sustaining us through storms, thank you God forsustaining our city. Thank you God for protecting us, and the fire and police officers who keep us safe.
In moments of fear we are pushed to turn to gratitude.