UK Chief Rabbi Sacks Delivers Senate Invocation
The U.S. Senate received a special treat Wednesday, as the session was opened by British Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, who gave the invocation. Rabbi Sacks appeared in the Senate at the invitation of Connecticut Senator Joseph I. Lieberman.
Although separation of church and state is enshrined in the U.S. constitution, courts in the U.S. have affirmed that the practice of inviting representatives of various religions to invoke the help of Heaven in guiding the senators' work is not a violation of that separation; unless there is a call for the assistance of a specific deity, as opposed to “G-d,” the invocation is not considered to be an attempt to “establish” a religion. Representatives of nearly every religion on earth have, at one time or another, given the invocation.
Rabbi Sacks, who is the first UK Chief Rabbi to deliver the Invocation prayer as Guest Chaplain, composed a special prayer for the occasion. Rabbi Sacks said that “the world must “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.”
The Chief Rabbi also prayed for G-d to “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.”
Senator Lieberman said that “it was an honor and a privilege for the Senate to have Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks deliver the invocation. Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks 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.”
Commenting in the experience, Rabbi Sacks said “to deliver the Invocation prayer in the United States Senate was a real honor. 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.”
The day before the Invocation, the Chief Rabbi was the guest of honor at a lunch, hosted by Senator Lieberman in the Capitol building which was attended by a number of prominent Jewish members of Congress. At the lunch the Chief Rabbi praised the Congressmen for their leadership and spoke about the importance of promoting a Judaism unafraid to engage with the world. Rabbi Sacks’ visit to Washington D.C. is part of a 10-day trip to America and Canada that will see him speaking to Jewish communities and other wider audiences in Chicago, Boston, New York and Toronto.