Mourning for the Tsunami
Tel Shemesh mourns the unbearable loss of life in Southeast Asia that occurred on Dec. 26 when an earthquake caused a tsunami to sweep across many coastal regions. We grieve for all those who died: the fishermen and women who make their living from the sea, the dwellers by the sea, the travelers who found themselves in that place and time, and all the others. The traditional phrase used to a Jewish mourner is "May you be comforted together with all other mourners for Zion and Jerusalem. We say to the mourners: "May you be comforted together with all other mourners for loved ones and for the world."
Our sages taught: It happened that Rabbi Joshua and Rabbi Eliezer were traveling on a ship. Rabbi Eliezer was sleeping and Rabbi Joshua was awake. But then Rabbi Joshua shuddered, and Rabbi Eliezer, waking up with a start, asked: "What happened, Joshua? What caused you to shudder?" Rabbi Joshua said: "I saw a great light in the sea." Rabbi Eliezer said: "You have seen the eyes of Leviathan."
Babylonian Talmud, Bava Batra 74b
We have seen the eyes of Leviathan,
the chaos of the ocean that swallows all.
The sea is the source of life on land,
our mother and once our home.
She has become our enemy.
How can we sing songs of her
while she devours us?
The book of Job says:
"Here is the place waves must stop.
Thus far and no further may you come,"
yet the sea came.
The circle of life and death is too large for us now.
We walk the path in silence,
the arc of each moment
disappearing in surf.
It is we who must be the waters of life
for those on whom the waves fell.
We must be the tides pulling back the ocean.
There is a blessing
when we see the sea for the first time:
Blessed are You, Divine Presence, who made the great sea.
Now we must make a new blessing
for those who hide their face from the sea,
and do not wish to look any longer.
Blessed is the One who closes the sea behind doors.
The American Jewish World Service is accepting donations for tsunami relief: www.ajws.org.
Rabbi Jill Hammer is the founder of Tel Shemesh.
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