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Aleinu. It is on us.

George Floyd was murdered under the knees of a police officer, along with three accomplices. In many faith traditions, knees are used to bend in reverence to holiness. Reverend Ted Tollefson inspired my sisters and me to write this piece from the Jewish perspective as we head into the festival of Shavuot.

Aleinu. It is on us.

To bow in praise before God
as a sign of reverence
and perhaps submission
It is on us to bend our knees
only in reverence for life
and only for submission to that which is good

Aleinu. It is on us.

Our sages teach that the angels have no knees
Their legs do not bend
They do not need knees
because their entire purpose
is to stand tall before God in service
But we are not these kinds of angels
We bend under the weight on our shoulders,
We let this twisted world twist us,
into knowing that our service to God comes,
not only in the form of thoughts and prayers,
but in the form of action

Aleinu. It is on us.

Va’anachu kor’im. We bend at the knee
Umishtachavim. We bow at the waist
Lifnei Melech Malchei HaMalchim. We stand straight before God
HaKadosh Baruch Hu. We who are made in God’s image must be holy
because God is holy

So we rise
To repair this very broken world
We stand straight because we can
We stand up because we must

Aleinu. It is on us.

We bend our knees before the God of love
In devotion and in disruption
In protest and in praise
From shame to shleimut – wholeness

We rise before the God of truth
to march and to move
to bend this broken arc towards justice

Aleinu. It is on us.

Bent knees are for showing reverence
to prostrate in peaceful protest
to prepare us for moving
to prepare us for marching
Bent knees are not for killing
God did not make knees, or any other part of us, for that

Aleinu. It is on us.

This prayer originally appeared in TCJewfolk. Reprinted with permission.

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