When the Massachusetts General Court (House) opened its 190th biennial session on Beacon Hill on January 4 and the members of the House were sworn in, I had the privilege to give a blessing to the chamber.
As the session came to a close I shared a teaching from Pirke Avot, a 2000-year old Jewish text on ethical living. The passage that I chose is a classic Jewish upending of our usual assumptions, and speaks to the noble responsibility of those who hold elected office. Here is the teaching, and my blessing.
The ancient Rabbis ask four questions:
Who is wise? Who is powerful? Who is rich? Who is honored?
And they answer the questions in surprising ways.
Who is wise? One who learns from everyone.
Who is powerful? One who shows restraint over one’s impulses.
Who is rich? One who is content with one’s portion.
Who is honored? One who honors others.
We call on the Holy One, the Source of All, to bless these officers of the Commonwealth, their families, the staff, and all those who work in this building. Bless them all with your gifts of wisdom, power, wealth, and honor.
May these public servants gain wisdom by listening to others, to the thoughtful voices of experts and to the quiet voices of the poor and the needy, to advocates and plain citizens alike. May they gain wisdom from those with whom they disagree as well as those who share their views.
May these public servants use their power, first and foremost, to control their own worst impulses. May they be mindful to restrain the impulse to use power coercively and corruptly, and always to give their very best to the people of Massachusetts.
May these public servants enjoy the wealth that comes from knowing how blessed they are to serve. May they be satisfied with what they have and dissatisfied with what the people lack.
May these public servants be honored for their integrity, compassion, and commitment to justice and bring honor to their office, to this House, and to our Commonwealth.