JVP Rabinnical Council’s Blessing for the Water Protectors
In Jewish tradition, Birkat Hagomel, a blessing of thanksgiving, is recited upon emerging safely from a dangerous or life threatening situation. Today, as we marvel and celebrate the victory hard won by the Standing Rock Sioux water protectors and the hundreds of indigenous nations who stood with them, we offer this new Birkat Hagomel, inspired by the wonder of this moment:
In the case of a miracle wrought on behalf of the many, everybody is obliged to utter the benediction; but in the case of a miracle wrought on behalf of an individual, only they are obliged to say it.
Talmud Bavli Brachot 54a
On December 4, 2016 the President of the United States declared that the United States Army Corps of Engineers will not grant the easement that would allow construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline to drill below the Missouri River. December 4th 2016 in Cannonball, North Dakota will mark a moment when destruction was waylaid, because of the power of the Water Protectors who continue to pray and mobilize to protect sacred sites, fight for indigenous sovereignty, and to protect water–for everyone.
The holiday of Purim is marked in the spring, and celebrates the close-call that saved the Jewish people from state-led violence in ancient Persia. This miracle was achieved through the work of powerful organizers who made manifest miracles that saved their people. “Perhaps,” the story goes, “you were born for such a time as this.”
(Megilat Esther 4:14)
In addition, some Jewish communities create city-specific observances when their town was saved from a contemporary wave of violence. For example, the 4th of Heshvan in 1540 is observed in Algiers, when the Jews in Algiers were saved from destruction in the Spanish-Algerian wars. The 25th of Iyyar 1631 is marked as a Purim in Provence, France, which marks the end of the Black Plague.
Families also mark their own Family Purims, commemorating families being saved from devastation, such as the 22nd of Tevet in 1632. This Purim is observed by the Altschul family of Prague, when the head of the family Hanokh Moses was saved from death.
December 4 2016 is a moment of celebration, when the power of people caused the powers that be to change. This victory is connected to over 500 years of Indigenous resistance against colonial violence. This purim is to be blessed by all, for it is a miracle wrought for the many.
This victory does not mean the Dakota Access Pipeline will not be constructed, that the water of the 100,000 people who rely on the Missouri River for clean drinking water will be guaranteed safe water in the future, that the sacred sites of the Oceti Sakowin will be protected or rebuilt. December 4 2016 is a day to mark the power of prayer and action, as it is connected to these moments past and prophesied in the future.
Coming soon–a Standing Rock Purim modim insertion!