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A blessing for the new year, from Reverend Howard Thurman

My teacher Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi tells a story about how, when he began studying religion at Boston University, he used to enter the chapel each morning to pray. Shortly after he began this practice, he noticed that someone had moved the crucifix aside and placed the Bible in the center of the room -- in apparent deference to his needs. In entering the chapel a bit early one morning, he saw who was moving the cross -- an African-American man who he thought might be the janitor.

Still, he questioned whether academic study of religion was "kosher" for him, and one day he went to visit the dean -- one Reverend Howard Thurman, the very same man -- he realized -- who had moved the cross to make Reb Zalman more comfortable. Reb Zalman admitted his fears about the academic enterprise at hand: would it shake his faith? Would it cause him to doubt? "Don't you trust the ruach ha-kodesh?" asked Reverend Thurman -- and Reb Zalman realized that he did, and that if God had led him there, surely it was where he was meant to be.

In my commonplace book I recently rediscovered this quotation which I had copied from somewhere. (The quote's source is Meditations of the Heart, though I do not own the book, so I'm not sure where I found it!) I thought it would be a fine way to begin the secular new year here at Velveteen Rabbi.

Reverend Howard Thurman: "Through the Coming Year"

Grant that I may pass through
the coming year with a faithful heart.
There will be much to test me and
make weak my strength before the year ends.
In my confusion I shall often say the word that is not true and do the thing of which I am ashamed.
There will be errors in the mind
and great inaccuracies of judgment...
In seeking the light,
I shall again and again find myself
walking in the darkness.
I shall mistake my light for Your light
and I shall drink from the responsibility of the choice I make.
Nevertheless, grant that I may pass through the coming year with a faithful heart.
May I never give the approval of my heart to error, to falseness, to vanity, to sin.
Though my days be marked
with failures, stumblings, fallings,
let my spirit be free
so that You may take it
and redeem my moments
in all the ways my needs reveal.
Give me the quiet assurance
of Your Love and Presence.
Grant that I may pass through
the coming year with a faithful heart.