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O Lord our God
help us pray – as our ceremony ends,
that our service might begin.
And keep us from forgetting the difference.
Keep us from feeling too good
about what we say and do today,
for words are not enough,
and it is far too easy to recall
gigantic evil done by others,
yet miss the link to seeds of future horror
in our own lives:
in apathy, in the careless racial slur,
in blindness to a neighbor’s wound,
or deafness to his cry…
let us take some pride – and hope –
in what we do today,
for sometimes, words can pave the way:
songs and prayers
can bear witness to the good within us still;
can give dreams a voice –
a call which might be, must be, heard,
to give direction to our lives.
So, from the Holocaust, we learn:
when we deny humanity in others,
we destroy humanity within ourselves.
When we reject the human, and the holy,
in any neighbor’s soul,
then we unleash the beast, and the barbaric,
in our own heart.
And, since the Holocaust, we pray:
if the time has not yet dawned
when we can all proclaim our faith in God,
then let us say at least
that we admit we are not gods ourselves.
If we cannot yet see the face of God in others,
then let us see, at least,
a face as human as our own.
So long ago
the Bible taught that life might be
a blessing or a curse: Cf. Deuteronomy 11:26, Deuteronomy 30:19
the choice is in our hands.
Today we vow:
the curse will be remembered.
But our prayer must also be:
to fight despair;
to find the strength, the courage,
and the faith,
to keep alive the dream
that – through us and through our children –
the blessing might still be.
This benediction was delivered by Chaplain Arnold E. Resnicoff, U.S. Navy, at the 1987 National Civic Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance, in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. It was first published in Days of remembrance of the victims of the Holocaust: a Department of Defense guide for commemorative observance (Office of the Secretary of Defence, 1988).
|1||Cf. Deuteronomy 11:26, Deuteronomy 30:19|
“Prayer at the National Civic Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, by Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff on 28 April 1987” is shared through the Open Siddur Project with a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication 1.0 Universal license.
Works of related interest:
Prayer for a Service of Intercession [for European Jewry during the Holocaust], by Lilian Helen Montagu (ca. 1940)
אֵל מָלֵא רַחֲמִים תְפִילָה לַנִּסְפִּים בַּשּׁוֹאָה | El Malé Raḥamim Prayer for the Victims of the Shoah, by Rabbi Yehoyada Amir