Following Boston, Prayers for Healing

By :  Samuel Barth Posted On Apr 23, 2013 / 5773 | Service of the Heart: Exploring Prayer | Prayer

Once more murderous acts have literally blasted their way into our hearts and souls. Images from the bombs in Boston are seared into our minds and memories, and these depictions challenge us. Our faith in humanity is challenged no less than our faith in God.  

We know that violence—senseless, base, despicable violence—has been directed against us before, but in these first days we feel closer to the abyss, and we search for comfort and consolation. Even as we recall the metaphor affirming that God is “close to the broken-hearted” (Ps. 34:19), we recall also that Aaron, after the tragic death of his two sons, was silent (Lev. 10:3). For many, the gatherings of communities for prayer and shared comfort have been a source of strength, and even of inspiration; for others, the pathway forward will be less clear. Those most immediately touched by death, injury, and trauma (to body, mind, and soul) need care, attention, and understanding for a long time.

There is no “right way” to mourn; every religious leader knows that the aftermath of a tragedy is not the moment to even try to “explain God” or “to speak for God.” These are the hours and days when human presence may feel like so little, but truly is the greatest gift of all. Our prayers need not bring us all the answers, but may open our hearts and souls, and inspire us to turn to God in times of sorrow as well as in times of celebration. There are hints in the Bible that God “hides” from us, and the kabbalah of Isaac Luria teaches about tzimtzum, the doctrine that suggests that God is significantly withdrawn (so to speak) from the world, allowing human freedom, and consequently the possibility for evil. Nevertheless, I personally find comfort in the assurance of Jeremiah 24:14, “If you search for Me with all your heart, I shall let you find Me”—even if the heart is broken.

I share with you two prayer texts that express some of the anger and anguish, the hurt and the hope born out of the tragedy. Some readers will find, perhaps, that these words express their own feelings; I know those who wrote these prayers will be glad that their work has been of service. And if these are not your thoughts, not your words, we believe that God probes the human heart, and that your thoughts too will be heard.

Below you will be able to hear a setting of the Prayer for Healing composed by renowned musician and songwriter Debbie Friedman (z”l), and also a wordless melody of yearning attributed to Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav, sung by Rabbi David Zeller (z”l).

A Prayer of Hope After the Boston Marathon Bombing” by Rabbi Naomi Levy, published on

A Prayer in the Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing” by Rabbi Joe Black, published on the blog

Listen to the famous Mi Sheberakh (Prayer for Healing) composed by Debbie Friedman (z”l), sung by Cantor Don Gurney and accompanied with pastoral images.

Hear a niggun (wordless melody) of yearning attributed to Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav, sung by Rabbi David Zeller (z”l).

I am, as always, interested in questions and reflections arising from this essay. I can be reached by email at