Parashat Vayera

Challenging the Heavens

Abraham attempts to save the people of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Print this page Print this page

Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the promise, the hope, the vision.

Prayer in the News

We saw this revolution of prayer during the fall of 2007 when the images of monks marching in the streets of Burma against the military government, being beaten and killed, shook the world. Though such brutality against anyone should enrage us and break our hearts, there was something profoundly painful about those particular images: the prayerful claiming their power by simply marching, daring to use their feet in the face of weaponry. Seeing those images, I was certain their strength to do so was rooted in their kavanah. We have the opportunity to use this kavanah every time we pray.

Though we can only dream of relating to God as Abraham did, our liturgy reminds us that we too can pray for justice. Prayers aimed to subvert oppressive systems and challenge the status quo can be found throughout the siddur. Prayers that the hungry should be fed and the naked clothed seek to break the chains of global capitalism that leave millions starving and unprotected. Prayers that the sick will be healed and that the dead will rise challenge the circle of life we believe to be natural. If we can challenge the very systems of creation, davka--how much more so--can we challenge those who claim the authority of God: the modern pharaohs and the juntas.

When we engage in this exercise of imagining the unimaginable, we gain energy and vision in our work for change. When we follow our father Abraham’s example and dare to speak truth to power, our activism is spiritual expression of the highest form. May we have the hutzpah to act together toward “the promise, the hope, the vision.”

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Alana Alpert

After receiving rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College in June 2014, Alana will serve as the Rabbi/Organizer of Project Micah in Detroit, an exciting collaboration between Congregation T'chiyah and the Harriet Tubman Center. A trained community organizer, educator, and service-learning facilitator, she has worked in a number of Jewish and interfaith social justice organizations. She is passionate about the intersections of spiritual practice and social change.