Earlier this week I visited El Paso on a trip of about 20 Jewish clergy to the southern border, sponsored by HIAS and T’ruah. There is much to reflect on and process, and I will be sharing more in the future. In the meantime, I had already been scheduled to deliver the invocation at the Washington State House. Here are the words I shared, inspired in part by my trip:
Yesterday I returned from two days in El Paso, TX as part of a delegation of Jewish clergy—rabbis and cantors—that visited to witness, observe, experience, and learn about what is happening at the southern border of the United States. It was moving, challenging, full of despair and hope.
As we gather once again in this sacred chamber to do this important work, I offer you these four reflections from this trip as a blessing for your work of governance and leadership of our state:
May you, our legislators, recognize that systemic problems require systemic solutions. May you have the understanding to seek out root causes and apply them to your work of governance. Like the roots of a tree, sometimes these causes are tangled, hidden, and far removed from their result. May you be blessed in your work towards addressing both immediate needs and long-term solutions.
May you, our legislators, balance law with justice, order with compassion. Jewish mysticism teaches that we are in a constant process of harmonizing hesed—lovingkindess and openness—and gevurah—rigidity and boundaries. May you be blessed with the insight to see how to navigate these two seemingly opposite forces for the benefit of all.
May you, our legislators, not sacrifice the first steps for the long journey. May you be blessed with the perseverance, diligence, and vision that true change requires. In the words of the ancient Jewish proverb, “It is not upon you to complete the task, but neither are you free to forgo it.” Let us not do nothing, because we can’t do everything.
And may you, our legislators, have the ability to recognize the inherent divinity and worth of each and every human being. May you be blessed with the knowledge that our state, indeed our society, is only as good as it treats all of its people. May you be blessed with the curiosity to ask good questions, the patience to listen to the answers, and the wisdom to know that each of us has an individual story, a journey, that makes up the fabric of the whole.
With gratitude for your service to our State, may you be blessed in all of your work, and may the work of your hands long endure.
Ken yehi ratzon, may it be so.