Editor’s Note: Alden Solovy writes the “To Bend Light” blog, where this essay originally appeared. He gave Jewish Sacred Aging permission to reprint it here. Solovy was a guest on the Seekers of Meaning Podcast in July. You can hear that conversation here.
As the Jewish world mourns the murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, a group of private individuals are preparing themselves to perform taharot. Taharah (taharot, pl) is the ritual preparation of a body for burial. It’s a sacred task that takes a special individual. These will be particularly difficult taharot, given the brutality of the deaths. It’s my hope that in praying for those who are conducting this holy act, we find a bit of solace for ourselves.
Rock of Comfort,
Redeemer of Israel,
Grant Your protection and care
To those who are preparing the dead for burial,
Gently washing wounded bodies
With love and water,
Praying for the souls of the innocent
To find peace on the journey
To heavenly spheres.
So much loss.
So much blood.
So many wounds.
These unnamed servants of our people
Come in quiet devotion,
With gentle prayers,
Serving the dead with the work of their hands,
So that the living can grieve
And that souls can find rest.
Grant them an extra share of steadfast strength
As they bless the lost with the gift given in reverence
White is the clothing of the dead.
Sorrow is the clothing of the living.
Let the taharot in Pittsburgh become a beacon of love,
A radiance of healing,
And a source of comfort for all.
© 2018 Alden Solovy and tobendlight.com.
Alden Solovy spreads joy and excitement for prayer. A liturgist and poet, his work has been used by people of all faiths throughout the world. He’s written more than 700 pieces of new liturgy, offering a fresh new Jewish voice, challenging the boundaries between poetry, meditation, personal growth and prayer. He’s a teacher, a writing coach and an award-winning essayist and journalist. He’s an ELI talk fellow, speaking on “Falling in Love with Prayer.”
Alden’s writing was transformed by multiple tragedies, marked in 2009 by the sudden death of his wife from catastrophic brain injury. As a result, he deepened his exploration of meditation, poetry, liturgy and personal prayer as a healing, spiritual practice. His third book, This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day, was released in 2017 by CCAR Press. His next book, This Joyous Soul: A New Voice for Ancient Yearnings, is anticipated this winter, also from CCAR Press.
Alden’s work has been widely anthologized, including Men Pray (Skylight Paths Publishing) and Choosing a Jewish Life (Anita Diamant, Schocken), as well as these CCAR Press books: Gates of Shabbat; Mishkah R’Fuah: Where Healing Resides; L’col Z’man Eit: For Sacred Moments, a Rabbi’s Manual; and Mishkan Hanefesh, a new machzor. Alden is a three-time winner of Chicago journalism’s top prize for essay writing. He was the National Havurah Committee’s 2015 Summer Institute Liturgist-In-Residence. Here are his publishing credits.
Alden is available to teach, read his work or serve as liturgist-in-residence. His teaching spans from U.S. synagogues to Limmud Conference UK to HUC-JIR, Jerusalem. Here’s his speaking schedule, as well as testimonials from rabbis and educators.
Alden holds a B.A. in English composition with a minor in literature from Beloit College, an M.A. in journalism from the University of Illinois-Springfield and an M.B.A. in economics and finance from the University of Chicago. He previously served as executive editor and associate publisher for the Journals of the American Hospital Association.