Prayer that the Lands of Our Freedom Never Resemble Mitsrayim, by Rabbi Jill Jacobs

Tonight, I had the privilege of delivering the invocation at the opening dinner of the Council on Foreign Relations annual Religion and Foreign Policy Workshop. I spoke right after a public conversation with Ambassador Sam Brownback, Ambassador for Religious Freedom. Here’s the prayer I offered:

Hebrew English

ריבונו של עולם
Guiding power of the universe

הרחמן
Compassionate One

You brought us forth
from slavery to freedom,
from oppression to liberation.

 
 
 
אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם
אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם
לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹהִים
אֲנִי יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם׃ (במדבר יג:מא)
You teach us in Your Torah,
in the portion Jews read this Shabbat:[1]Parashat Shlaḥ (Numbers 13:1-15:41)
 
“I am Adonai your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt (Mitsrayim)
to be your God.”[2]Numbers 15:41

 
 
אשר הוצאתי אתכם. עַל מְנָת כֵּן פָּדִיתִי אֶתְכֶם
שֶׁתְּקַבְּלוּ עֲלֵיכֶם גְּזֵרוֹתַי: (רש”י על במדבר ט״ו:מא)
You teach us in through the words of the medieval Jewish sage, Rashi:[3]Rashi on Numbers 15:41, quoting Sifrei Bamidbar 115:1.
 
“On this condition I redeemed you:
That you would accept My laws upon yourselves.”[4]Cf. Sifrei Bamidbar 115:1.

God,
You have taught us that freedom from human servitude
means the obligation to serve You.
You brought us out from Mitsrayim—
the narrow place, the land of oppression—
and charged us to ensure
that the lands of our freedom
would never resemble Mitsrayim.

In Mitsrayim,
the majority feared and suspected a minority,
and subjected them to enslavement and violence.
In this land, God, give us the wisdom
to reject the idolatry of placing any race or religion in mastery over others.
Give us the courage to embrace the dignity and rights
of every single human being, created equally in Your image,
and to delight in the many cultures of Your creations.

In Mitsrayim,
the majority’s hatred and denigration of a foreign minority
justified ripping babies out of the arms of their parents.
In this land, God, give us the compassion
to treat all children with love,
to take responsibility for their health and safety,
and to ensure that they are safe in the arms of their families.

In Mitsrayim,
Pharaoh, an autocratic and narcissistic leader
subjugated both his own people and foreigners,
in order to enrich and empower himself,
and to build monuments to his own glory.
In this land, God, give us the strength
to preserve democracy and the rule of law,
for we are all equal in Your sight.

 
 
עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט לָעֲשׁוּקִים
נֹתֵן לֶחֶם לָרְעֵבִים
יְהוָה מַתִּיר אֲסוּרִים׃ (תהלים קמו:ז)
In the words of the Psalms:
 
You secure justice for the oppressed,
provide food for the hungry,
and set free those who are imprisoned.[5]Psalms 146:7.

 
וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו׃ (דברים כח:ט)
You have commanded us in your Torah,
to walk in your ways.[6]Deuteronomy 28:9.

We thank you, God,
for the opportunity and the obligation to serve You.
We thank you
for bringing us together in this sacred task:
to repair brokenness,
and to establish justice and righteousness
for all people in this land.

ברוך אתה ה׳ מלך אוהב צדקה ומשפט׃
Blessed are you, Adonai, who loves justice and righteousness.

This prayer was first published on Rabbi Jill Jacobs’s Facebook page, here. Simply described as an invocation for the event, I chose the title for this prayer based on its content. –Aharon Varady

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Parashat Shlaḥ (Numbers 13:1-15:41)
  2. Numbers 15:41
  3. Rashi on Numbers 15:41, quoting Sifrei Bamidbar 115:1.
  4. Cf. Sifrei Bamidbar 115:1.
  5. Psalms 146:7.
  6. Deuteronomy 28:9.

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