Prayer for Human Solidarity, by Rabbi Ḥanan Schlesinger

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Our Father[1]Some may wish to substitute ‘Parent’ for ‘Father’. in heaven,
Creator of all humanity,
Whose mercies are upon all His creatures
and Whose love is withheld from none.

Help us to live in the light of our faith
that all human beings are cast from the same die,
that all are created in the divine image
and that all bear Your infinite value.

Let us remember that all of humanity constitute one unit
and that we are all interdependent.
May we heal the suspicion, fear and hate
that divide communities, nations and peoples.
Renew our sense of human solidarity.
Grant us the resolve to overcome our tendency
to act as if our national or religious particularity
is prior to our common humanity.

Let us never forget that this world will survive and thrive
only through understanding and cooperation.

Let us recommit ourselves to the common good.

Help us to be healed of the hubris of exclusivity
that deludes us into the false belief
that only we are close to You.

Help us to be hospitable to diversity
and to engage charitably with those who are different from us.
Let us remember that our truth is always only partial
and better approximates Your infinite truth
when we have the courage to go forth and gather into our hearts
the manifold sparks of Your light that has been scattered
throughout the peoples, cultures, and religions that You have created.
Let us listen and learn, grow and expand, with openness and joy.

Let us join forces to live together and do Your will as one humanity,
while each people still walks in the illumination of its own unique insight.

A “Prayer for Human Solidarity” by Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger was first published online at myjewishlearning.com. In addition to this prayer, a “Prayer for Israeli-Palestinian Solidarity” was offered by Rabbi Schlesinger with the following explanation:

For decades I have taught that Jews live with a double identity. On the one hand we are B’nai Adam, literally children of Adam, and on the other hand, we are B’nai Yisrael, the Children of Israel, the progeny of Abraham’s grandson Israel, whose original name was Jacob. We are both human beings and Jews. The creative tension between the universal and the particular is essential to our sense of who we are.

For decades I have observed that in most of the traditional Orthodox communities that I have experienced, this tension was not sufficiently emphasized and that the particular had greatly eclipsed the universal. In my own mind and in my teaching, I tried to recalibrate the balance.

Gradually, my discomfort has become acute distress. Of course, the growing acceptance of racism in Israeli culture and politics has played a central role, but there have also been little incidents in my daily life that have recently driven the matter home:

I hitched a ride home from Jerusalem one day with a motorist from Kiryat Arba. During the drive, I told him about my work with Roots building human bridges between local Israelis and local Palestinians. I talked about seeing the divine image in our Palestinian neighbors. He looked like he had seen a ghost. Scandalized, incredulous, he turned to me and solemnly informed me: “They are not human beings, they are cockroaches.” I turned quiet, lost in despair.

My Palestinian partners in Roots (and many secular Jewish peace activists) often talk about the common humanity that unites us and them, that before we are Israelis or Palestinians, we are human beings, and that, of course, human life is more important than land. It seems so logical and it resonates with me on the intuitive level. Yet on the religious level, it sounds a bit foreign. I don’t remember much of this line of thinking in the rabbinic texts that I have spent most of my life studying and teaching. This gives me pause.

At the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC last month, I sat next to a young Evangelical theologian. He remarked to me that the first chapter of Genesis that proclaims that all human beings are created in God’s image has no explicit echo in the rest of the “Old Testament.” I suggested a few verses that do seem to be cut from the same cloth, but still, his remark remained with me. I silently noted to myself that this lacuna characterizes the traditional prayers that I say every day.

In the Roots, Jewish – Christian leaders religious dialogue group, a Catholic priest recently told us that he would like to bring to our study the work of a contemporary Catholic theologian that explores the meaning of human solidarity. For a few short seconds, I felt lost; I was not sure that I understood the meaning of the term human solidarity. And then a wave of deep inner embarrassment swept over me: What is wrong with me that the idea of human solidarity is so foreign that it causes temporary disorientation? The answer is only too clear: My all-encompassing Jewish / Rabbinic / Israeli identity has left but little room for an intuitive sense of the ultimate common destiny and unity of all human beings. It is painfully difficult for me to live with that.

My humble and inadequate response to all of this is two short prayers, fruits of my frustration:

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Some may wish to substitute ‘Parent’ for ‘Father’.

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