A strange thing happened in the wake of the election, and is intensifying now that the inauguration is next week.
People want to be together in new and powerful ways.
For all of the talk of division and schism in this country, there also is a galvanizing and unifying force that is bringing people together to work for social change in a way that feels somewhat unprecedented. For the majority of Americans — and the majority of Jews — who did not vote for the president-elect, and who find his rhetoric and actions to be anathema, there is a renewed effort to come together to both react and act.
It reminds me of a Hasidic story quoted in several places, one version as retold by Rabbi Harvey Meirovich in the collection Yom Kippur Readings: Inspiration, Information, Contemplation edited by Dov Peretz Elkins and Arthur Green, about a disciple who goes to his master to talk about his feelings of sadness. As they talk in front of the fireplace, the fire begins to die out until the rabbi reaches over to stoke the coals.
“Do you see,” pointed out the rabbi, “what happened when I gathered the embers close together? They came back to life. When the coals were separated they generated little heat; but when they were close together they received warmth from each other and the fire was renewed.
“It is the same with people. When we are alone and separated our spirit is in danger of dying out. But when we stand close together we get warmth and comfort from one another, and hope is renewed.”
I see this in the community that I serve. Immediately following the election, there was a felt need for people to come together to share their feelings of hurt and pain at what felt to many like a national sanction of bigotry, a threat to gains in civil rights, a rollback in advances in combating climate change, a challenge to the safety net so carefully woven over many years. We gathered in our sacred space, we sang and we shared by filling out cards to express both our hopes and our fears which were then read aloud. Without any plan for next steps, people simply drew on the heat of one another to revive their spirits.