Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Opening Prayer for the Colorado State House on Tu B'shvat - 2/1/18

Image result for trees
Yesterday was the Jewish holiday of Tu B’shvat – the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat – also known as the New Year of the trees.  On this day, Jews around the world and especially in the land of Israel give thanks for the gift of trees.  Today is the “Jewish Arbor Day,” a day when we realize the importance of these magnificent plants that sustain us all.

Trees grow with their leaves spreading to the heavens – giving us oxygen to breathe, wood with which to build, fruit to build up our bodies and beauty to sustain our souls.

We live in and among them and there are many lessons we can learn from their magnificent beauty.

We can measure their growth against the sky, but it is what we do NOT see that truly should inspire us:  the miraculous anchors that hold them firm: the roots planted in stabilizing soil – that keep them strong as they battle against the stormy winds of change and the seasonal upheaval that threatens their survival.

Trees are home to a multitude of God’s creatures: all have a place among their branches; all are welcome to find a home in the cocoon of their canopies.  It is only when the balance of nature is upended and one organism becomes dominant that they become weakened by parasitic pests that strip them of their bark and feed on their foliage.

God – help us to learn from their majestic beauty – as well as from their fragility. As these legislators work to better our society may they come to value the deep roots implanted within our society:  roots of tolerance and trust; of mutual respect and an awareness of the call to both compassion and compromise.

May they continue to hold sacred the diversity of our state and our nation and hold fast against the rising tide of isolationism, hatred and ignorance that threatens to weaken the core values that keep us united and strong.

Help us to find You in the branches of government born out of a desire for dialogue, debate and the belief our national motto: E Pluribus Unum – from the many we are one.

And may we take time from our day – every day – to gaze up at the beauty of your creation- and in doing so – recognize just how fortunate we are to be here all together.


Wednesday, January 24, 2018

A Song For Koby

There are moments in our lives when we question everything we take for granted.

This past Sunday our community came together to mourn the tragic loss of Koby Gruenwald. Koby’s twenty two month fight with cancer shook those who knew him- and many who didn’t - to the very core. His parents, Rabbi Saloman and Melanie Gruenwald, documented both his struggles and his triumphant spirit that, to the very end, refused to allow his disease to define him or to destroy his joy of life from being trampled. Koby’s laughter, Music, and vibrancy never faded. His last words, “This. Is. Bullshit!” were a testimony to his fighting spirit and irrepressible determination.

I wrote this song the morning before the funeral service. It was the first time that I ever sobbed uncontrollably while attempting to put my feelings to both words and music.

“Koby” is a nickname for ‘Yaakov’ or Jacob. The images of Jacob wrestling with a mysterious stranger and dreaming of a ladder that reached to heaven were especially poignant as I thought about Koby’s life and the struggles of this incredible family.

Zecher Tzaddik Livracha - May the memory of Koby Gruenwald be for an eternal blessing.

For Koby - January 21, 2018 Words and music (c) Rabbi Joe Black

 Jacob wrestled with an stranger and fought on ‘till break of dawn
He battled fear and danger ‘till a blessing came along
His struggle was defining it showed us who we are
But no Godly beacon shining could erase his ugly scar

Koby we will always hear your voice 
Singing loud and strong 
With a painful Hallelujah God’s presence flowed right through you 
Your blessing was your song 

 When words cannot be spoken then music takes its place
When the world seems lost and broken and the tears stream down our face
When grief and loss are mingled God seems hard to reach
When a family grasps for meaning what’s the lesson we can teach?

 Seems like every day we’re climbing ladders next to angels taking wing
We search in vain for things that matter as our voices grasp for healing words to sing
God’s gifts to us are fleeting and our hearts, like drums are beating
With the rhythms we all bring
And it stings......

 Our hearts and souls are tattered-we see only black and white
When the vessels all are shattered we gather sacred sparks to bring us light
In the valley of the shadows we do not walk in vain
We’re all wrestling with the stranger.
We’re all struggling with our pain

Click below to see a video of the song:
Video: Song For Koby

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Opening Prayer for the State House of Colorado January 18, 2018

Opening Prayer for the State House of Colorado
January 18, 2018
Rabbi Joseph R. Black – Temple Emanuel - Denver

Our God and God of all people:

We come to you this morning from many different faith traditions.  As we celebrate the splendor and potential of our great State of Colorado, we acknowledge the fact that you reveal many truths – it is our task to hear and heed them.

Merciful Creator, guide these Legislators as they go about their sacred work. May any conflicts that arise in the course of deliberation be seen as a reflection of the diversity with which we have been blessed.

Holy One of Blessing – help our leaders to see the good in one other – and let that goodness triumph over partisanship.

In this time of cynicism and divisiveness, help these men and women to see the faces that, all too often are unseen – the men, women and children living on the edge - for whom these deliberations may very well determine the difference between hope and despair.

May this day bring out the best in these leaders who have been elected to labor on behalf of their constituents.

Our God - we have seen You in the faces of faceless – eager to love and be loved

We have heard you in moments of wonder – when men, women and children come together in mutual longing and the promise of a better tomorrow.

On this day of deliberation, let us pray that our leaders and officials might find You within themselves. 

·        May they find You in their ability to hear one other – to respect one other – to do the sacred work of governing our State of Colorado.

·        May they find You in satisfaction that comes from hard work and due deliberation.

·        May they come to know You as they come to know each other – and respect the skills that each brings to the floor of debate.

·        May their discussions give way to a higher sense of purpose and understanding – and along the way, may it elucidate and elevate the decisions that are to be made.

We thank you for these men and women who serve our great state of Colorado.  Guide their deliberations with purpose and an awareness of the sacred.

And let us say,