I am about to commence a series of posts here about the Parable of the Prodigal Son, designed (I hope) as a framework for interfaith dialog.
I attended a religious retreat last weekend, and it occurred to me there that we might want to begin this study with a bracha, a prayer or blessing. I know that it’s common in both Jewish and Christian circles (and doubtless in other religious traditions) to begin study of sacred texts with a prayer. But I’ve never heard of this being done in interfaith dialog. So while on retreat, I asked a rabbi what would be appropriate, when a Jew begins interfaith study of scripture outside of the Jewish canon. She suggested that I look at the bracha said upon entering the Beit Midrash, the house of study.
May it be Your will, 0 Lord my God, that no blunder occur through me, that I do not err in a matter of halakhah [Jewish law], so that my colleagues rejoice over me, that I do not declare impure to be pure, or pure, impure, that my colleagues do not err in a matter of halakhah so that I rejoice over them.
This prayer does not do it for me – for one thing, we’re studying a Christian parable, not Jewish halakhah (though we’ll touch on halakhah from time to time). But I know that the rabbi I spoke to likes to riff on traditional brachot (the plural of bracha). So in the spirit of my retreat rav, here is a bracha for studying New Testament parables in an interfaith setting:
Divine infinite, may it be your will that our study together increase mutual understanding, that I represent my tradition with truth and approach the traditions of others with compassion and respect, and that we each rejoice in the presence of the other.
I know that prayer is not everyone’s thing, and if it’s not for you, please regard the above as a statement of intention, or even a mission statement! If you feel so inclined, please use the comments section below to suggest any amendments or additions to this bracha, or please submit brachot or prayers that speak to you as we approach this study together.