Praying With The News

Rabbi Yael Levy
386 words, 9K views, 18 comments


We are grateful to Rupali Bhuva for offering this hand-made painting for this reading.

The 17th of the Hebrew month Tammuz initiates a three-week period of mourning that leads to Tisha b’Av, which is the day that marks the destruction of the Temples in Jerusalem in 586 BCE and 70 CE.

Tradition teaches that the Temple was destroyed because hatred became the operating principle in the community. The scorn, contempt and disdain that characterized daily interactions caused the Divine Presence to flee and leave the Temple vulnerable to attack.

These next three weeks ask us to reflect on the hatred that we allow to take root in our hearts. The wisdom of the tradition acknowledges that hatred can sometimes feel energizing and “so right,” but allowing it to fill our bodies and guide our actions leads to destruction.

Many years ago I was taught the practice of praying with the news. I have shared it over the years and always find myself returning to it during this season.

In this practice, each time we read or listen to a news report that enrages us, we turn our attention to those harmed by what is happening and pray for their healing and well-being. Doing so encourages us to acknowledge feelings of anger, grief and despair, and at the same time it turns our attention toward connection and compassion. Praying with the news can help us learn to bear witness to devastation and mayhem, while keeping our hearts soft, our minds calm, and our actions clear.

I am struggling mightily with this practice these days in the wake of continued violence and oppression in this country and throughout the world. Hatred can sometimes feel like such a welcome harbor. Not only does it feel so right, it can also act as a shield, creating the illusion that I don’t have to acknowledge the grief and heartbreak I am experiencing.

I need practices to help quiet the rage and fear, to loosen the constriction of hatred and to help me be with overwhelming grief. I need practices to help me return to compassion, love, joy and possibility. I find praying with the news both painful and helpful. It keeps me connected, allows sorrow, and grounds me in care and love.


Rabbi Yael Levy is author, mindfulness teacher and rabbinic director of A Way In. Jewish Forward named one of "America's Most Inspiring Rabbis".