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September 2, 2014 | 7th Elul 5774

Deval Patrick's Inauguration Benediction

On January 5, 2007, Deval L. Patrick made history as the first African-American to be inaugurated the governor of Massachusetts, and only the second of any state in American history.  I had the honor of giving the benediction (which was quoted by the New York Times).  Here are the words I spoke, the article in the Times, and video coverage.

Governor Patrick, Lieutenant Governor Murray, elected and civic leaders, people of the commonwealth, I am most deeply honored to offer these words of invocation to open this sacred assembly.

In the Talmud, the ancient rabbis teach that whenever we encounter a large gathering of people, it is appropriate to offer the following blessing:

“Blessed is the Wise One
Who understands secrets
For the mind of each
Is different from the other
Just as the face of each
Is different from the other.”

Source of all life,
Out of many,
You have made us ONE.
You have created us splendidly
In our distinctiveness:
You have made us a spectacular,
Living tapestry
Many colors and complexions
Rich in languages and beliefs,
Varied in our blessings,
And challenged by our curses.

Indeed the face of each one
Is different than the other –
And here we gather
Meeting,
Face to face.

Look around! See the beauty of the faces,
Each one unique
Reflecting the very image
Of the divine
Each one from a common source
A single, sacred family.

Yet behind every face
Hide so many secrets.
Private, painful secrets of suffering.
If only we would find your Wisdom O God
Revealing all the secrets,
The pained suffering
Of parents who watch helpless
As their children are plagued
By guns, drugs, and gangs
The private pain
Of children struggling to care for their parents
As they age and grow frail,
The secret suffering of immigrants
Who like us came to this place
To seek a better life
And labor hidden and underpaid in jobs
Upon which the rest of us depend,
But won’t do ourselves
Of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters
Who daily confront blatant discrimination,
Inequality and humiliation
Of those who sleep in the streets,
Those who are overworked and underpaid,
Those who are abused in their own homes
Those who are left behind
By their disabilities.

So many secrets,
Private sufferings.

Yet we have hope.
Yes we have faith.
Because we have each other.

Assembled here in the light of day
Bathing in the unseasonable warmth of your presence,
We affirm that democracy
Is not built with bricks and mortar;
We know your ancient wisdom
Is found in no cathedral,
Temple,
Nor shrine –
It is here,
Face to face
It is everywhere humanity gathers
And out of many,
Makes one.

Let our secrets of suffering
Give way to stories of
Rebuilding
Repair
And Redemption

Stories of redemption
Like a kid from the South Side of Chicago
Becoming the governor of Massachusetts
Representing the people

We the people;

Let us never forget the faces
The secrets
And the stories

God, grant us your wisdom
That we may never forget that
Democracy happens out here –
Face to face –
Among the people
As we join together
In one spirit
And write one shared story:

The story of a commonwealth
That acts like a commonwealth
Where secrets of private suffering
Where tales of lonely languish
Are joined
Through the power of the people
Rising up
Together
Encountering one another
Face to face
And writing a new story
One story

Echoing Isaiah’s ancient call:

“If you banish the yoke from your midst
The menacing hand
And evil speech
And you offer your compassion to the hungry
And satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
Then shall your light shine in the darkness
And your gloom shall be like noonday…

You shall be like a watered garden
Like a spring whose waters never fail.
And you shall rebuild ancient ruins
You shall restore the foundations of many generations
You shall be called the repairer of the breach…”

This is the story of redemption;
The story of a true commonwealth
Rebuilt
Repaired
And Redeemed.

Amen. May this be God’s will.

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