Opening Prayer for the Colorado State House
April 21, 2016
Rabbi Joseph R. Black - Temple Emanuel - Denver, CO
Tomorrow night, Jews around the world will gather together around the table to celebrate the Seder as we welcome the holiday of Passover. During the course of the Passover Seder, we will eat special foods that remind us of our experience with both slavery and freedom. We will tell the ancient story of the Exodus from Egypt.
We will be reading from a book called a Haggadah. The word, "Haggadah" means "telling the story." As we tell our story, we move from the degradation of oppressive slavery, to the promise of freedom and redemption.
A key phrase in the Haggadah reads: "Bchol dor vador, Chayav Adam Lerot et atzmo k'ilu HU yatzah mi Mitzrayim" -- "In every generation, each of us is obligated to see ourselves as though we, personally went forth out of Egypt."
We are required to experience both the bitterness of enslavement and the joy of liberation.
This is not symbolic. Throughout the course of the Seder, we taste the bitterness of slavery in the bitter herbs that we eat. We eat the bread of affliction - the matza, and we drink the salt water of our tears. It is only after we recount the story of our deliverance that we rejoice.
The act of experiencing the pain of oppression forces us to be mindful of all who are oppressed - not matter who they are or where they are. Those who are oppressed because of their faith, the gender, their social status, appearance, who they love or how they love are all created in the Divine image. We see the oppressed in far away places and literally across the street from this sacred structure.
Let us pray:
Our God and God of all people:
God of the poor
God of the rich
God of the grounded and God of the refugee.
God of the parent and God of the child.
God of the Captain and God of Captive
God of the persecuted and God of the privileged
God of those who have no God.
Tomorrow night, when so many of your Children around the world will tell the story of deliverance that is both ancient and modern, help us to remember your promises of redemption - past and future.
Teach us that it is not enough to wait for Your hand of deliverance - our mission is to BE Your hands.
Use us, O Creator, to bring about the desperately needed change in Your world.
In our nation that values freedom, open our eyes to those enslaved around us.
We see enslavement in those trafficked for evil ends on our streets.
We see enslavement in those whose ideologies cannot allow themselves to see the humanity in those around them
We see enslavement in the crippling effects of economic oppression.
We see enslavement in those who are victimized by brutal governments.
We see enslavement in those who lives are ruined by substances designed to capture the souls of despair and hunger for meaning.
And once our eyes are opened, help us to work, together, to create a society that truly celebrates the freedom that You taught us to love, to fight for and to celebrate.
On this day of deliberation, guide these lawmakers as they work on our behalf and on Your behalf. Help them to both feel the pain of oppression and the exquisite joy of liberation. Free them from the bonds of partisanship. Teach them to listen to the passion of their colleagues. Open doors of dialogue and tear down the altars of diatribe.
At the end of the Seder, we say the words: "Next Year in Jerusalem" - next year may all be free. We pray that the vision of the City of Peace may come to be - in our hearts, our homes, our beautiful state of Colorado - and every inch of Your Creation.