LONDON – Britain’s Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks delivered the Invocation prayer in
the US Senate on Wednesday, becoming the first Jewish community leader from the
UK to fulfill the honor.
Traditionally recited at the opening of each
session of the Senate, it was the first time a British chief rabbi has been
invited to deliver the prayer as guest chaplain.
Sacks was a guest of
Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Connecticut). The prayer is usually
performed by the chaplain of the United States Senate, though occasionally guest
chaplains, recommended by senators, are invited to deliver the session’s opening
prayer in his place.
In the prayer, which was composed especially for the
occasion, the chief rabbi said the world must “honor the dignity of
“Teach us to honor the dignity of difference, recognizing
that one who is not in our image is none the less in your image; never
forgetting that the people not like us, are still people – like us,” states the
The prayer goes on to bless the members of Congress, and to ask
God “and guide their deliberations, that they may govern this great nation with
wisdom and justice, grace and compassion.” Sacks said it was a great
honor to deliver the prayer.
“It emphasized not only the close
relationship Britain and America share, but also between the Anglo- and
American- Jewish communities. I am grateful to Senator Lieberman – an individual
whose moral clarity and faith has always played such a central role in his
political and personal life – and his colleagues in the Senate for granting me
this opportunity,” he said.
“It was an honor and a privilege for the
Senate to have Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks deliver the invocation,” Lieberman said.
“The chief rabbi is a distinguished leader of the Jewish community of Britain
and his presence represented the deep and enduring bond between the people of
our two great countries. His wisdom and spiritual guidance was reflected in his
prayer to the Senate and our work is enriched by his words to us.”
visit to Washington is part of a 10-day trip to the US and Canada that will see
him speaking to Jewish communities, and to wider audiences, in Chicago, Boston,
New York and Toronto.
On Tuesday, the chief rabbi was guest of honor at a
lunch hosted by Lieberman in the Capitol building that was attended by a number
of prominent Jewish members of Congress.
At the lunch, Sacks praised the
congressmen for their leadership and spoke about the importance of promoting a
Judaism unafraid to engage with the world.
The full text of the chief
rabbi’s Invocation prayer to the Senate: “Sovereign of the universe, who created
all in love, teach us to love all that is good and beautiful in this world.
Teach us to honor the dignity of difference, recognizing that one who is not in
our image is none the less in your image; never forgetting that the people not
like us, are still people – like us.
“At this fateful moment in the human
story, bless us that we may be a blessing to others.
Guide the nations of
the world to honor you by honoring one another. So that by reaching out in love,
we may turn enemies into friends, and become your family on earth as you are our
parent in heaven.
“Beloved God, bless the members of this United States
Congress and guide their deliberations, that they may govern this great nation
with wisdom and justice, grace and compassion, bringing honor to your name, and
your blessing to humankind.”