Vayigash: Against Worker Exploitation

Farm WorkerThis is a social justice prayer for Shabbat Vayigash. In this week’s Torah portion, Joseph saves the Egyptians. He also also enslaves them. In his weekly commentary, Rabbi Shai Held grapples with understanding this contradiction. He concludes by saying that “…the greatest test of character may lie elsewhere – in the empathy we display towards those who stand powerless before us.” This prayer appears in the Labor Day section of my book, This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day.

Against Worker Exploitation
G-d of the laborer,
G-d of the migrant and the ensnared,
The voice of the misused echoes across the land,
Overworked and undervalued in the name of profit.
Our children,
Our brothers
And our sisters
Toil in misery,
Chained to taskmasters
By slavery, poverty or misfortune.
Bound to unbearable hours
And cruel conditions
So that others may reap the rewards
Of their suffering and endurance.

Source of abundance and grace,
Creator of affluence and wealth,
You call upon us to stand in the name of justice and fairness,
To witness against the abuse of economic power,
To battle theft by dominance and clout,
To fight corporate neglect of human beings,
To speak out against exploitation.

Bless those who dedicate their lives to the voiceless
And the forgotten
To expose greed and callousness in field and factory.
Give them courage and determination.
Bless those who plead on behalf of the oppressed and the subjugated
Before the seats of power,
Governments and corporations.
Give them wisdom and skill.
May the work of their hands never falter
Nor despair deter them from this holy calling.

Bless those in financial bondage with resources.
Release them from want.
Hasten the day of their self-sufficiency and bounty.

Blessed are You, G-d of All Being,
Who summons us to oppose oppression.

© 2017 CCAR Press from This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers For a New Day

Postscript: This prayer is from my series of prayers “Against…” The series includes: “Against Poverty,” “Against Human Trafficking” and “Against Tyranny.” They follow a common format and focus on tikkun olam, repairing the world. Other related prayers include: “Upon Losing Employment” and “For Work.” For Vayigash 5773, I posted a prayer for family healing called “Dear Brother, Dear Sister.” This prayer first appeared on this site on October 21, 2011.

Please check out my Meet the Author video and This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day. For reprint permissions and usage guidelines and reprint permissions, see “Share the Prayer!” For notices of new prayers, please subscribe. You can also connect on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Credit: Food Chain via Care 2

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