Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Opening Prayer for the Colorado State House Before Passover

Opening Prayer For the Colorado House of Representatives
April 6, 2017
Rabbi Joseph R. Black – Temple Emanuel.  Denver, CO

In just a few days, Jews around the world will be celebrating the festival of Passover.  On the first and second nights, we will gather around festive tables and retell the ancient story of our redemption at a special meal called a seder.  With song, prayers, special foods and ancient symbols we will heed the call to relive the experience of liberation from Egyptian bondage. 

For seven days we will refrain from eating foods that are leavened - no bread, no pastries, nothing that contains yeast - in order to remember the haste with which our ancestors had to flee Egypt.

Passover is a joyous festival.  As we tell and retell our ancient story of deliverance, we literally taste the bitterness of slavery and the sweetness of freedom.  We drink 4 cups of wine to remember the 4 divine promises of salvation.

And yet, as we look around the world today, we see that there are many people for whom the Passover message of freedom and redemption is out of reach.  In too many dark corners of our world,  violence and desolation reign supreme. Slavery still casts a dark shadow.  Freedom is stifled.  Repression is rampant. 

Even in our beautiful state of Colorado, there are those outside these walls who are enslaved to lives of violence, poverty, drugs, alcohol, homelessness and abuse. Immigrants live in fear of deportation. The suffering in our streets and the cries of the downtrodden call upon us to build bridges of hope and understanding while tearing down walls of separation and degradation.

But we need not look outside of ourselves to find the urgent message of Passover.  It echoes within us all.  How many of us are enslaved to enmity and strife?  How often – in this very chamber - do we refrain from reaching out in compromise and retreat to partisanship?

On this day of hope and promise, O God, we ask Your blessing on this august body.  May these legislators, officials, clerks and dedicated public servants find new hope in the process of governing.  May any arguments that arise in the course of deliberation and debate be catalysts for communion with You and one another. 

O God – You have bequeathed to us a world filled with beauty and endless possibility.  Help us to find the eternal messages of liberation and self-determination that echo within this sacred chamber and in our hearts.  May the message of Passover stir within us all a burning desire to bring hope and freedom to all.  And Let us say, AMEN

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