This morning I had the distinct honor of offering the benediction at the swearing in of Justice Raquel Montoya-Lewis, who became the first Native American justice on the Washington State Supreme Court, and the new Chief Justice Debra Stephens. Video can be found here.
Thank you, it is an honor to be with you here today to offer these words of blessing.
It is often said that we are a nation of laws, not of people. That is true, to an extent. We are governed by laws. But it is people who create, interpret and enforce the laws.
Our Jewish sacred scriptures begin with a story known to many. It is a story of a garden, two people, a talking snake and forbidden fruit. It is a story of disobedience, punishment and banishment. It is a story that teaches not that we as humans are by nature sinful, but rather that we as humans are by nature fallible.
And even so, God charged us humans, in all our fallibility, to care for Creation and each other.
To do this work, we entrust governments to maintain the public good. And while we entrust legislators to create laws, and executives to carry them out, we entrust our jurists with the ability to discern and oversee conflict, to mediate disputes, to interpret old laws in new situations, and to determine when our laws and our values are not in concert. To all who serve, it is a heavy responsibility, and we ask that you be blessed in this work.
May you be blessed to recognize the fullness of our human fallibility. That we are in a constant state of becoming. And that we have the ability to learn and grow, to transform ourselves and transform our world.
To our outgoing Chief Justice: As the psalmist wrote, “may the work of your hands long endure.” May you accept our deepest gratitude for your work on behalf of our state and all who live within it. And we offer prayers for a complete healing of body and spirit.
To our new Chief Justice: may you steward this body with care and deliberation and commitment both to your fellow justices, and to all those who stand before this court.
And to our new Justice, may you live into your historic appointment with pride and humility. May you bring your whole self to this work, drawing on your personal and professional past to help write a new future for all those you serve. May you, as our Talmud teaches, and I paraphrase, be both strong like the cedar, and flexible like the reed.
To all who sit on this court: may you approach your sacred task with compassion and commitment, creativity and cooperation. May you remember that the pursuit of justice must itself be just, and that it is not about right or wrong but how we can live into the best vision of ourselves. And may we all be uplifted by your work.
Ken yehi ratzon. May it be so.
Let us say, amen.