Archive for March, 2020

The Philadelphia Board of Rabbis has been sharing resources for things like virtual seders. I thought this was a beautiful blessing crafted by Rabbi Ayelet Cohen, which she shared with the group and invited us to share with others.
I have taken the liberty to change a few lines, both to make them more ideologically consistent with the secular humanist communities I often serve, as well as to fulfill my own punctilious, borderline OCD focus on the most precise words that impart the kavanah, or precise meaning, I wish to impart.
In doing so, I mean no criticism of R. Ayelet’s beautiful creative work, nor do I imply that my wording satisfies the desires of every person who identifies with the secular humanist movement.


Thank you, Rabbi Ayelet, for your beautiful contribution to the corpus
of Jewish liturgy, love, and blessings.
A Prayer for Health Care Workers and Fruit Sellers

May the descendants of our ancestors,
Band together to support those who put themselves at risk to care for the sick,
Physicians and nurses and orderlies,
Laboratory workers and home health aides,
EMTs and pharmacists
Grocery store clerks and fruit sellers
(And bless especially _______)
Who navigate the unfolding dangers of the world each day,
To tend to those who have committed to heal, feed, and sustain our communities.
Bless them in their coming home and in their going out.
Calm their fears. Sustain them.
May we band together in these difficult days to support them,
their strength, and maintain their hope.

Communal response
Hazak Hazak Ve-Nit’Hazek

Let us strengthen them so that we may be strengthened;
May we keep them in health so that they may bring healing to others,
and keep all the communities of the world fed and strong in these perilous days to come.
May we steady these hands of our very salvation so that they know again a time when they can breathe without fear.
Precious is their selfless work — work that even puts those dearest to them at peril.
May this plague pass from among us, speedily and in our days.
— Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen, March 2020
adaptations by Rabbi Joysa Winter in italics


The following are a few afterthoughts on the evolution and content of the preceding prayer. I opted to add it below the prayer itself, so as not to lose any readers with shorter attention spans! 🙂
heb trav

For any who are not aware, R. Ayelet’s prayer to me seems inspired by parts of several traditional prayers: The prayer that is placed in the mezuzah, on the doorpost of our homes, which is a passage from Deuteronomy and recited every Shabbat; the ancient blessing for travelers called Tefillat HaDerech or “The Travelers Blessing” (as those traveling for most of human history was a perilous attempt indeed!); and it seemed inspired by wording from the MiSheberach, the traditional prayer for healing.
In modern Israel, many drivers carry a copy of the travelers’ blessing in a small scroll dangling from their rearview mirror or a key chain as pictured here. 
This Traveler’s Prayer is similar to my own, which I picked up the first time I lived in Israel. I liked it because it was mostly made of wood and stone, which reminded me of the Earth and also my connection with the tribal people of the world — because in my mind, that is what we Jews ultimately are: a tribe bound together under a canopy of stars.
[I also figure the day my Tefilat HaDerech quits working its magic — that was where I’m headed anyway — to the earth! LOL ] Similar portable blessings can be ordered on Etsy for the Prayer for Healing (in either Hebrew of English), as well as mezuzahs galore, which are typically hung on every doorpost of a home, excepting the bathroom…
That probably requires no explanation.
While I do not personally believe these amulets contain magical powers, they remind me of the Middle Ages when our people DID believe in them. So for this reason, they are very precious to me. (They also make a beautiful, inexpensive gift memento to pick up if you ever happen to travel to Israel and have many people to bring back gifts for!)
One final comment: I felt compelled to add a line about grocery workers to both the prayer and the headline (which in the headline especially creates a wonderful linguistic dichotomy that echoed something Yehuda Amichai would do) after reading this article in today’s NYT’s about all the grocery store workers who are falling ill because they are perhaps in the greatest contact every day of hundreds (thousands?) of people, and yet there has been really no talk in any government about providing protective gear for them.

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