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A Poem-Prayer in Times of War: Inheritors of Abraham

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

©“Inheritors of Abraham" by Rabbi Danielle Upbin


The unbearable grief,

The fog of war,

Not on the battle field, but in my mind,

Trying to make sense of the dead

The captives

The surprise attack

“Beheaded Babies”

Now part of the Jewish lexicon,

Not from the Shoah

Not from the Pogroms

Not from the Inquisition

(But also from then),

And now.

In my mind, several questions repeat in a perpetual loop, such as:

“What have they done with the children?”

And “How can they capture civilians?

And “How could this have happened”?


A rhetorical loop because answers exist:

“River to the Sea” means eliminate everyone:

The children,

The elderly,

The infirm,

Peace lovers,

Kibbutzniks,

Beautiful music lovers, and nature lovers who cared for the wellbeing of their Arab neighbors and worked for peace before their merciless slaughter or snatching.


Other words that have nowhere to land in my consciousness are:

“Captive” and "Hostage".

I have prayed to “The One who Redeems Captives”

everyday of my uneventful life

without ever really realizing how much prime real estate

that name of God occupies in pages of our prayerbook.

Now, I have set up a shrine in my heart to “The One who Releases Captives”,

Praying with zeal

With fervor

With tears

With hope

Praying that the God who has unbound the knots of the past, will answer us again, now.

Aneinu, Aneinu, b’yom Kareinu

A discordant plea from our most recent festival-turned-blood bath.

How will we ever dance with those holy Torahs in years to come, when our festival will forever be observed on the Yartzeit of a massacre.

The Simchat Torah Massacre.

And yet…

We will dance with Torahs and we will mourn our dead all together because the Jewish people are defined by

resilience,

hope,

and the strength of lions from the river to sea and beyond the sea,

to wherever we reside,

bound by love of people,

love of life, l’chayim.

And bound by love of our promised land.


That particular land, and no other. The land that is the fulfillment of a promise

made first by the God of Abraham,

then by the God of Isaac

and then by the God of Jacob,

Who is the One God that is our God, as well.

A promise of actual land, not an idea of land.

A land that has spit us out and welcomed us back, again and again,

A land hat we have fought to inhabit and have fought to remain as its inhabitants.


We, who are the inheritors of Abraham, know that the children of Ishmael also inherit, but differently - alternatively, a different path, a different line of reasoning.


As inheritors of our particular patriarchal inheritance, we, the children of Abraham, from the line of Isaac bound on the alter, and the line of Jacob who struggled and prevailed,

offer a prayer to the Redeemer of the Captives, the Resuscitator of the Dead, the Restorer of Zion.


A humble prayer:


Hear us!

Because, how long can a child live in a tunnel?


And hear us!

Because how long can we fend off the violence of public opinion before the full force of society implodes, and then blames the Jews - again.


See us! Because,

We are like Samson holding the walls up.

Like Moses holding his arms up.

Like Abraham lifting his eyes up to see the number of his children

Like the stars of the sky

And the sand of the seas.


The stars of Abraham are counting the dead,

And the blood of our brothers screams out from the sand beneath our feet.

To You, God, we affirm: We are our brother’s keepers.

And our sister’s.

And the keepers of the precious children and grandchildren and grandparents

and aunts and uncles, and cousins, even Ishmael.

We keep them all. We keep them close.

The blood of our dead is screaming from the depths of the earth.

Can You hear the echo from dark tunnels burrowed out of blame and hate?


Sheild of Abraham, Keeper of the Covenant, Healer of Wounds:

Bring home Your children. Sheild us from war.

Save them.

Save us.

Protect us all.

God of Abraham, Keeper of Promises, Bestower of inheritances,

Hear us now because for You, dear God,

all is Eternity,

but for us, time is running out.

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