As someone who believes in both an all-powerful God and in the capability of humans to affect the course of history, I find Prayer for the Earth from Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg to be a helpful resource and share it in the hope that others will, also.
As we survey the world and the damage that we, as part of the human race, have already done and threaten to continue doing to this "ark" that is the Earth, we can become very aware of our need for help. This prayer provides an entrance into a posture of humility and entreaty before the God of all spirit, all directions, all wind. Below, I highlight a few particular lines of the prayer and some underpinning ideas that I invite you to consider before you enter the prayer itself.
Some Thoughts Leading into the Prayer
Because having power is never enough to ensure a good outcome, the prayer asks that God give wisdom and skill to accompany that power, that we will use the power we have been given for life and not for death, for blessing and not for curse. The image of skilled hands that heal is a powerful one, for the Earth has been injured in significant ways. If we have the power to harm, we also have the power to heal—with God giving us the skill and wisdom necessary to do that healing work.
As the prayer references, God's covenant after the great flood was between God and "every living creature" on earth—not just between God and Noah. In the same way, God's blessing is for all of the earth's inhabitants, not just the humans who hold such tremendous power in their hands. Therefore, the power that God has given humans should be used to benefit all creatures, not just humans. (The inclusion of "every living creature" within that covenant is emphasized by repetition several times in the Genesis 9 story which can be found here).
I find the image of Noah in the ark with all the other creatures a helpful one as I think about this earth. As a physical home for all of Earth's creatures, this world is not a collection of separate places and habitats, unconnected from each other, but is actually a very large single habitat in which all parts are intertwined and dependent upon each other and dependent upon the whole. (Think of it as a very large ark!). This image is a great reminder that we are, truly, all in this together.
The prayer's mention of our skies and our earth and their need to be healed from the results of our sins is an important, though difficult, thing to hear. But unless we see how our actions have caused hurt, and are willing to change, we will not look for the remedy that enables us to be part of that healing. In addition to the ways in which you might refrain from causing hurt, I encourage you to consider ways in which you might pass the blessings you have experienced from God onto other members of creation (both human and non-human). The prayer (and the scripture it is based on) promise us that God's blessings are abundant and bottomless. They are not resources that must be hoarded and kept to oneself.
One final thought is on the importance of prayer. In James' Monday post, he pointed out the need for intercessors. The truth is that we need God's help to solve the problems around us; we just can't do it on our own. With that in mind, I invite you into this prayer of repentance and hope. May you find it a meaningful addition to your own ongoing conversation with our Creator.
A Prayer for the Earth
Rabbi David Mevorach Seidenberg
God of all spirit, all directions, all winds
You have placed in our hands power
unlike any since the world began
to overturn the orders of creation.
Please God, give us wisdom
and skillful hands to heal
the Skies and the Earth from our sins;
Y’kum purkan lish’maya
“May salvation arise for the heavens.”
that the blessings of the sun flow
over us for life and not for death,
for blessing and not for curse,
as it says, “I will open for you
the expanses of the Heavens
and will empty out for you a blessing
beyond what is enough
and Earth’s fruit will not be
destroyed because of you.”
God full of compassion, remember
Your covenant with all life,
the covenant of the waters of Noah.
Spread a Sukkah of compassion and
peace over us, over all Life’s species;
Surround all our relations,
with Shekhinah’s radiance;
Water them with Your river of delights
in all of their habitats.
Then “the bow will appear in the cloud,”
joyful and beautified with its colors,
and the Tree of Life will return to its
so that we and our descendants
may merit to live many days on Earth,
like days of the Skies over the Land.
Blessed be the Life of the worlds!
Based on the P’ri Eitz Hadar (17th c.), Birkat Hachodesh, Sefardi liturgy for and cited scripture.
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