Prayer for a World Afire

Image: The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite captured this image of smoke from wildfires in California on 9 October 2017. (Photo from Wikimedia, click link for rights.)

I found myself praying this afternoon, “Please, God, could we just get a little time to breathe?” Between the shooting last night in Thousand Oaks, CA and the anti-Semitic incidents that have been pouring into the news for the last month, I felt overwhelmed.

That was right before the smoke poured south from the Camp Fire in Butte County. The fire is nowhere near here – 175 miles away! – but the air outside makes my throat close up and my eyes burn. Sunset was a muddy smudge against the horizon. So much for breathing.

Last week it was bombs and gun violence. This week it’s climate change and gun violence. Tonight giant fires burn in Butte and Ventura counties in California within 24 hours of a shooting in Ventura County that killed 12 people, including an officer from the sheriff’s department and a survivor of the mass murder in Las Vegas last year.

This is the new normal, apparently: things that once would have been the big news of the entire month or season are now piled up in a single day, disaster upon disaster. The most sickening part of it is that these are human-made disasters: they aren’t earthquakes or tsunamis. Every week, some guy grabs a gun and kills a bunch of people because he’s mad, or he’s sick, or he believes conspiracy theories, or he just feels like it. For the past two years, the changed climate in California and the rest of the American West has engendered monster fires, fires so big that they are visible from space.

So how should we pray about these messes that we human beings have made?

Jewish tradition does not encourage us to pray for miracles. It does not encourage us to look towards the heavens and say, “God, please fix it.”

Jewish tradition encourages us to work to make the miracles we need. When we stood trembling at the bank of the Red Sea, God scolded Moses for stopping to pray and said, “Get moving!” (Exodus 14:15) In that story, God may have stretched out “a mighty arm” as the Haggadah says, but we were expected to seize the hand offered and ultimately, deliver ourselves. We did not fly out of Egypt; we walked.

For too long, we have whined and scuffed our feet at the edge of these Red Seas we face today. We have wasted precious time arguing instead of acting.

Can’t get the solution to gun violence that we want? Push our elected officials to get whatever compromise might help a little. Enforce existing laws, Tighten what controls can be tightened. Fund more mental health care. Fund research. Explore every possible option. Do not simply blame it on “bad people” or “stupid people” or liberals or conservatives.

Let’s do the same with climate change. Let each of us push our elected officials to take it seriously, and do what we can individually. If our grandparents and great-grandparents could sacrifice to fight the Nazis, why can’t we make sacrifices to make the changes we must make to survive? WE – not “other people.” Let’s tell the billionaire business people and corporations that they get to make sacrifices, too. We are all in this together.

Blessed are You, Eternal our God, who gave us brains and intended that we use them. Please give us the strength to save ourselves from ourselves.






Published by


Rabbi Ruth Adar is a teaching rabbi in San Leandro, CA. She has many hats: rabbi, granny, and ham radio operator K6RAV. She blogs at and teaches at Jewish Gateways in Albany, CA.

5 thoughts on “Prayer for a World Afire”

  1. We face a time in which authority is openly disrespected and opposed. When that is done to the President of the United States on national television coverage (the most powerful person in the country, and indeed, the free world), there is a trickle down effect to do the same thing at the lower levels of government authority. People get angry at the slightest provocation (or none at times) and think it is okay to act on that anger. We can vote people into office that will support our ideals, but when they arrive in the halls of government, the underhanded bickering they encounter may be overwhelming. A house divided cannot stand. Thus, I feel we should pray. And I believe there were always three answers I could expect from my Heavenly Father – Yes. No. Wait. Therefore, I will continue to pray. 🙂

  2. As soon as America gets off it’s high horse you will have the entire world to talk to. Maybe God as you understand God might pay attention. The concept of being the leader of the Free World ended with the Cold War between the USSR and America. I know a country very close to you where guns caused 140 deaths this year (including suicide). Turn off your TV filled with programs and movies glorifying violence between the advertising.

    Stop threatening the people of countries world wide with your 900 military bases everywhere on the planet. You are even threatening your once loyal allies with sanctions, threats, tariffs and we are not amused. Stop turning the words of the prophet Jesus into bullets so you can fire them into people’s hearts whether they agree with your or not.

    1. Dennis: On this forum, I think you’re largely “preaching to the choir”.

      Speaking for myself, I support each one of your ideas. I & everyone I know are appalled by the White House occupier who worked with Russia to steal our election. I resist his actions every single day, in contacts to our Congressman & Senators.

      Don’t give up hope, Dennis. “Our long national nightmare” will end.

Leave a Reply to Dennis CamblyCancel reply