Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thanksgiving Blessing

Today it was my honor to offer the blessing at the INN's annual dinner for its supporters.  This dinner helps to raise money for the Interfaith Nutrition Network's Mary Brennan Soup Kitchen.  The soup kitchen feeds hundreds of people every day.  On Thanksgiving it will distribute over 5,000 turkeys to those who cannot afford the most basic ingredient of a Thanksgiving dinner.  The Inn's policy of no questions asked helps it to serve the hungry and needy on our very own Long Island.  What follows are my remarks.

It is my privilege and honor to speak on this occasion in behalf of the INN, an extraordinary institution that serves Long Island's hungry and homeless.

The blessing with which we begin every meal called the motzi is translated as follows: Blessed are You Lord our God Ruler of the universe who brings forth bread from the earth. I have often wondered about this blessing. It appears false. God does not literally bring forth bread from the earth. Bread, the staple of life and sustenance, the symbol of a meal, does not grow on trees. So why does my Jewish tradition mandate this wording for my blessing? Why is the blessing for meals so different from all the other food blessings? The blessings for fruits and vegetables read differently. We thank You God for the fruit of the tree or the fruit of the earth or the fruit of the vine. These blessings by contrast remind us of where our food grows.

Why then does the most important food blessing tell us something that it is untrue? It can only be because the baking of bread requires so much work and effort. Standing here on this day we especially know that bread does not magically appear on plates. There are far too many in this great land who go without bread and for whom this blessing does not so effortlessly roll off their tongues. We have come here together on this day just a little more than a week from the holiday of Thanksgiving to make sure that many more can say this blessing and that many more can see bread emerge from the earth.

I belong to a tradition that demands this blessing before my meals. I also belong to a tradition that reminds me that the world is purposely incomplete and that I must devote myself to repairing its brokenness.

And I do so by bringing food to those who are hungry. I do so by reciting blessings and prayers. On this day I say my blessings not only to give thanks to God but also as a reminder that there is much more work to do in repairing this world. There is a great deal more bread to bake and meals to prepare. It is not enough to give thanks. I must also use my hands to bring forth bread from the earth. And so I say, Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz. Blessed are You Adonai our God Ruler of the universie who brings forth bread from the earth. And together we say, Amen.

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