Prayer for the Victims of Surfside and Their Families

Posted on: Tuesday July 13, 2021

By Rabbi Jonathan Berkun

Psalm 130

שִׁ֥יר הַֽמַּעֲל֑וֹת מִמַּעֲמַקִּ֖ים קְרָאתִ֣יךָ ה'׃

A song of ascents. Out of the depths I call You, O LORD.

אֲדֹנָי֮ שִׁמְעָ֢ה בְק֫וֹלִ֥י תִּהְיֶ֣ינָה אׇ֭זְנֶיךָ קַשֻּׁב֑וֹת לְ֝ק֗וֹל תַּחֲנוּנָֽי׃

O Lord, listen to my cry; let Your ears be attentive to my plea for mercy.


Psalm 130

לִמְנ֣וֹת יָ֭מֵינוּ כֵּ֣ן הוֹדַ֑ע וְ֝נָבִ֗א לְבַ֣ב חׇכְמָֽה׃

Teach us to count our days rightly, that we may obtain a wise heart.


Jeremiah 31:15

ק֣וֹל בְּרָמָ֤ה נִשְׁמָע֙ נְהִי֙ בְּכִ֣י תַמְרוּרִ֔ים רָחֵ֖ל מְבַכָּ֣ה עַל־בָּנֶ֑יהָ מֵאֲנָ֛ה לְהִנָּחֵ֥ם עַל־בָּנֶ֖יהָ כִּ֥י 


“A cry is heard in Ramah—wailing, bitter weeping—Rachel weeping for her children. She refuses to be comforted for her children, who are gone.”


People think rabbis are supposed to have all the answers. That’s why an official opinion of Jewish law is called a t’shuvah, a “response,” an “answer” to a question. But there are times when tragedy strikes and questions arise for which there is no theological answer. The loss of so many lives in Surfside begs one of those questions. Nevertheless, we call out to God from out of the depths, as it says in the Psalms, 'מִמַּעֲמַקִּ֖ים קְרָאתִ֣יךָ ה. We pray that God hears our cry, sees our tears, and holds our broken hearts.

Judaism has always preferred questions over answers. It has always championed faith amidst despair. That is because the human spirit contains a piece of the divine. Within each of us, we carry both mortality and mystery, life and infinitude. I believe in the power of the human soul to not only survive the grave, but for us who survived—for us who live on—to rise up, continue on, and persevere in the face of unprecedented suffering, loss, sadness and grief. 

I believe, with all my heart, that the spirit of these families is strong enough to one day do just that. I believe, with all my heart, in the power of our global Jewish community to surround them with our loving presence. And I believe, with all my heart, that all the legacy that so many loved ones left behind will be held, carried and cherished for generations to come.