20 October 2023

‘Our sages have taught,
whoever takes a single
human life, it is as if they
have destroyed an entire world’

The Torah scrolls in Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue, including scroll No 970 (left) from Pacov in the Czech Republic (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Throughout this week, my prayer diary on my blog each morning this week, I am drawing on the prayers and resources produced for the Week of Prayer for World Peace this year.

Of course, as I prepare my prayers and reflections for each morning, I find myself under the shadow of the escalating violence in Israel, Gaza and Palestine, watching as it spreads to neighbouring Lebanon and Egypt, and as the Middle East threatens to both explode and implode, while antisemitism continues to spread throughout northern Europe and north America.

On this Friday evening, I am very conscious that every Shabbat begins, continues and concludes with the greeting Shabbat Shalom שַׁבַּת שָׁלוֹם. It is not merely an expression of hope for domestic, family and community peace, but an expression of hope for peace and justice for the whole creation, as well as harmony, wholeness and prosperity.

The Kaddish prayers usually include a prayer like this or a variant of it: ‘May the One who causes peace to reign in the high heavens let peace descend on us, on all Israel, and on all the world, and let us say: Amen.’

Last Saturday morning, as many were still reeling from the news of the murders and kidnappings by Hamas that sparked the latest violent crisis, I attended the Shabbat Morning Service for Milton Keynes and District Reform Synagogue, led on Zoom by Student Rabbi Shulamit Morris-Evans, co-founder of Extinction Rebellion Jews and a student rabbi at Leo Baeck College.

Everyone who attended online seemed to appreciate the use of ‘A Prayer in a Time of War’ in the Movement for Reform Judaism Siddur or prayer book:

At this time of conflict we turn to You, God, as the Creator of all human beings, each of us made in Your image, each of us equal in Your sight. Our sages have taught, whoever takes a single human life, it is as if they have destroyed an entire world.

They also taught, in that hour when the Egyptians drowned in the Sea of Reeds, the angels wished to sing a song of praise before God. But God rebuked them saying, My children are drowning in the sea, would you utter a song before Me in honour of that!?

Be with Your children of all nations and religions, and give them strength and courage in this time of uncertainty and fear. Any war claims its victims on all sides. Have mercy on them and bring this conflict speedily to an end, so that its casualties may be few and damage light; so that acts of violence and bloodshed may be replaced with words and acts of conciliation. Shelter under Your care those who perish and show compassion to those who mourn for them. For those injured in body or mind, bring a perfect healing, so that their lives are not destroyed.

A prayer for peace adapted from the texts of the prayers for peace found in the Sim Shalom (1985) and Lev Shalem (2016), the siddurim or prayer books of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis, prays:

May we merit to bring about the day when war and bloodshed cease,
and a great peace embraces the whole universe.
‘No nation will lift up a sword to another,
and the art of war will no longer be studied.’ (Isaiah 2: 4)

May we live to see the leaders of all the nations
inspired to do good with their peoples
and with all other peoples of the world,
bringing about the fulfilment of the Scriptural blessing,

‘I will bring peace to the Earth,
and you will lie down with no one to terrify you,
and I will bring calm to all vicious creatures on Earth,
and the sword will no longer pass in your Land.’ (Leviticus 26: 6)

Let knowledge fill the Earth as water fills the ocean,
and let all people of all ethnicities, races, beliefs, genders and orientations
enjoy true equality, security, safety and livelihood,
in a true spirit of co-existence and cooperation.
And let us say, Amen.

A prayer for peace found in various forms in many Jewish traditions prays:

Grant us peace, Your most precious gift, O Eternal Source of peace, and enable our people Israel to be its messenger to all the world. Bless our country, that it may ever be a pursuer of peace and its advocate in the council of nations. May contentment reign within our borders, health and happiness within our homes. Strengthen the bonds of friendship and harmony among the inhabitants of all lands. Plant virtue in every soul and may our love for You hallow every home and every heart. We praise You, O God, Giver of peace.

Well-known sayings found among the Sayings of the Sages include:

Hillel used to say: ‘Be a disciple of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow men and women, and drawing them near to the Torah.’

Rabban Simeon ben Gamaliel used to say: ‘The world is sustained by three things: justice, truth, and peace.’

