Friday, April 27, 2018

An "Acceptable" Prayer for the US House of Representatives (Satire)

With the news that outgoing Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan has asked the Chaplain of the United States House of Representatives, Father Patrick Conroy to resign due to the "unacceptable" nature of his prayers on the House floor, I humbly submit this invocation as a potential substitute that may be more in keeping with the religious values of those who were uncomfortable with his prophetic bent....
Heavenly Father who watches over us.
On this sacred day of deliberation, we pray that You guard our nation and its patriots.
Secure our borders and keep away those who seek our shelter.
Protect the rights of all who seek to defend themselves against the ugliness we do not wish to see.
Arm us as we arm ourselves against the onslaught of our enemies:
·         Those who dare to challenge our conscience
·         Those who cannot rise up out of the despair they have created for themselves
·         Those who see the holiness in the unwashed, the discarded and the degraded.
Lord – we have been blessed with a nation that we know is far superior to all others.  Protect us from harsh words and policies that challenge our destiny. 
Let us build a fortress of prayer that will shield us from things we do not want to confront.
We know that You love us and we thank you for Your many blessings.
May the wealth and prosperity that we have inherited allow us to live in continued comfort while we deny those who would dare to ask our help.
In this way we can affirm our faith and continue to reap the benefits of Your blessings.
And let us say:  AMEN
OR perhaps, the words of the prophet might be more appropriate:
Isaiah 58:3-7:
3 Why, when we fasted, did You not see? When we starved our bodies, did You pay no heed? Because on your fast day you see to your business and oppress all your laborers!
4 Because you fast in strife and contention, and you strike with a wicked fist! Your fasting today is not such as to make your voice heard on high.
5 Is such the fast I desire, a day for men to starve their bodies? Is it bowing the head like a bulrush and lying in sackcloth and ashes? Do you call that a fast, a day when Adonai is favorable?
6 No, this is the fast I desire: To unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of the yoke to let the oppressed go free; to break off every yoke.

7 It is to share your bread with the hungry, and to take the wretched poor into your home; when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to ignore your own kin."

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Opening Prayer for the CO State House on Yom Ha Shoah - Holocaust Memorial Day April 12, 2018

Invocation for the Colorado House of Representatives
Holocaust Memorial Day
April 12,2018
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
Temple Emanuel – Denver, CO

Our God and God of compassion:
In the Jewish Calendar – this day is called Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Memorial Day.
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 passed away this past June at the age of 91.  She 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 disappeared from her consciousness until she suffered a stroke on the day after her 91st birthday.  As devastating as that event was in our lives, in some ways it was a blessing since it allowed her to find relief from the fears and anxieties that plagued her all of her life as she confronted the memories of her experiences as a young girl in Nazi Germany.
Today, Jews and people of faith all around the world remember how hatred and bigotry came together with modern technology to create a machinery of death that had never before been witnessed in human history.
Auschwitz, Birkenau, Bergen Belzen, Dachau, Treblinka – these  and so many other names are forever etched into our consciousness – these places of pure evil that taught  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 4, 2018

Gardens and Gavels: Opening prayer for the Colorado State House. 4-5-18

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Opening Prayer for the Colorado House of Representatives
Rabbi Joseph R. Black
Temple Emanuel – Denver, CO
April 5, 2018

Our God and God of Times and Seasons.
This past week, people of faith around the world have celebrated festivals that celebrate new life, hope and redemption.  Easter reminds Christians of the potential to be reborn with faith and hope.  Passover teaches my community the vital message of redemption and renewal.
We have come to this sacred chamber this morning to find hope, purpose and bring about change.  The dynamic process of debate and discussion that begins with drop of the speaker’s gavel, while sometimes imperfect, represents our human desire to bring our world one step closer to holiness.
Legislation will be carefully crafted.
Words will be chosen with exquisite care – designed both to provoke and to move the hearts and souls of colleagues on opposite sides of the isle.
Alliances will be forged and broken and forged again – subject to the whims of political reality and the delicate dance of public opinion.
In truth it is a messy process.
This holy time of the calendar teaches us that there is always an opportunity for new beginnings.  As seasons change and winter turns to spring, we see new growth all around us.
The walls of this chamber sometimes seem to be all consuming, and yet, outside it is almost time for planting.
Those who dream of gardens know that the soil must first be prepared; last autumn’s debris removed and nutrients must be liberally applied.
The seeds that promise both blossom and harvest lie dormant in the palms of our hands – waiting to be nestled in the warm embrace of fertile soil soaked in life-giving water.
Holy Creator - may these men and women who labor on our behalf become gardeners.  Give them the strength to till the fields; to break new ground, to water new shoots and, (dare I say it?), spread the fertilizer necessary to bring to harvest a better vision for our state.
Give them the tools they need.  Help them to remember that the ever-changing climate of Spring will soon give way to the consistent warmth of summer. 
May ours be a balanced garden – filled with both beauty and sustenance.  May the harvest of this holy session overflow with goodness and compassion.
We pray for rain.  We pray for strength. We give thanks for the ability to be your partner in growing a better world.