The Talmud teaches us: Elohai neshamah shenata bi t’horah hi, which means:

“My G!d, the soul You have placed within me is pure. You created it, You formed it, and You breathed it into me. You guard it while it is within me; some day it will return to You.”

The amazing soul that lived among us as John Brulé has returned to G!d, pure in its passion, humor, and love. And while we feel the loss of its presence in its physical manifestation, we rejoice in recalling the many ways he has indelibly influenced our lives – and will continue to do so.

It can be staggering to contemplate the many lives he touched, and the rich ways in which he touched each of them. Never content with the status quo, he challenged himself as much as others in his quest to understand and improve the world we live in. And it’s that lesson that I believe he would want me to teach on his behalf today.

You see, my father was a man who constantly strove to improve himself, even when the path was not visible to him. The best example of this was the question of white privilege: there was no doubt in his mind that he was white, and male, and privileged, but he struggled to see how he himself wore those blinders. He devoted himself to improving the lot of those around him, and to railing against the powers that kept others down. To him it seemed that this must provide some absolution for being white, and male, and privileged.

And I do mean he struggled – he struggled mightily. He knew he must be wearing those blinders, and even though it didn’t feel real to him, he continued to struggle to shed them, to find a way in which he could transcend them. A lesser person would have stepped away from that struggle – but not my father.

Who among us is ready to fight that fight? Who among us is ready to say, “I know I have this fault that I cannot see – I will persist in opening my heart and changing who I am?”

Sometimes, often times, he would pay the price for that persistence: the price of guilt. A guilt from which he seemed to be unable to accept absolution. I imagine that he felt this way because he was not willing to submit to his own shortcomings, real or perceived.

These feelings dogged him until the closing weeks of his life. As immersed as I am in interfaith work, it is for me a beautiful irony that he finally found some peace in reciting the Vidui – the Jewish confession. For whatever reason, the Vidui allowed him to receive forgiveness from G!d, and himself.

Since he left this world on the wings of that prayer, I would like to send him off with it again now. I know he would want to teach us the lessons he learned from it.

Dear One, Source of All Being —
my G!d and G!d of my ancestors —
life and death are in Your hands:
hear my prayer.

I reach out to You
as I approach the contractions
which will birth my soul
into whatever comes next.

As my soul chose to enter this life
in order to learn and to love
I prepare now to leave
through an unfamiliar door.

I’m grateful for my place
in the chain of generations.
Grateful for teachers and friends
who have inspired and accompanied me.

I’ve made mistakes.
Lift them from my shoulders
and bless me with forgiveness.
I open my heart to You.

Help me to let go.
Help me to release regrets
so they don’t encumber me
where I’m going.

All who have harmed me
in body, mind, or spirit —
in this incarnation or any other —
I forgive them.

May all whom I have harmed
in body, mind, or spirit —
in this incarnation or any other —
forgive me in turn.

Help my loved ones to know
how deeply I have loved them
and will continue to love them
even when this body is gone.

Oh G!d, parent of orphans
and defender of widows
be with my beloveds
and bring them comfort.

Into Your hand I place my soul.
You are with me; I have no fear.
As a wave returns to the ocean
I return to the Source from which I came.

Translation by Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt

Jim Brulé