‘There are four kinds of actions that bring benefits in this world but whose full reward is reserved for the world-to-come, and they are: Honouring father and mother; deeds of loving kindness; making peace between enemies; and the study of Torah, which is equal to them all.’

Shabbat Shalom שַׁבַּת שָׁלוֹם

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (145) 20 October 2023,
Week of Prayer for World Peace (6)

‘So hope for a great sea-change / on the far side of revenge. / Believe that a further shore / is reachable from here’ (Rabbi Nico Sokolovsky) … sunset from the shore at Fintramore in Co Clare (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and the week began with the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XIX, 15 October 2023).

I stayed up late last night, watching the by-election results, especially in the Tamworth constituency, early this morning. But I am awake now, and before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

The Week of Prayer for World Peace began on Sunday, and so my reflections each morning this week are gathered around this theme in these ways:

1, A reflection on the Week of Prayer for World Peace ;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The Week of Prayer for World Peace began with ‘A Call to Prayer for World Peace’ signed by faith leaders in 1974

A Week of Prayer for World Peace:

The International Prayer For Peace:

Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe

Day 6, Peacemakers: For those who hold to their belief in peace with justice in often difficult situations:

Although the people living across the ocean are, I believe, all our brothers and sisters – why are there constant troubles in the world?

Praying for my peace, which is your peace, our peace.

As we all know, peace is not just the absence of war, for our peace is shattered by all kinds of violence physical and verbal: a sharp word can make us feel insecure, an angry look may make us feel weak or worse still aggressive, all kinds of violence is war on the other.

And this kind of war creates the division, a division of them and us. And division of course is a major source of conflict internal and external. This separation between the other and myself breeds the violence within me.

So I pray for the sake of myself, my own peace of mind, so that I myself am at peace, and offer that peace which is love and learn to love my neighbour as myself.

That is my prayer for my peace … your peace … our peace.
Jehangir Sarosh, Zoroastrian

History says ‘Don’t hope
On this side of the grave.’
But then once in a lifetime
the longed-for tidal wave
of justice can rise up,
and hope and history rhyme.

So hope for a great sea-change
on the far side of revenge.
Believe that a further shore
is reachable from here.
Believe in miracles
and cures and healing wells.
Rabbi Nico Sokolovsky (Jewish)

O Great Spirit of our Ancestors, Give us the wisdom to teach our children to love, respect, and be kind to each other so that they may grow with peace in mind. Let us learn to share all the good things that you provide for us on this Earth.
A Native American Prayer for Peace

… When we stand together, we are strong enough to fundamentally alter the existing socio-political reality … Because where there is struggle there is hope.
www.standing-together.org Jewish & Palestinian citizens of Israel in pursuit of peace, equality, and social and climate justice

O Allah, the Sustainer of Harmony and Justice, we beseech You for peacemakers, virtuous and just.

In times of hardship, they hold firm to their belief, working tirelessly for peace, bringing solace and relief.

Bless those who strive to bridge divides, with compassion and understanding that resides. Grant them wisdom, clarity, and fortitude, to spread harmony, in every neighbourhood.

O Allah, shower them with Your boundless grace, as they strive to create a harmonious space. Protect them from harm, both seen and unseen, and let their efforts flourish, fruitful and keen. Ameen.

‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ … words on the reredos in the Unitarian Church, Saint Stephen’s Green, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 12: 1-7 (NRSVA):

1 Meanwhile, when the crowd gathered in thousands, so that they trampled on one another, he began to speak first to his disciples, ‘Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees, that is, their hypocrisy. 2 Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. 3 Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops.

4 ‘I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. 7 But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.’

‘Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows’ … sparrows on the beach at Platanias, near Rethymnon in Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Today’s Prayers: USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Helpline to women in need.’ This theme was introduced on Sunday.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (20 October 2023) invites us to pray in these words:

Let us give thanks for the Delhi Brotherhood Society, its Women’s Helpline programme and the many other initiatives the Society coordinates across Delhi.

The Collect:

O God, forasmuch as without you
we are not able to please you;
mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit
may in all things direct and rule our hearts;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post Communion Prayer:

Holy and blessed God,
you have fed us with the body and blood of your Son
and filled us with your Holy Spirit:
may we honour you,
not only with our lips
but in lives dedicated to the service
of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The Week of Prayer for World Peace began on Sunday 15 October 2023

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org