Union for Reform Judaism Member Congregation


L.C. Nøttaasen CC Flickr

Candles by L.C. Nøttaasen CC Flickr

I have to admit that I have been agonizing over what to write this week for the past three days. I even wrote a long epistle to you, pouring out my own feelings. I have decided however, that for just now, it would not be the most helpful thing for me to send it to you. I suspect that most of you can pretty much imagine what they are. But at this moment, it seems more important for all of us together to assert our humanity, and to remember that we are fundamentally strong, as individuals, as a community, and as a democratic nation.

Some among us may be happy with the outcome of this election. I respect all of our congregants, and it is important for all of us to respect each other, even when we disagree. I very much hope that this will be in evidence within our congregation. And of course, we all need to hope that our new president will lead our nation well. All of us have a stake in his success.

Nevertheless, many of us might be feeling disappointment, shock, or utter devastation and despair, and perhaps a combination of all of these, and more. For those of us who are feeling this way, I would suggest that it might be helpful to look to Jewish tradition for a model of how to cope, particularly at this most difficult time.

Though we need to remember that in this case, no one has died, this is, in a sense, very much akin to a death – the death of a dream and a vision, the realization of which was within our grasp. As Jews, when an immediate family member dies, we mourn. We sit shiva. We ponder our loss and allow others to comfort us. In this way, we honor our pain and sadness, and feelings of loss and bereavement. Our tradition is very wise in teaching us to honor these feelings. But it is also very wise in insisting that at a certain point, we must move ourselves out of the deepest depths of mourning. “Shiva,” or more correctly, “shiv’ah,” is Hebrew for “seven.” The traditional time of shiva is seven days. After seven days, we are obligated to get up, put on our shoes, return to work, and, little by little, in a time-structured manner, get ourselves about the business of living. Our lives are changed, of course, and have become exceedingly difficult. Many of us need help in learning how to live without our loved ones; and indeed, we would do well to avail ourselves of such help. But we do so in the knowledge that our loved ones themselves would not have wanted us to mourn forever. We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to figure out how to go on, and live.

It is important to reiterate here that in fact, no one has died. Hillary Clinton is very much alive, and she will go on as well. And, WE are alive, and so is our country and our democracy. As we heard Hillary herself express so eloquently in her concession speech, the LAST thing she would want for any of her supporters would be to become paralyzed by sadness for too long. Yes, we have to honor our sense of loss. And eventually, we will need to get up and move on. We will need to do this for the sake of our country, and the values that we believe to be fundamental to the ideals of our democracy. We will need to do this for the sake of promulgating the values of our Jewish tradition as we understand them: the values of justice, compassion, peace, fairness, and respect for all people, regardless of who or what they are, where they were born, what they look like, whom they love, or what their abilities, disabilities, inclinations and aspirations may be in this life, provided they are based in the pursuit of humanitarianism and human progress.

For us, these values may be summed up in the notion of TIKKUN OLAM, the reparation of the world. This is our mission as Jews. In the weeks, months, and years ahead, we will have to take this mission into our hands and fight for it harder than ever before. Like Avram at the beginning of our Torah portion this Shabbat, we are now headed into a new place, and we don’t know what lies ahead. But we will walk nevertheless – because we are strong, and our faith is strong.

For just now, perhaps the best words, as usual, are to be found in our Torah, as God spoke to Joshua: “Chazak Ve’ematz – Be strong and of good courage. . . and I will be with you.”