Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Prayer for the End of a Legislative Session

A Prayer for the End of a Legislative Session
April 30, 2015
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
Temple Emanuel - Denver, CO
Colorado House Of Representatives

Our God and God of All creation:
God who inspires fear and God who comforts.
God who can be found in the rubble of the quake, and in the marches for justice in the streets.
All around us we confront the debris of existence.  We, who try to infuse order into the disarray of daily life understand all too well that, at any moment, the calm we take for granted can be plunged into chaos without warning – whether by natural disaster or pent-up anger and frustration.
In this sacred chamber, the tasks of governance seem both insignificant and indispensable at the same time.  When we try to assess our actions in light of the challenges that face us, our attempts to create change can  seem insignificant. And yet, our refusal to succumb to a cynicism bred from hubris is a defining  characteristic of the divinity You have implanted within us all.
As this legislative session draws to a close, we look back at the months that have passed with mixed emotions.  The hours upon hours of negotiation have been both fruitful and frustrating.  How many hopes for meaningful change were left discarded on the cutting floors and backroom deals of the political process?  How many well-intentioned initiatives were defeated in the name of expedience and influence?
But there were also moments when our highest ideals were on display for all to see.  When politics were set aside for the sake of the common good; When men and women of character came together in the name of our shared values of democracy; when both sides of the aisle were united in determination to celebrate the potential for making a difference…it was, is and always will be these acts of humanity that give us hope in the face of our daily challenges. 
Thank you, God for the ability to shine a light on the goodness of humankind – even when we face adversity.  Thank You for reasons to rise above the petty and the political to make a difference.  Thank you for these leaders who share their passion for representing their communities.  May the recess that awaits them bring rest, renewal and a re-ignited hope for all that is good.
We pray for those around the world whose lives are uprooted by natural disaster, perceived injustice, disease and warfare.  We pray for our great state of Colorado- may we always lift our eyes to the mountains to find Your presence.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Invocation for the Colorado House of Representatives - Yom Ha Shoah - Holocaust Remembrance Day

Invocation for the Colorado House of Representatives
Holocaust Memorial Day
April 16, 2015
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
Temple Emanuel – Denver, CO

Our God and God of compassion,
This morning we stand – not merely in prayer – but in remembrance.
We remember the more than 13,000,000 souls destroyed in the nightmare of the Shoah – the Nazi Holocaust.  Among those innocents exterminated by the Nazis were:
  • ·        Intellectuals
  • ·        Communists
  • ·        Socialists
  • ·        Catholics
  • ·        The Mentally and Physically infirm
  • ·        Gypsies/Roma
  • ·        Gays and Lesbians

·      And, of course – 6 million Jews – of whom 1.5 million were children.

These numbers are not new.  I have lived with them all of my life.
My mother was born in Leipzig, Germany.  She lived through Kristallnacht – the night of broken glass that took place on November 9th, 1938.  She and her parents were able to escape to America and begin new lives here – but the shadows of that night and the months and years that followed, never really disappeared from her consciousness.  That she lived and so many others died created a struggled that she has carried with her all of her life.

This year we commemorate not only the tragedy of the Shoah, but also the 70h anniversary of the liberation of the death and Concentration camps created by the Nazi War machine.  70 years ago, the world came face to face with the depths of humanity’s potential to combine technology and brutality and create the machinery of death.  

Bergen Belzen

....these  and so many other names are forever etched into the nightmares of history – these places of pure evil that taught us the depths to which human beings will descend in order to deny the Divine Image implanted within each of us….

In trying to understand the enormity of evil represented by the dark period of the Shoah we must accept the fact that in some cases there can be no understanding.  To state that one and a half million children died for a reason is blasphemy.  In a world where we strive to see God’s presence, the reality of evil can eclipse even the brightest flame of holiness.

Our task, in remembering those precious souls who perished, must be to strengthen our resolve to call out and combat evil wherever and whenever it arises. When we are silent, we are complicit.

Elie Weisel – the great writer and teacher wrote:

"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it's indifference." 

When we turn our backs to the ugliness in our world – we are desecrating God’s presence in our midst.  Let us remember that with the holiness implanted within us comes the responsibility to shine a light on both good and evil – wherever it may find itself.

I now will chant the El Malei Rachamim – the prayer of remembrance for  those who perished.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Our Budget Reflects Our Values - Opening Prayer for the CO State House - April 9, 2015

Our Budget Reflects Our Values
Invocation for the Colorado State House
Rabbi Joseph R. Black – Temple Emanuel, Denver, CO
April 9, 2015

Our God and God of all people:
On this sacred day – these legislators are focused on the difficult task of approving a $25 Billion budget for our fair State of Colorado.   While many see the budgeting process as a tedious wrangling of numbers from one column to another so that the final results might be balanced, there is another way to approach it.  Instead of seeing columns, figures and numbers, might we also consider the fact that each dollar allocated serves as an opportunity to bring about change and hope in the lives of all too many of our citizens whose capacity for wonder is compromised by the brutal struggle for daily existence?
Our budgets reflect our values.
Our values color our vision of the world around us.
Our vision determines the way we live up to the sacred responsibilities that have been entrusted to us – as legislators, citizens and servants of a God who holds us to high standards of compassion and cooperation.
On this day of deliberation, let us pray that these lawmakers will see the faces of the men, women and children who are  affected by each column in the balance sheet; each line item that has been added or subtracted before the finals are tallied.
At the end of this day, may all of these dedicated public servants be able to find peace in the knowledge they have done all that they could  to make our world, our state, our neighborhoods, our homes – our very selves – just a little bit better.
May politics and pride be no stumbling block to the achievement of the shared goal of working to perfect this all-too imperfect world.
God we thank you for the opportunities You have given us to make a difference.  May we continue to go and grow from strength to strength.