They are said, too, before the first words of תפילת העמידה, Tefilat HaAmidah, the Standing Prayer, the keystone of the Jewish liturgy: יז אֲדֹנָי, שְׂפָתַי תִּפְתָּח; וּפִי, יַגִּיד תְּהִלָּתֶךָ.
The prayer that should never be interruped, was interrupted on Tuesday in a synagogue in Jerusalem. And then seven people were dead. Four rabbis, a police officer, two attackers.
This morning I prayed with this unsparing photo of the carnage up on my computer: the prayer book soaked in blood, the white and black stripes of a man's tallit stark against the crimson, the strands of the tallit tangled with the detritus of the emergency response. I wanted to look unflinchingly into the horror, not to pretty it up for prayer, or to try to tuck it onto my list of terrors to pray never come close. I thought many times about whether to use the photo to illustrate this post. But for now, it is merely linked, and instead my prayer space is here, the red strands of the stole gently evocative of the scene in Jerusalem. Perhaps too gently.
As I prayed, I was acutely aware that nearly every word coming from my mouth was sacred first to the Jewish tradition. Psalm 36, Judith, Psalm 47, Tobit. Our texts weave in and out of each other, the Benedictus and the Amidah. May the dawn from on high break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness.... He who makes peace in His heavens, may He make peace for us...
We pray, and our prayers weave in and out of one another's sacred texts, criss-cross through one another's sacred spaces. We cannot separate ourselves from this horror, say that what has happened has not happened to us, does not call us to wail aloud, to beg with the psalmist that the bones that have been crushed might be made whole.
We want to call the words our own, to possess them, yet we begin by acknowledging that we do not even hold the key.
Open our lips, O Lord, and guide our feet into the way of peace. Make us whole.
Fran of There Will Be Bread pointed us to Alden Solovy's prayer for mothers at To Bend Light this morning. The last line of the prayer kept winding me back to the Benedictus: May the dawn from on high break upons us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and guide our feet into the way of peace.