“Dear God,” he said, “we come before you this year, as we do every year, to ask Your forgiveness. But in this past year, I have caused no death. I have brought no plagues upon the world, no earthquakes, no floods. I have made no women widows, no children orphans. God, You have done these things, not me! Perhaps you should be asking forgiveness from me.”
The great Rabbi paused, and continued in a softer voice, “But since You are God, and I am only Levi Yitzhak, Yisgadal v’yiskadah sh’mei rabah [Magnificent and sanctified is Thy Name],” and he began the service.*
Though on the surface this quote seems harsh, I believe it adequately addresses the pain we should feel for death, plagues, orphans, and other injustices.
We cannot and should not ignore the autrocities which have occured under our watch. As ministers, when we walk into a hospital room, a funeral palor, a wartorn country, a prison, we are representing spiritual wisdom. That does not mean we have to provide words, rather we can merely provide a ministry of presence. The result of that should be our empathy for the other’s pain. We should leave those situations transformed by them such that our prayers, our “days of atonement” may become laments like the above prayer.
Hope occurs even in lament.
*Wolpe, David J. The Healer of Shattered Hearts: A Jewish View of God, 158.