Torah Tidbits


Lighting the Darkness in Oklahoma

Shabbat Parashat B’ha’a’lot’kha

May 25, 2013 – 16 Sivan 5773

Lighting the Darkness in Oklahoma

Memorial Day weekend can be a sobering time for us as we pay tribute to those service men and women who gave their lives for the sake of our country and of our freedom.  May their memories be for a blessing.

Even as we prepared for Memorial Day, another sobering event took center stage in our awareness.  I refer to the Oklahoma tornado.

This morning I was asked if there was a “Jewish presence” in Moore, Oklahoma – that most unfortunate place, stricken by the deadliest of tornadoes.  I didn’t know the answer to that question.  Later in the day, I heard that there was a synagogue near the area that was destroyed, but the synagogue was spared.  But, the extent of the destruction in Oklahoma, the magnitude of the suffering, the enormity of the loss of human life and of limb, to say nothing of the loss of material possessions, is staggering.

In the midst of the chaos, Rabbi Abby Jacobson, of Emanuel Synagogue in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, wrote the following prayer which was posted on the Rabbinical Assembly website:

A Prayer for Oklahoma

Posted on May 20, 2013

By Abby Jacobson, Emanuel Synagogue, Oklahoma City, OK

Lord our God, we stood before You just a week ago to receive the Ten Statements of Your Torah. We stood, as though with our ancestors, and listened to the Torah reader chant descriptions of the smoking mountain, the thunderous rumbling, and the long-awaited voice of God.

 This afternoon, the people of central Oklahoma did not stand to hear the voice of God. We sat, we paced, and we huddled. We listened to the voice of the meteorologists and watched as dark clouds swirled together over a cone of destruction. The rain fell upward, not down, and the thunderous roar of the swirling winds carried, and we saw the awesome power of God. This was not Shavuot-the Feast of Weeks that marked our days of freedom. This was minutes that seemed like years and trapped us into watching the same images of destruction.

 Merciful God, a great and powerful windstorm has passed, and it has torn apart the buildings and shattered the rocks before You. You told Elijah, the prophet, that You were not in the windstorm. Please, then, be in the still, small voices of the children crying out to be found. Be in the voices of the rescuers calling out for survivors. Be in the cries of those who are lost and of those who have lost.

 May it be Your will that those who are missing be found alive and be cared for well, and may the people of central Oklahoma find strength in You and in one another as we rebuild what we can.

The people of Oklahoma need our help.  As Jews, we are commanded to be there for one another, but also to be there for the community at large.

Our Torah portion, B’ha’a’lot’kha, mentions the lighting of the Menorah in the Tabernacle.  That light was to burn unceasingly, day in and day out.  That same light inspires us to have an “eternal light” burning in our synagogues in front of the aron kodesh – the ark that houses our Torah scrolls.

It reminds us of the holiness of God and of Jewish community.  It also reminds us of the holiness of life.  The flickering flame – a tangible reminder of the precious soul within each of us – reminds us that all human beings, regardless of race, religion, or creed, are created in God’s image.

Today, more than ever, that flickering flame reminds us that we can create some light even when darkness threatens to envelope us; that we can be there as a source of light and of hope for the people of Oklahoma.  And if we reach out to help those in need, we will be rewarded for our efforts as we feel ourselves to be a part of the healing process that is just beginning.

If you are moved to help the people of Oklahoma through Jewish organizations, please consider helping through Nechama at or through The Jewish Federations of North America at

May the light of Torah light up our lives, and the lives of those in Oklahoma who are struggling to rebuild their lives and to find avenues of hope and of renewal for the future.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Gilah Dror