Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Prayer

What follows is the prayer that I delivered as the representative of Judaism at the Iftar held at the Embassy of Pakistan to the United States on July 9, 2015.  I want to thank Ambassador Jalil Abbas Jilani for giving me the opportunity these past two years to deliver a prayer at this event.   And I would like to wish any Muslim who is reading this blog a very blessed Ramadan.  Your ability to continue to fast from Sunup to Sundown every day for a month in the middle of the Summer is truly inspiring.

Adonai, we in this room represent many traditions, and yet there is so much that unites us. We seek knowledge.  We thirst for universal prosperity and liberty.   And we care deeply about our youth, both for their own sake and for that of the future.  

Yet, when I take stock in this world at the dawn of a new millennium, what do I see?  That in the most affluent and educated communities – and especially among their youth – the interest in You is fading.  That in my own blessed United States of America, which is merely following the trends that began in Europe, the fastest growing religion is “none of the above”?

Adonai, when I turn on the television or open a newspaper, there is no shortage of talk about those who seek to destroy out of hatred.   But what about those who have abandoned You not in order to kill, but in order to tend to their own creature comforts?  What about those who have heard words attributed to You, words such as the words from the Torah, “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” and who ignore these words, not out of spite or resentment, but simply out of apathy?  Are these people not also worthy of our concerns?  Do they not also pose a threat to our world?

Adonai, I don’t see You primarily as a savior, or a beloved, or a friend -- though Your Holy Name can be all those things.  I see You as a commander.  And tonight I ask that we all feel commanded.  Commanded to confront apathy – about You and about all that is holy.  

May we have the insight to realize that only by putting our minds together, as representatives of different traditions, can we find the antidote to this scourge of rising apathy, cascading hedonism, and all that flows from them.     

May we have the perseverance to come together, both within our respective communities and as part of the interfaith movement, to shine a light on the transcendent, a light so bright that even the apathetic and cynical among us can’t help but notice.   

May we have the wisdom to recognize that above all else, You are a mystery – the mystery of what is truly Ultimate – and that it is our job to inspire people to search for You as a mystery, and never to tell them that we have all the answers and they must be fools if they don’t believe us.

Adonai, may we remain resolute that to serve and honor You is the ultimate privilege.  But above all else, may we remain forever humble.  For despite our understandable pride in recognizing Your unparalleled greatness and our own ability to serve You here on earth, You also remind us that there is no uglier sin than that of arrogance.   And tonight, we will commit ourselves never to be ugly.  And always to serve You in beauty.


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