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Four Prayer Poems for Natural Disasters

Written by Rabbi Zoe Klein of Temple Isaiah, Los Angeles, CA in honor of those affected by Hurricane Katrina

How Much Water Is Inside A Tear

How much water is inside a tear, 
And how long does it take to dry them? 
As long as there is misery and fear 
In the people who continue to cry them. 

How much water is inside a flood 
And how long does it take to recede? 
As long as it takes to restore hope 
To the people in desperate need. 

How much water is inside a storm 
And how long does it take to clear? 
As long as it takes to rebuild a home 
And restore everything that is dear. 

How much water is inside a city 
When a levee suddenly breaks? 
As many as are the tears that are cried 
When so many million hearts break. 

To the Victims of Katrina

If this synagogue could open her doors 
Wide as a mountain pass… 
If this synagogue could open her sanctuary 
Wide as a superdome… 
If this synagogue could open her mouth, 
She’d sing out to her human family: 
             "Give me your tired, your poor, 
             Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, 
             The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, 
             Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, 
             I raise my eternal lamp 
             To guide you to my door… 
I have soft mats for you to sleep on, 
Strong shoulders for you to weep on, 
Kind words for you to keep on 
Believing in yourself…" 
This synagogue will open her heart 
Wide as the arc of the covenant, 
             A torrent of empathy and love, 
             A white winged, olive bearing dove. 
             May our support be evidence of hope. 
             May our empathy lead loved ones to cope. 
             May our love be wings with shelter beneath. 
             May our tears wash, soothe and soften the grief. 
 

May It Be Thy Will

Traditionally we recite three times a day: 
May it be Thy will that the Temple be speedily rebuilt in our own time. 
Today we recite, 
May it be Thy will that homes be rebuilt in our own time, 
In time for families to come home. 
May it be Thy will that streets be repaved in time 
For needed supplies to reach their destination. 
May it be Thy will that hospitals be restored in time 
For the suffering to receive treatment. 
May it be Thy will that businesses be renewed in time 
For people whose lives depend on them. 
May it be Thy will that neighborliness be mended in time 
Before transgressions are committed through looting and crime. 
May it be Thy will that communication be repaired in time 
For families and friends to reach out to the ones that they love. 
May it be Thy will that electricity and clean water be brought back in time 
For widespread disease to be prevented. 
May it be Thy will that hearts be rebuilt in time 
For people to be rescued from the mires of depression. 
Dear God, we ask for all of these things to be rebuilt, 
Speedily in our own time. 
Renew us as of days of old. 
 

Jonah

From the belly of the fish 
At the bottom of the sea 
Jonah prayed: 
"In my trouble I called to the Lord… 
And You heard my voice… 
The floods engulfed me; 
All your breakers and billows 
Swept over me. 
I thought I was driven away 
Out of Your sight… 
Yet You brought my life up from the pit… 
When my life was ebbing away, 
I called the Lord to mind; 
And my prayer came before You…" 
Dear God, 
Please place a prayer 
Into the lips of those who are lost and afraid. 
When they call You to mind, 
May their prayer come before You 
As did the prayer of Jonah. 
Answer them, dear God, 
And bring them out of an ocean of destruction 
And safely onto dry land.