Michael Knopf
Rabbi and editor of 'No Time for Neutrality'

A Rabbi’s Blessing at Virginia’s 2018 Inauguration Ceremony

I was honored to have been invited to deliver the benediction at the Inauguration Ceremonies for Virginia’s new Governor Ralph Northam, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax, and Attorney General Mark Herring. This is the text of the blessing I offered at the Virginia State Capitol, January 13, 2018:

Ribbono shel olam, Majesty of space and time, bless and protect our new Governor, Ralph Northam, our new Lieutenant Governor, Justin Fairfax, and our Attorney General, Mark Herring. Look with favor upon them, their families, and their administrations. Deal graciously with them and grant them peace.

Creator of all life, we pray that You guide our leaders to faithfully serve you by caring for all those who dwell in our Commonwealth. Enable them to see Your image in all people. In the face of resurgent and resilient hatred, xenophobia, and racism, embolden them to eradicate bigotry and inaugurate a new era of inclusion and equality.

Confronted with unprecedented assaults on the structures of our democracy and the norms that support them, fortify our leaders’ resolve to secure, strengthen, and advance the ideals and institutions that are the glory of our Commonwealth and our Republic.

May You, who hears the voices of the voiceless and knows the hurt of all hearts (Jeremiah 17:10), grant our leaders the wisdom to discern the “silent agony” of the unseen and unheard, the “plundered poor” and the passed over (Abraham Joshua Heschel, “My Reasons for Involvement in the Peace Movement).

Just as You champion justice for the wronged, free the bound, lift up the downtrodden, protect the stranger, and encourage the orphan and the widow (Psalm 146), empower our leaders to uphold the cause of the impoverished, the marginalized, the vulnerable, and the oppressed, ensuring equal opportunity and justice for all.

In this moment, when ‎the cause of the just is too readily sold for silver, and the needs of the poor are betrayed to benefit the wealthy (Amos 2:6), give our leaders strength to discharge the duties of their offices with honesty and integrity, withstanding the temptations that, as Scripture warns, “blind the clear-sighted and subvert the cause of the righteous” (Exodus 23:8).

God, help us, too. Help us remain mindful of the extraordinary gift of freedom, attained by our ancestors at great expenditures of toil and blood, that we have been blessed to inherit. Work through us so that we may dutifully fulfill our responsibilities to one another as a self-governing people. Where we see degradation or persecution, move us to march. Where we see tyranny, rally us to resist. And where we see despair, grant us the audacity to hope. Help us, in the words of our ancient rabbis (Mishnah Avot 5:23), to be “bold as leopards, light as eagles, swift as deer and mighty as lions” as we remind our leaders whom they serve, and before Whom they stand.

Help us remember that, regardless of the shade of our skin or the place of our origin, regardless of whether we were born in privilege or in poverty, regardless of the anatomy with which we were born or the language we speak, regardless of our gender identity or our sexual orientation, we are all brothers and sisters, destinies intertwined, called upon by our Heavenly Parent to safeguard one another (Genesis 4:9) and to dwell together in peace (Psalm 133:1).

As we leave these hallowed grounds, inspired by this hopeful day, we pray that you ready us to join together in that spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, bound by common cause and shared destiny, to make “justice well up like water, and righteousness like an unfailing stream” (Amos 5:24), and to speedily bring about the day when “nation will not take up sword against nation, and they will never again know war” (Isaiah 2:4).

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable to you, Adonai, our Rock and our Redeemer.

And let us say, “Amen.”

About the Author
Rabbi Michael Knopf is co-editor of 'No Time for Neutrality: American Rabbinic Voices from an Era of Upheaval', now available on Amazon, and spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El in Richmond, Virginia. The views expressed in this article are solely his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of his congregation.
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