When such things as last week's Boston Marathon bombings and the Texas fertilizer plant explosion happen, it is easy to rail against life. Even after arrests are made and explanations given, many still fall into despair about such events. Our clergy offer Scriptures and words of comfort.
Rabbi Samuel Kehati, Temple B'nai Israel, Elmont:
Psalm 91:15: He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honor him.
God is around us in times of affliction and trouble. It is we who divorce God in times of prosperity and happiness. When things are OK, we don't think of God nearly as much as we do when we are in pain. When we are in trouble, we run back to God. So often, we just think: Me, me, me. But, in Boston and in West Texas, we saw "we, we, we."
That is proof that God is there all around us. He is with us and working through us. We saw people in Boston running -- not away from danger, away from the horror, but toward it to help others. There were those who brought out blankets, water and food for the runners. They were performing that which is the core of Judeo-Christian tradition: Love thy neighbor as thyself.
Both places became true houses of God as they brought healing to the afflicted and the suffering. Anytime you see someone step up to help another, that is God within them stepping up.
Imam Mohammad Farhan, Islamic Center
(English translations by Abdullah Yusuf Ali)
Quran 9:40: "Have no fear, for Allah is with us."
At the time of difficulties and troubles, which we all are going through at this time, we need to remember that God is looking at us all the time. He will comfort and ease our troubles.
He wants us to call upon him. When you see any difficulty in your life, it is a call for you to turn toward the Lord. It is a sign for you to come closer to him.
Quran 3:146: "How many of the Prophets fought (in Allah's way) and with them (fought) large bands of godly men. But they never lost heart if they met with disaster in Allah's way, nor did they weaken (in will) nor give in. And Allah loves those who are firm and steadfast."
We tend to forget when something afflicts us that we can turn toward a better life. The Quran explains that people who have difficulty don't lose heart or their beliefs. You can come back stronger after adversity.
Quran 5:32: "If any one slew a person -- unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land -- it would be as if he slew the whole people; and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people."
This verse reminds us that the pain of one is the pain of everyone. And, as one person is helped, all those afflicted are helped. So, remember that there were those rushing to help, and get strength from the fact total strangers were willing to rush in to help.
It is easy after innocents are murdered, through direct violence as in the Boston area or through possible greed and negligence as in West, Texas, to fall into despair. Fortunately, Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity share the rich Hebrew religious tradition that includes the Psalms.
While many turn to the familiar 23rd Psalm (The Lord is my shepherd . . . ), I find the greatest comfort in the Psalms that begin with complaint and petition and end in confidence and praise, a very common pattern. The most famous of these was invoked by Jesus on the cross, the 22nd Psalm that begins with "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" but ends with verses like 31-32, which read:
My descendants shall serve God; They shall be known as God's forever. They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn the saving deeds that God has done. (Psalm text from Isaac Everett's "The Emergent Psalter," Church Publishing, 2009)
It is comforting because it gives us permission to be in despair. I think people of faith, when they fall into despair, compound it by punishing themselves as if their faith is weak. But, Jesus fell into despair on the cross, and came through it. So, we can accept that we will despair, but God will bring us through it.
Paramjit Singh, priest, Mata Sahib Kaur Temple (Gurdwara), Glen Cove:
The Sikh holy book of Sikhism is Siri Guru Granth Sahib, which is the compiled book of Sikhism the living guru of the Sikh religion. The following are English translations of verses from the book:In your mercy, You care for all beings and creatures.
You produce corn and water in abundance; You eliminate pain and poverty, and carry all beings across.
The Great Giver listened to my prayer, and the world has been cooled and comforted.
Take me into Your Embrace, and take away all my pain.
Nanak meditates on the Naam, the name of the Lord; the House of God is fruitful and prosperous.
By reading and chanting these verses, you can receive comfort knowing that you're not alone and that God has not forsaken you at this time.