September 11th Prayers for Peace

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On September 11, 2007, we gathered at the Friends Meeting House in Palo Alto to pray for peace. We have posted some of the reflections shared that evening here.

Interfaith Call to Worship on 9/11/07 (by Kurt Kuhwald)

Consistent with the principles of the Unitarian Universalist Faith which I serve as minister, I offer you words that arise from the imperatives of my own heart and mind . . .

The Call into Worship I would offer on this day, this day that was the beginning of a turn toward the use of a wide reaching and unrepentant violence, violence that seemingly has no boundaries about who will be included in its vicious propagation, violence that it has been proclaimed will have no end ...

The Call into worship I would offer on this day is for us to remember the child, the child that every man and woman living today once was.

The child each one of us here once was.

The child every soldier living and dead once was.

The child every slain civilian once was.

The child every general and private, every terrorist and torture victim once was.

The child whose feelings were fluid and free. Whose love of life was strong and good. The child who was so curious, so inventive, so creative and spontaneous. The child whose frustration and anger dissipated quickly but whose need for security ran naturally deep.

I would call us all, as we enter this time of deep reflection and worship to remember the child, the child we all once were and continue to be deep within our hearts: no matter what language we speak, no matter what color or race we are, no matter what land we live upon, no matter who are parents and family are nor how wealthy or poor they are.

I would call us further to remember, now, with as powerful a focus and as open a heart as we can muster, the children living and breathing all across the face of this beleaguered planet ... and their hope for good lives, their yearning for security, and their vulnerability to the teachings of violence.

May we hold the children of the world, and the adults who carry a child within them, tenderly in our hearts as we enter worship together.


From Craig Wiesner

The following is based on a prayer written by Rabbi Michael Lerner, inspired by his teacher Zalman Schachter Shalomi.
God, as we seek peace, let use BE peaceful.
As we seek justice, let us be just.
As we seek a world of kindness, let us be kind.
As we seek a world of generosity, let us be generous with all that we have.
As we seek a world of sharing, let us share all that we have.
As we seek a world of giving, let us be giving to all around us.
As we seek a world of love-- let us be loving beyond all reason,
beyond all normal expectation, beyond all societal frameworks that tell us how much love is "normal," - beyond all fear that giving too much love will leave us with too little.

And let us be open and sensitive to all the love that is already coming to us,
- the love of people we know,
- the love that is part of the human condition,
- the accumulated love of past generations that flows through and is embodied in the language, of music, recipes, technology, literature, religions, agriculture, and family heritages that have been passed on to me and to us.

Let us pass that love on to the next generations in an even fuller and more explicit way.
Source of goodness and love in the universe, let us be alive to all the goodness that surrounds us.
And let that awareness of the goodness and love of the universe be our shield and protector.
Hear the words of my mouth and may the meditations of our hearts find acceptance before You, Eternal Friend, who protects and frees us.

Jews across the planet are entering the days of repentance, the time between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippor. No matter how hard we try, to do the right thing, we all make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes hurt other people, creatures, the planet, or our very souls. Sometimes we do bad things on purpose, out of malice, jealousy, fear, or spite. Things we do, or fail to do, things we say, or fail to say, cause harm.

Sometimes, just saying I’m sorry is enough. Other times, you must do something more to repair the harm done.

During these days of reflection and repentance we’re called to examine our past year and do everything we can to fix any harm we have done. Yet we all know that we can’t undo all harms we have done. Must we simply keep the guilt of those deeds or words forever?

Some people think of this time in terms of judgment. G-d looks at our hearts and history and decides what will be. We look at our hearts and history and beg G-d for forgiveness. That feels like a pretty lopsided relationship, but she is, after all, G-d, and we’re just human beings, right?

In this month’s Tikkun Magazine, there’s a story shared by Professor Or Rose that I’d like to share with you. Historically, some religious Jews had a ritual that they performed for repentance. You take a chicken, hold it above your head, and say “G-d, I offer this chicken in exchange for me; this is my ransom; this is my atonement.” You then slaughter the chicken and give it to the poor to be eaten in the meal just before the Yom Kippor daylong fast. These days people perform this ritual with coins which are given to the poor. Lucky chicken.

So, the story goes that a very religious young man visited his rabbi during the high holy days with a special request. “Rabbi, as a devoted member of this holy community, I have been blessed to witness you perform many of G-d’s sacred commandments. But I’ve never seen you perform the ritual of atonement. Would it be possible for me to watch you this year?”

The rabbi replied, “While I’m honored that you want to see me perform the ritual of atonement, I must tell you that my version of this particular act is not very remarkable. Now, if you want to see someone carry out this ritual in a truly special manner, you want to visit Moshe, the innkeeper.”

And so, on the morning before Yom Kippor, the young man visited Moshe the innkeeper to observe a special performance of the mitzvah of atonement.

Moshe began by sitting in a wooden chair in front of a small fireplace in his living room. After positioning himself comfortably in the chair, he asked his wife to bring him his “two books of repentance.” She brought him two tattered notebooks from his study.

Moshe opened the first book, read its contents carefully, and then began to weep. The young man listened intently as Moshe wept, and read a list of the sins the innkeeper had committed during the previous year, most of them pretty minor. After completing his reading, Moshe swung the book over his head and then threw it into the fire.

Moshe then took a deep breath, repositioned himself in the chair, opened the second book and repeated the ritual. This time, however, he read a somewhat longer list of sins – sins that G-d had committed in the previous year. After completing his reading, Moshe took the tear-soaked book, swung it over his head and threw it into the fire.

The innkeeper was ready to go to temple for Yom Kippor.

May we all seek and share forgiveness with each other and with G-d, continue to seek ways to right the wrongs we have done, through our action or inaction, our words or our silence, and continue the magnificent journey of building a less lopsided relationship with each other, our planet, and our creator.