The purpose of an invocation or benediction is to call upon God to bless the proceedings at hand. However, one might interpret the meaning of a blessing, these occasions are not meant to be sermons. A person called up to invoke God’s blessing ought properly to keep his or her opinions to himself or herself.
And yet that is exactly what we heard at President Obama’s inauguration: sermons. The concluding benediction at the inaugural luncheon, given by a Greek Orthodox priest, who referred to his humility at this “greatest honor of my life,” betrayed his own words by invoking “the father, the son, and the holy spirit” at the end of his “message.”
A public invocation or benediction ought to use universal language for the deity so as not to exclude anyone present. May I suggest that invoking “the Eternal” would probably be maximally inclusive and offend no one.
Jonathan H. Gerard, Easton, Pa.
The writer is rabbi emeritus at Temple Covenant of Peace.