Word got out last week about the brief exchange Rabbi Lookstein had with President Obama.
As related by Rabbi Lookstein, it went as follows:
“….I asked him if I could recite a blessing. He said, of course. I said the blessing we recite when meeting a king as the president is the closest thing to a head of state. I then continued and said, ‘Mr. President, thank you for your strong support of Israel. We will always remember your unforgettable statement in Sderot. He knew what I was referring to. It was there he said “if missiles were falling where my two daughters sleep, I would do everything in order to stop that”. The President responded with a clear ascent. I then said to him, ‘May G-d bless you.’ He replied: ‘You know that Barak means’s blessing.’ I said, ‘Of course, blessing is Baruch. You have to be able to say the ‘ch’ sound.’ He smiled and said ‘It’s a little too early in the morning.'”
JTA now reports that another rabbinic participant – Conservative Judaism leader Rabbi Jerry Epstein had this exchange with the new president:
“…..when I approached President Obama, I asked whether he would permit me to recite a priestly blessing of biblical origin. When he smiled and said, “I wish you would,” I recited it in Hebrew and then in English. When I concluded with the words, “Shalom” — “Peace,” he smiled and said “That’s what we need. Peace!” The moment — and his response — gave me spiritual hope for the future.”
It’s an interesting pair of discussions – especially in terms of what each rabbi chose to raise, more than what the President said in reply.
Food for thought.