Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Prayer for Unity: Invocation for the CO House Of Representatives - 1/30/14

Invocation for the Colorado House of Representatives
January 30, 2014
Rabbi Joseph R. Black – Temple Emanuel, Denver, CO

In three days, the eyes of the world will be focused on a cold football stadium in New Jersey.  Most of Colorado will be gathered around our televisions, cheering on our beloved Broncos.  For four quarters, we will be brought together in our support of our gridiron gladiators.  For a brief moment in time, our hearts and our hopes will be united.
If only our ability to come together could expand beyond loyalty to our sports teams!  Think of what we could accomplish if we put aside our bickering and focused on making our State a better place.  For too long, the walls of this chamber have echoed with partisan passion and ad hominum accusations.  Now is time for change.  We pray for compassion and communion. 

Our God and God of all people.

You have given us a moral and intellectual core that allows us to discern the inequities and injustices around us.  Help us to use this gift wisely.

Bless these elected officials, O God.  Give them the strength to see beyond the petty and the political.  Help them to look deep inside themselves and into the eyes of those with whom they disagree.  Let them see you wherever they gaze.

Help them to remember why they were brought here.  Let them understand the positions and the passions of their opponents.  Let them move beyond the polemic to the poetic.

And in the process of doing so, God – may they become united: not only in loyalty to party and platform – but in their common vision for a better world, a better country, a better state of Colorado.

On this day of deliberation, we pray that those who seek meaning and purpose in their lives and through their work will find You in the potential to make a difference in their actions.

At this time of new beginnings, may Your presence guide even those who do not seek You.

We pray that you might be present to those who labor on behalf of our community.

Thank you for all of Your blessings.  And Go Broncos!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Finding My Voice

There's an old movie cliché where a man whose face is covered with bandages is lying in a hospital bed.  The doctor walks in, scissors in hand and asks:  "Are you ready to see what your new face looks like?"  "I'm not sure I am," the patient replies, "but let's get on with it."  The music swells to a crescendo as we see and hear the 'snip snip' of the scissors. The bandages fall to the floor and everyone in the room gasps - with horror or with joy, we don't know.  The doctor holds out a mirror.  The man takes it and tentatively brings it up to see what the future will bring….
This past week I haven't been able to keep that image out of my head.  No - I haven't undergone plastic surgery, but I have been on complete vocal rest due to a bruised vocal cord.  Today was the day we removed the metaphorical bandages and I was able to slowly start to speak. When I woke up this morning, I must confess, I was afraid to say anything.  What if I didn't have a voice anymore?  What if I never could speak or sing again?
The good news is, I do have a voice, but after a week of silence it’s raspy, rusty and frail.  I'm told that's to be expected, and, if I follow my doctor's advice, I’ll slowly but surely be good as new.  And yet, the experience of not being able to speak or sing has been very humbling and frightening.  There are no guarantees for what the future may bring.
I've learned a lot this past week - and I'm still learning.   I've learned how much I take my voice for granted.  I’ve learned how it feels to be vulnerable.  I’ve learned how hard it can be when I’m not fully engaged in a conversation.  I’ve had to move from the center of attention to the sidelines.  Anyone who knows me well understands how I might find that somewhat frustrating and difficult. 
At the same time, however, after the first few days of fear and frustration, I eventually gave in to the silence. 
I found myself listening a lot more than I had in the past.  I started to see my vocal rest as a method of purification – a cleansing of sorts.  I’ve learned how communication is not only the words we say – but how we approach the people around us.
I’ve also been much more aware of how our words can shape the world.
God created with words. In Genesis1:3 we find:
וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים יְהִי־אוֹר וַֽיְהִי־אֽוֹר
Vayomer Elohim:  Y’hi or – vay’hi or.
And God said: Let there be light!  And there was light.
Words can also destroy.
In the book of Proverbs 18:21 we find the following:

מָוֶת וְחַיִּים בְּיַד־לָשׁוֹן
 Mavet v’chayim b’yad ha lashon
Death and Life are in the power of the Tongue.”
Rabbi Joseph Tulushkin, in his book, Words That Hurt, Words That Heal: How to Choose Words Wisely and Well writes about the impact that our words have on those around us and our own spiritual wellness.  The way that we chose our words can lift up or destroy relationships – even entire worlds.
Over the next few days, my doctor has instructed me that I should strive to only speak 6-7 sentences an hour…. It’s not going to be easy, but I welcome the challenge.  Each sentence I choose will have to be carefully weighed and savored.  There can be no wasted words.
Maybe we all should take some time and think about the words we use every day?