NVOCATION BY RABBI ARNOLD RACHLIS (Board Chair of MAZON)
UNIVERSITY SYNAGOGUE, IRVINE CA
MARCH 18, 2009
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA’S VISIT TO ORANGE COUNTY
Divine Source of Healing and Growth, Creator of a beautiful world around us and a moral universe within us, You who are called by so many names in all of the languages and traditions of the world, Awesome God of the Blue States and the Red States, of the United States and of the world, fill us with hope and love today as we welcome the dream of what America can be, represented by our visionary President Barack Obama. The name “Barack” means blessed and our President is truly a blessing for our country and the world. Our President is also grateful for the blessings of love, education, and opportunity that he has received and he knows that the truest gratitude that he or we can show is to pay our blessings forward to empower and ennoble the lives of others. President Obama has an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation and, even more, the audacity of hope to bring much needed change to our country.
We know, as President Obama knows, that government alone can’t cure all of the ills of the world, and yet we are here today to declare that government has a crucial role, an indispensable role, a holy responsibility. We, the people, acting individually and together, in charitable groups, through synagogues, churches, mosques, temples and all holy places of worship, we the people, through national and local organizations and through government at all levels, we the people, as concerned men and women, young and old, we are the ones who must fulfill our mandate to act – to be human, more fully human, than we are now. We need our government to support us, and we need to support our President through challenges unimagined even a year ago. In the Biblical Book of Isaiah, we are reminded of what our mandate must be.
“To share our bread with the hungry,
and to bring to the homeless, shelter;
to clothe the naked,
and to refuse to turn aside at human injustice.”
We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers and we cannot stand idly by in the face of injustice, whether far away or in our own communities. A skinny kid, who believed that America had a place for him too, once asked: “How far do our obligations reach? How do we transform mere power into justice, mere sentiment into love?”
Today, that skinny kid is the President of the United States!
Source of all creation, we know that our leaders will do their work with compassion, generosity and purpose if we live by these values, as well. We know that our leaders will inspire us if we also inspire them, with a vision of what our country can be.
We are told by an ancient tradition that “anyone who saves one life, it is as if he or she has saved an entire world.” Because by turning one life around, we lift that person, and hopefully all of his or her descendants, out of vulnerability, pain, despair and perhaps even death.
Holy One, bless us with vision, courage, determination and decency. Open our hearts to the goodness in our own lives which we, all too often, take for granted. Let our eyes see those in need, let our ears hear those who cry out in pain and let our hearts feel the despair of those who suffer in our midst and across the world.
We are honored by the visit of President Obama today and deeply grateful that he is our President of the United States of America at this crucial moment in history. We pray, in the words of the poet Judy Chicago, echoing the dreams from our Biblical fathers and mothers:
“And then all that has divided us will merge
And then compassion will be wedded to power
And then softness will come to a world that is harsh and unkind
And then both men and women will be gentle
And then both women and men will be strong
And then no person will be subject to another’s will
And then all will be rich and free and varied
And then the greed of some will give way to the needs of many
And then all will share equally in the Earth’s abundance
And then all will care for the sick and the weak and the old
And then all will nourish the young
And then all will cherish life’s creatures
And then all will live in harmony with each other and the Earth
And then everywhere will be called Eden once again.”