Peace: a central theme in Jewish life, precious and elusive. We say "Shalom!" in greeting and, in Israel at least, "Shalom shalom!" ~ double peace ~ in parting.
It was in Israel, oddly enough, that I first heard Craig Taubman's "Hashkiveinu," (video below) coming out of a boom box in a little art shop in S'fat. I had sung the prayer in synagogue countless times but had never heard that version of the prayer that we say in the evening, asking God to protect us as we sleep. It's an ancient prayer, from the time of the Mishnah ~ tractate Berachot (blessings) it is believed ~ a time when darkness could be complete, and scary. There is even the idea that our souls leave us during the night and God has to give them back to us in the morning.
I created this piece, Sukkat Shalom, at a scary time for Jews in Israel. At this moment, rockets are raining down on them, forcing them to run for shelters. People are dying, both in Israel and among the innocents near the source of those rockets. Pray that the darkness lifts, that people's souls are intact in the morning. And do something. If you are in the United States, as I am, there are many things you can do to help; a few ideas are listed at the bottom of this post. As you lie down tonight, safe and sound, think of those who may not be so blessed, wherever they might be.
Grant that we may lie down in peace, Eternal God, and awaken us to life.
Shelter us with Your tent of peace and guide us with Your good counsel.
Shield us from hatred, plague and destruction.
Keep us from warm famine and anguish.
Help us to deny our inclination to evil.
God of peace, may we always feel protected because You are our Guardian and Helper.
Give us refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
Guard our going forth and our coming in and bless us with life and peace.
Blessed are You, Eternal God, whose shelter of peace is spread over us, over all Your people Israel, and over Jerusalem.
What You Can Do
A final word about peace in Israel... On that last trip, as we were riding in the little shuttle bus to the airport in Tel Aviv, descending from Jerusalem into a valley at dusk, I took in the scene. On both sides of the road were houses, their windows glowing. I imagined that inside were families, mothers cooking supper, kids doing their homework... it was so peaceful and quiet. "That's all they want," I remember saying to myself. That's all.
Shalom u'vracha...peace and blessing.
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Kim Phillips is a Judaica artist in Nashville, Tennessee. Click here for bio. If you'd like her to lead a papercut art workshop at your synagogue, religious school, Jewish day school or Jewish community center, click here for more information and here to contact her. Artist-in-residence programs available.