Sometimes, a situation is so surreal, so radically different from anything one has ever experienced before — that old words don’t feel sufficient, that new prayers must be imagined and transcribed in order to give language to the fears of the times.
As the world grapples with a raging health crisis, Jewish thinkers are composing new prayers for our day — for health, for doctors and nurses, for medical research, for hand-washing.
Here, we have collected some of the written prayers to emerge from the last few weeks: A window into the Jewish soul at this very moment.
Prayer Amid The Pandemic
The UK’s Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis composed this prayer; he recommended that Psalms 91, 121 and 130 be said with it.
We turn to You at this time of deep global concern, to bestow Your mercy upon all the inhabitants of our vulnerable world, which is now so seriously afflicted.
Almighty God, who sustains the living with lovingkindness, supports the fallen and heals the sick, grant consolation to the bereaved families and send a speedy and complete recovery to all who have contracted the virus, as the Prophet Jeremiah declared:
“For I will restore health unto you, and I will heal you of your wounds, says the Lord”.
Bless with strength those who are suffering. Bless with resilience those in isolation. Bless with hope those who are despondent. Bless with wisdom all those who seek a cure and bless with compassion all those who offer comfort.
Bless the leaders of our nations. Give them and their advisors knowledge and foresight to act with wisdom and sincerity for the wellbeing of all whom they serve.
Bless the doctors, nurses, all healthcare professionals and key workers who tirelessly seek to heal and help those affected, while in so doing put themselves at risk.
Open our hearts in prayer and our hands in generosity to guarantee that the physical distance this virus creates between us will be bridged through compassion and kindness.
Almighty God of healing and hope, at this time of heightened global awareness of our mutual interdependence, enable all of humankind to appreciate the strength that comes from being united in concern and love, rather than divided with hate and prejudice. As we look to the future, may You endow all people with the capacity to build and sustain societies of unity, tolerance, harmony and peace.
O Lord, our Rock and Salvation, lead us speedily from despair to hope, from fear to trust and from the dread of death to the celebration of life.
May this prayer of mine come before You at a propitious time.
And may this be Your will, Amen.
Prayer for the Healers
By Rabbi Ayelet S. Cohen
May the One who blessed our ancestors
Bless all those who put themselves at risk to care for the sick
Physicians and nurses and orderlies
Technicians and home health aides
EMTs and pharmacists
Hospital social workers and respiratory therapists
(Please include other frontline healthcare workers. And bless especially _______)
Who navigate the unfolding dangers of the world each day,
To tend to those they have sworn to help.
Bless them in their coming home and bless them in their going out.
Ease their fear. Sustain them.
Source of all breath, healer of all beings,
Protect them and restore their hope.
Strengthen them, that they may bring strength;
Keep them in health, that they may bring healing.
Help them know again a time when they can breathe without fear.
Bless the sacred work of their hands.
May this plague pass from among us, speedily and in our days.
Prayer for medical researchers
_By Alden Solovy, originally appeared on his website.
God of wisdom,
Bless medical scientists and researchers around the world
With insight and skill, dedication and fortitude,
As they combat coronavirus,
So that their work yields knowledge and understanding,
Speedily finding a vaccine, treatments and deterrents to its spread.
Source of life,
Grant public health and government officials
The strength to act swiftly and decisively,
With compassion and understanding,
In service to humankind,
Fighting this outbreak
And the other diseases that still plague the planet,
Diseases threatening the lives of our brothers and sisters,
Nations and communities,
Young and old.
Rock of Ages,
Bring an end to disease and suffering,
So that all may know
Your compassion and Your grace.
Praised are You, God, healer of flesh, maker of wonders.
Prayer for Handwashing
As we wash our hands
Blessed is the Soul of the Universe,
Breathing us in and breathing us out.
May our breaths continue
And our health and the health of all
In this time of sickness and fear of sickness.
We take as much responsibility for this as we can
By observing the obligation to wash our hands
For as long as it takes to say this prayer.
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה הָ׳ אֱלֹהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת יָדַיִם
Barukh atah adonai eloheinu melekh ha-olam asher kidshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al netilat yadayim
Blessed are you, our God, ruler of the universe, who sanctified us with God’s commandments and instructed us on washing hands
A Prayer of Hope During this Pandemic
By Rabbi Naomi Levy, originally appeared on nashuva.com
We are frightened, God,
Worried for our loved ones,
Worried for our world.
Helpless and confused,
We turn to You
Seeking comfort, faith and hope.
Teach us God, to turn our panic into patience,
And our fear into acts of kindness and support.
Our strong must watch out for our weak,
Our young must take care of our old.
Help each one of us to do our part to halt the spread of this virus
Send strength and courage to the doctors and nurses
In the frontlines of this battle,
Fortify them with the full force of their healing powers.
Send wisdom and insight to the scientists
Working day and night across the world to discover healing treatments.
Bless their efforts, God.
Fill our leaders with the wisdom and the courage
To choose wisely and act quickly.
Help us, God, to see that we are one world,
Who will rise above this pandemic together.
Send us health God,
Watch over us,
Grace us with Your love,
Bless us with Your healing light.
Hear us God,
Heal us God,
And finally, consider this beautifully composed prayer by Elana Stein Hain, on “soul and breath” — a modern reimagination of the ancient prayer ‘My God, the soul that Thou hast breathed into me”.