Coronavirus in a Broken Holy Land: Three Personal Prayers

When all this is over, if we’re still here, may we remember to bless You by doing what we so tragically failed to do: To save the world

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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A man carries his shopping as he walks by a "don't panic" sign hanging at the entrance of a food market that is closed in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, in Tel Aviv, Israel, Monday, March 23, 2020.
A woman walks her dog under a "don't panic" sign hanging on the entrance of to Tel Aviv's Carmel market, that was shut down in order to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, on March 23, 2020Credit: AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Week One: Angels

This is what I told myself this morning:

Whatever you’re doing, stop a second.
Take a long breath. Deep.

Take a breath and revel in it, just to decide that you’re alive.
Take a breath to give thanks.

Ask, who is like unto this unknowable Almighty, who invented life itself, and breath, and who created our true shields and swords, the health professionals who are the mightiest, if the most compassionate, of angels.

Thank You, by whatever Name, who created and sent us and sustains these heroes, these champions, who run marathons every single day to just do their jobs, which are to perform miracles.

Most of all, take that long breath in honor of and in gratitude to the angels themselves:

A visitor being checked at Hadassah University Hospital, Ein Karem, Jerusalem, March 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg

Emergency Medical Technicians and Ambulance Crews
Lab Techs
Orderlies and Maintenance and Cleaning Staff
Research Scientists

And for so many others, among them the parents suddenly at home with their children, running - without training, without help, without grandparents - marathons of their own, all in an effort to save countless lives.

Modeh Ani. If only you could hear me, how grateful I am for your faithfulness.

Week Two: Plagues

Help us.

Help us understand what this is.

Help us understand why the Passover came early this year.

Ha Lachma Anya.

This is the hard, dry bread which our ancestors ate in an age of affliction, of misery, of darkness, of isolation, of plague.

Anyone who is hungry, may they be able to come in, to come to us, and eat. Soon, in our days.

Help us. 

Help us help them.

Anyone who is in need, who feels cut off, torn loose, left alone, left behind, uncomprehending - may they come to celebrate the passing over of this plague. Soon. In our days.

Now we are here. Apart. Next year may we be together, living in a holy land.

This year we are slaves, to a master we cannot see. 

Next year, may all of us know what it is to be free. 

Haaretz Weekly Ep. 70

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Week Three: Family

Help me. 

When all this is over. If I’m still here.

Help me over my fears, my yearning, my memories, the pain of loss.

But mostly, 

Help me to remember, when all this is over, what I’m feeling right now, the last thing I could have expected:

Alive. Reborn. Amazed by the everyday.

This is my confession: 

I never understood why prayers began You Are Blessed.

Until now.

A little while ago, the world I lived in all of my life, the world I knew so well, the world I was so very certain of, came to an end. Gone for good.

Now, outside this window, is a new world. Fearsome and gorgeous. Yet to be explored. Not one of us can claim to have even begun to know it.

Baruch Ata Adonai, Creator of Worlds. 

Thank you for letting the young live through this.

May they go on to save Your Creation.

Tel Aviv's Yarkon ParkCredit: Meged Gozani

When all this is over, if I’m still here, help me to remember who I am. That I am not my tribe, my age, my color, my denomination, my station, my nation, my job.

Help me to remember who I am. 

I am a member of a nuclear family called the human race. 

When this is all over, if I’m still here, a handshake will never feel the same again. 

Nor an embrace. And certainly, not a kiss.

Now, outside this window, nature has begun to become nature again. May it heal from this.

May we as well. All of us.

May we know that we are all of us, members of a nuclear family called nature.

Baruch Ata Adonai, Creator of worlds, and of our better nature,

Save us.

And, in return, when all this is over, if we’re still here, should You grant us a second chance, may we remember to bless You by doing what we so tragically failed to do for You in that world we thought we knew so well:

To save the world. As if it were ours.

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