Invocation for Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel
June 11, 2018
Rabbi Noah Farkas
Good morning. I am Rabbi Noah Farkas, I am one of the rabbis at Valley Beth Shalom, a Conservative Jewish Synagogue in Encino.
In a letter to James Lloyd on the 1st of October 1822, our 6th President John Quincy Adams wrote, "Individual liberty is individual power, and… the nation which enjoys the most freedom must… be in proportion to its numbers the most powerful nation." The novelty President Adams’s letter is not in the idea that liberty is an individual right inalienable to all of humanity. The right to liberty was recognized long before President Adams by the framers of the constitution, and the writers of the Declaration of Independence. No, the novel idea of President Adams, is that our true power as a nation is found in our collective liberty; that each of us shares a covenant of destiny with our fellow Americans to pursue a flourishing life together.
It is a recognition that my my happiness cannot ride on the back of your misery.
I can never be free because you are still fettered.
I cannot pull myself up with my bootstrap while simultaneously putting my heel on your neck.
The true power of America, wrote Adams, is our ability to stand together in all of our sacred individuality while gazing together at a common horizon and standing together for our collective liberation.
We are at a critical moment in American history. After years of divisive politics we have corroded our sense of mutual destiny. Where my fate and yours are foolishly separated. Where the tectonic forces of inequality, racism, bigotry and hatred have shook the earth so violently that there remains no greater chasm in the world than between one human being and her fellow neighbor.
But it is into this breach of human trust, into this chasm, into this crack in the mantle of the moral universe that we must wander. We must strive, we must rise and stand and be counted. It into this “no-man’s land we must go nd our shared humanity.”
As it says in my tradition, במקום שאין איש תשדל ליהנות איש״"
“In a place where there are no human beings, stand up and be a human being.”
Or in the words of my grandmother, "be a mensch.” Meaning, “be a human being.” It means really to be more than you are. Do the right thing when no one else is looking on. Have integrity of spirit, and most of all reach beyond your own experience of life and commune with others to heal, to strengthen and to repair our world. It is the highest compliment you can give someone, in my culture. To call them a mensch is a great honor.
In this moment in history we need menaches. That is why I am happy to here to say to offer blessings over this body and over my friend and mensch Jesse Gabriel.
There is no other word I’d use to describe my friend Jesse Gabriel. From the moment we met you Jesse have embodied the right slurry of kindness and strength, and grace that makes you more than merely a man, but true mensch.
This then is my prayer for us today and for you Jesse. Please pray with me.
O’God who has set the foundations of the earth and blessed us with the bounty of the Pacific and the Sierra, the Redwood and the Palm, the city and the plain, give blessings unto us and our leaders. Who live between the Golden dreams of and the Iron realities of governance. Help them to overcome the natural inclination to avarice and hubris and to close the breach that keeps us all apart. May You give them eyes to see the goodness in each other. May they have ears to hear the cries of the meek, the homeless, the refugee the widow and the orphan. May they have hands that open to the needy. And may they have hearts of courage to stand for justice.
And watch over your son, my friend, Jesse, who has spent his young life living up to the promise of being a “mensch.” Protect him and guide him. May your light always shine down upon him and give him the grace of Your spirit. And may you show him what is good and what is needed from him as a leader - as you did your prophet. Namely, “to act with justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Praises is the One who gives us life and sustains us and brought us to this glorious day.
And let us say