I had the privilege on Wednesday of offering a benediction to close the opening session of the Massachusetts General Court (the House) on Beacon Hill. It was moving to be present for the swearing in of the members of the House, standing with the governor, our two U.S. senators, the mayor of Boston, and all of the House members, their families and invited guests. I was among four clergy who offered prayers for our Commonwealth and its leadership from the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions. The room was filled with a sense of new possibilities, and respect for the weighty responsibility of representing and serving the people of Massachusetts.
it was also a pleasure to be at the State House for my husband Brian Rosman's first day as legislative director for incoming Senator Jo Comerford, who was sworn in at the Senate opening. We stood in the newly-renovated Senate Chamber after the conclusion of the House ceremonies.
You can read my remarks below and see a video with an excerpt of the blessing.
With hope and prayers for new beginnings for our Commonwealth and our country in this new legislative session.
Rabbi Barbara Penzner
There is a Jewish tradition to say a blessing of thanksgiving when we embark on something new. The blessing thanks God for giving us life, for keeping us alive, and for enabling us to be present at this moment. The moment that I know you are all grateful to reach is about to arrive: adjournment.
I thank you for remaining here, for being alive and awake right now.
We awakened today to a new year, a year full of promise, bursting with new vision for our Commonwealth, yet seething with trepidation for events beyond our control. With this new legislative year, one might harken back to Charles Dickens, “It was the best of times and it was the worst of times.”
For many who are prospering, this is the best of times. Yet there are so many problems that this legislative body needs to confront and address in this worst of times.
As a person of faith, at times like these I reach back into the bookshelves to find ancient words of prophecy for inspiration. In the words of the prophet Micah: Humanity, God has instructed you how to live: do justice, love compassion, and walk humbly with your God.
That’s all we need in this world. And as representatives of the people of this Commonwealth, these words should be as sacred as the oath of office you have taken.
As members of the General Court you are called to do justice.
Today you have sworn to bear true faith and allegiance to this commonwealth and to support the constitution. I urge you to use your days to bring justice, and to end injustice. Craft just laws, and enact them in a just manner.
You are called to love compassion.
Your constituents have placed their faith in you—including those who voted for you and those who did not. When they come to you to advocate for just causes, hear their stories with compassion and respond by tempering strict justice with mercy.
And you are called to walk humbly.
This may appear to be the most challenging instruction of all. Remember, you are servants of a higher calling. Whether you walk humbly with your God, or with the people of Massachusetts, whether you walk humbly with what your parents and grandparents taught you or with the purpose and the principles that propelled you to seek higher office, remember to walk humbly with them. Seek out wise counsel, pay attention to colleagues and staff and constituents. None of us can carry this burden of bringing justice and compassion to our world alone.
Do justice, love compassion, and walk humbly with.
I call on the Infinite Power of Justice and Compassion to bless these officers of the Commonwealth, their families, the staff, and all those who work in this building and all who work on behalf of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Imbue them all with your gifts of vision, justice and love, so that at the end of this legislative session, our people and our communities, our neighborhoods and homes, will rejoice and say wholeheartedly, yes, these are the best of times. Ken yehi ratzon. May it be so.
To View the BENEDICTION
Opening Session of the Massachusetts General Court
January 2, 2019