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Northbrook Rabbi Delivers Invocation before U.S. House

Aaron Melman of Congregation Beth Shalom, a bit awe-struck - and humbled - by the occasion.

It’s not unusual for to be on the bema leading services at Northbrook’s .

But he delivered a short prayer at noon Thursday to a bigger audience – and the opportunity even more awe-inspiring.

Melman gave the invocation that opened Thursday’s noontime session of the U.S. House of Representatives.  Dozens of House members, folks all over Capitol Hill and anyone watching C-Span could listen to his words.

Giving the invocation was something he and had spoken about previously, and Dold invited him. Melman set the date in March with the Office of the Chaplain of the U.S. House of Representatives. His official title was guest chaplain.

“Thankfully we were able to make it work. I was excited and honored to be asked,” he said.

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No question it was a bit of an awesome moment. Having the opportunity to stand in the U.S. House of Representatives, in the place where the President of the U.S. delivers the State of the Union Address, brought about a certain amount of pride, he said.

“It’s pride of living in this country, the ability to have a freedom of religion that others don't, to stand in front of elected officials and represent not only my faith, but my community as well,” he said.

Melman has visited the House floor during a tour of the Capitol but this opportunity was a bit humbling, he said.

“Standing with the Speaker of the House behind me, regardless of one’s political affiliations, gave me a lot of appreciation for what the U.S. Capitol represents,” he said.

Melman has been the temple’s spiritual leader for nearly 10 years. He’s the chaplain of the Northbrook Fire Department. He’d delivered other invocations, including one at the State Capitol.  No question he was nervous.

He had to craft his words for D.C. carefully.  He really had to think about the most important essence of the message he wanted to convey. And he had to wrap all of it into 150 words. He had to get to the point so Congress could get to the business of running the country, he said.

Following the invocation, he led the House in reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. That moment took on a whole new meaning for him, Melman said.

“We recite it by rote, but with members of Congress standing there, staring at the flag and saying the pledge, I realize what it stands for, what it means to be a united people even with our differences,” Melman said.

He said he’s only beginning to understand the opportunity he had.

“I feel like the athlete who is asked how he felt after winning the championship,” he said. “I didn’t know how I felt afterward. I had to watch it a couple of times to understand how meaningful it was. I will remember for the rest of my life. I am trying to be humble about it, but I appreciate the moment and what it represented for me, my family and my community. It was pretty cool.”

Anna Tarkov June 03, 2012 at 12:37 PM
So what did he say? Most important part of the story is left out.
Emily Stone (Editor) June 04, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Good point, Anna. You can click on the video link above to watch the full invocation. Among other things he said: "We thank you [God], for enabling us to live in a free country."

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