Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoors Statement at Prayer Vigil at St. Paul’s

My Dear Friends,

How I wish that I could be with you in person. On behalf of Nantucket’s Jewish Community, Congregation Shirat HaYam, I want to thank you for your concern and support. I especially want to thank Father Max Wolf for organizing and hosting this opportunity to be together – and for his beautifully crafted letter to our community when the horrors of this conflagration became known. I am also grateful for the heartfelt notes I have received from Father John Murray of St Mary’s and Rev. Derek Worthington of Summer Street Church. Our Nantucket Interfaith Council is something for which we should all be grateful. The level of honesty and concern is without parallel. 

This is not a time to discuss politics or dissect the mired disagreements between Israel and the Palestinian people. In fact what is happening now is not a dispute between Israel and the Palestinians – it is a dispute between Israel and an organization that has sworn the destruction of Israel and the Jewish People and abused its people in pursuit of their own twisted goals.  

Around the world this morning, Jews read the story of Noah. It begins with the words

וַתִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ חָמָֽס׃ (בראשית ו:יא)

Vateeshacheyt Ha’aretz lifnay Adonai, vatimalay Ha’aretz hamas. 

“The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness.”

(Genesis 6:11)

The world was filled with HAMAS. It is interesting that the biblical text’s word for lawlessness and evil is Hamas. And God decided to hit the reset button, by destroying all living things save for a small remnant led by Noah. But the real moral of the story is that destroying everything did not solve the problem. The problem is within humanity – in our basic nature. God promises to never destroy the world again. But that leaves it up to us to root out lawlessness and violence – and to begin that process by looking within. 

There is a story in the Talmud (Berachot 10a) about the great Rabbi Meir. There were violent people who regularly bedeviled Meir and his students. He began to pray that God destroy the sinners. His wife, the even more brilliant Bruriah, overheard Meir’s prayers and immediately castigated him. She told him that he was misinterpreting the Torah –  God did not want the death of sinners but God wanted us to remove sin from the world. 

And so this evening of prayer, music, song and silence should begin with us looking within. What can we do to root out the sin of prejudice and hatred from our world. And then, how can we support those who work to remove sin from all places where humans are treated as less than God’s creations. Let us support the efforts to root out violence and enmity and pray for the peacemakers so that all, Palestinians and Israelis can live in dignity and security, and learn that rooting out evil begins with looking within and offering those around us the same things we wish for ourselves: a better life for our children, a way to use our gifts for good. And a  way to find the path to Peace – Shalom/ Salaam/Pax –  wholeness, completeness, respect for all as God’s creations. Peace. 

Thank you for being here. May we find comfort in one another’s presence and prayers and May those prayers be heard on high. 


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