Twelve years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. We lived in Houston at the time and saw firsthand the devastation it wrought in the lives of tens of thousands of residents of the region.
One of the most anxiety-provoking experiences of my life occurred shortly thereafter when another Category 5 hurricane was headed toward Houston.
In the days prior to Hurricane Rita’s landfall, tension ratcheted up enormously. Having decided to shelter in place, my family and I did everything possible to prepare. Hours before the hurricane was expected to strike, familiar words came forth from my soul:
B’yado Afkid Ruchi
B’eit Ishan V’a-irah
V’im Ruchi G’viyati
Adonai Li V’lo Ira.
The words come from the final stanza of Adon Olam. Upon offering this prayer, I felt a sense of calm and acceptance. In translation it states:
My soul entrusted to Your care, both when I sleep and when I rise.
My body, too, will rest in You. I have no fear – for God is mine.
Prayer has the potential to bring solace to our souls. The Shema and Aleinu are affirmations of faith that are found in the Siddur.
Other sources of comfort can be found in the Bible. The Book of Psalms is an incomparable source of perspective and hope. In troubling times, Psalms 15, 42, 61, 121, and 130 may reflect the stirrings of our soul. A supreme expression of trust and faith is Psalm 23: the Eternal is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
In our own age, gifted liturgists give voice to our longings for strength and calm.
A tremendous resource is Rabbi Naomi Levy’s Talking to God: Personal Prayers for Times of Joy, Sadness, Struggle and Celebration. One prayer states:
Be with me God, I feel so lost. I can’t seem to escape the dark cloud that is hanging over me today. Help me, God. Give me strength to combat despair and fear. Show me how to put my pain into perspective. Teach me to have faith in the new day that is coming.
Thank You, God, for today’s blessings, for tomorrow’s hope, and for Your abiding love. Amen.
The prayer book, the Bible, and inspired words composed in our own age may give voice to our inner yearnings. In these troubling times, I encourage you as well to trust yourself; to speak your own words to God without trying to say ‘just the right thing.’ For the words of our hearts and the meditations of our souls are always accepted by our Creator.