Pictured above (left to right):memorial for Philando Castile, a Dallas Police badge wrapped in a mourning band and a memorial for Alton Sterling

This morning, many of us woke up to the horrific news that five Dallas police officers were killed and another seven officers and two civilians were injured in the deadliest single incident for US law enforcement since September 11th. Officers Brent Thompson and Patrick Zamarripa, along with three of their colleagues who have yet to be named, were shot by a sniper who, according to reports, was determined to kill “white people, specifically white police officers.” The shooter admitted that his rampage was in response to the tragic deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, both black men who were killed by police officers in separate incidents this week. The truly disturbing and graphic videos of Sterling and Castile’s deaths are out there for us all to see. The investigations have begun as have the calls for justice.

While it is nearly impossible to look past the violence of last night, I still hear the words of Alton Sterling’s aunt, Sandra Sterling, in my head:

“I’m not angry enough to hurt nobody. I’m not angry enough to go in the street. I’m not angry enough to curse the police out. But I’m angry and I’m mad because they took something from me that I’ll never, ever get back. So y’all pray for me. But we gotta have peace and unity out here.”         

Responding to Sterling’s request for prayer, one blogger/reporter, Bobby Ross Jr., suggested earlier this week that the prayers that followed Sterling and Castile’s deaths might have actually kept the peace – until last night.  You can read Ross’ words here.

When things get really challenging, many of us turn to prayer for comfort, for strength, for insight. Others question whether prayer does anything at times like these. Obviously, it did nothing to stop last night’s massacre in Dallas. Many ask if prayer really has the ability to do anything good as we struggle to comprehend and respond to this horrific violence. While prayer alone is not enough, I do believe that it has the ability to unite us when we are divided, lift us up when we are pushed down and give us a glimpse of goodness when we are surrounded by so much hatred.

With that being said, please say a prayer for Sandra Sterling and her family, for the Castile family, for the Thompson, Zamarippa and yet to be named fallen officers’ families, for all those wounded last night and everyone affected by this week’s violence. And join me in praying that this is a peaceful Shabbat throughout our country.

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