Shabbat Prayer for Our College Students and Ourselves

May 3, 2024

Shabbat Shalom. I have always loved to participate at Stephen Wise Temple. Since Oct 7, for 210 days, I have been praying for the hostages, for our people and for peace. Thank you to Rabbi Yoshi and Cantor Emma for their leadership and these prayers:

Shabbat Prayer for Our College Students, Faculty, and Staff

by Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, Senior Rabbi at Stephen Wise Temple

A Prayer for Our College Students, Faculty, and Staff

God, Shomer Yisrael (Protector of Israel), in this time of chaos when so many members of our Jewish community are feeling afraid, isolated, vulnerable and targeted, we humbly ask for Your mercy, guidance, and help. Keep our students, faculty, and staff safe in body and spirit on college campuses near and far. Protect us from vitriol, bigotry, ignorance, hate, and violence.

God, Source of Wisdom and Understanding, make our institutions of higher learning places where we can engage without fear in Machlokot L’shem Shamayim (disagreements for the sake of heaven). When we argue with others, with members of Am Yisrael, or even with You, help us always to choose our words with care and kindness.

Grace us with empathy and humility so that we might stand up proudly for what we believe in without vilifying or dehumanizing those with whom we disagree, recognizing always that You created our fellow students, colleagues, and neighbors B’Tzelem Elohim (in Your image) as well.

May we have the patience necessary to embody the value of Dan L’Khaf Zechut, judging one another favorably, in every interaction and encounter, even the difficult ones.

May we have the power to control our passions so that our anger, hurt, and disappointment will never erupt into hate-speech or violence.

No matter how challenging, implant within us the strength and resilience to always speak out for what is right and to advocate for what is just.

And God, please shine Your countenance upon us so that we may know Your most precious blessing: the gift of wholeness and peace, the gift of Shalom.

Over the past few weeks, our community shared multiple occasions when our children led us in prayer. Singing has always been my main pathway to prayer, but listening to our learned children skillfully lead us in worship has become equally as connective for me. From the beautiful Passover performance by our third graders (including an unparalleled Israeli rendition of “Am Yisrael Chai”) to hearing our elementary students and teens teach and chant Torah at our Passover morning service, to the extraordinary leading of the Four Questions at our community Second Night Seder, the youth of our Wise community are skilled in song. It is an absolute privilege and joy to listen to them lead our community in prayer and to learn from them.

Why WE need Prayer

From Cantor Emma Lutz, Senior Cantor, Stephen Wise Temple

I don’t for one minute take for granted the benefit of being able to connect to prayer. These past almost seven months have been a living nightmare of war, and fear can certainly cause us to close our hearts to prayer and other pathways of connection. But I have to tell you that nothing in the world makes me feel more hope than praying with our community. When we lift our voices in song together, we create a network of strength, joy, and meaning together. Whether praying in person on our campus or connecting to our worship from home, I hope that you experience that same powerful connection.

I love this alternative prayer from our siddur, Mishkan T’filah, that we use on Shabbat and festivals. I pray that you will also find inspiration from these words and that you will make an effort to join us in worship and song as soon and as often as you can.

I begin with a prayer of gratitude for all that is holy in my life. God needs no words, no English or Hebrew, no semantics or services. But I need them. Through prayer, I can sense my inner strength, my inner purpose, My inner joy, my capacity to love. As I reach upward in prayer, I sense these qualities in my Creator. To love God is to love each other, to work to make our lives better. To love God is to love the world God created and to work to perfect it. To love God is to love reams of peace and joy that illumine all of us,  And to bring that vision to life. Amen.


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