A Prayer for Peaceful Protest: Parshat Re’eh and Remembering Charlottesville

peace

See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the Eternal you God that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse if you ignore the commandments of the Eternal your God and turn away from the path that I enjoin upon you this day…[1]

The opening verses of this week’s Torah portion provide profound perspective for the first anniversary of the pain and turmoil that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia. As we pause to remember the murder of Heather Heyer, the injuries to 19 other counter-demonstrators, and the helicopter accident that took the lives of two state employees, let us take stock of what we have lost and what we have learned.

As the words our parsha remind us, we are not doomed to disaster nor slaves to self-destruction.

We have choices and our choices have consequences.

We can insist upon basic standards of civil protest or we can devolve into callousness and chaos.

We can live within boundaries of constructive confrontation or we can ignore them at our peril.

This weekend in our nation’s capital the same opposing forces are gathering once again.

This time may there be no fatalities.

This time may there be no injuries.

This time may there be no phone calls to family members informing them that their child has been killed or killed someone.

This time may the act of protest be entered into with a prayer for peace.

May the blessing of the freedom to demonstrate be exercised with conscience and care.

May we be wary of the curse that comes from disregard for the safety and dignity of others.

May we remember that history will judge us by our ability to disagree without resorting to violence.

May we commit ourselves to trying, difficult though it may be, to see the humanity of those whose views we find hurtful.

For only when we see it can we be mindful of it.

May we choose the blessing of the “beloved community” over the curse of callousness and chaos[2].

May this be our blessing and let us say: Amen.

 

 

[1] Deuteronomy 11:26-28

[2] Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Where We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? 1967

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