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A Prayer for the People of Syria

A Prayer for the People of Syria

Aerial shop of Aleppo

The afternoon Haftorah reading for Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, takes place in Syria of all places. The Assyrian empire included what we now know as modern day Iran, Iraq, and Syria, of all places. It is none other than Nineveh that God threatens to destroy, and Jonah, the strangest of all prophets, is devastated when it doesn’t happen. In the biblical narrative, the people of the great Assyrian city cry out to God for mercy, and, in mercy, they are spared.

Where is mercy to be found for the people of Aleppo today? Who will save the Syrian people from the Syrian president, from those forces that seek to destroy anyone who stands in their path—the artists, the doctors, the teachers, the laborers, the journalists, the children, the activists?

We hear the news of the massacres and the suffering, but will we listen?

The world cannot continue to stand idly by while the death toll keeps rising. We cannot be silent in the face of yet another slaughter.

We call upon the United States, the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, and the United Kingdom to help the innocent civilians of Syria reach safety.  Right now, we must devote our resources to save those whose lives may otherwise be gone tomorrow.

While people like Jonah might be tempted to argue that Syria deserves no compassion, no mercy, and no redemption, generations of readers of the book that bears his name know otherwise.

We insist on the humanity of all human beings.

We defy tyranny, cruelty, and brutality.

We refuse to accept that there are no options, no choices, and no alternatives.

There are people who desperately need help and there are nations with the capacity to give it.

There can remain no question.

We are already much too late.

There is no time for yet another prayer in words, we must now turn our

prayers into deeds.

It is time to let the tormentors in Syria know that the community of nations is committed to action.

In the name of mercy, we ask that the world be merciful.

For pity’s sake, let us take pity on the pitiful.

For the love of God, let us show love to all God’s children.

May God grant strength, safety, and success to those who go forth to rescue those whose lives are in peril.

May the God of Compassion, who took pity on the doomed city of Nineveh and delivered them from death, show compassion now toward the people of Aleppo and save them from destruction.

May those who proclaim righteousness, do what is right.

May those suffering in Syria find the support and strength to help them to find peace and live another day.

And May the God of all that lives, help us to see the value of all lives.

Rabbi David Wirtschafter is the rabbi of Temple Adath Israel in Lexington, KY. Confronting violence in classic Jewish texts and contemporary society is the focus of his work in progress, The Torah They Never Taught You, Bad Stories from The Good Book.

Rabbi David Wirtschafter
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