Rabbis Without Borders
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I have been silent from the bima (pulpit) about the election. There have been many discussion in rabbi listservs and Facebook groups of which I am apart about the decision to speak up and if so, what exactly do you say? Clearly no one can speak for or against any one candidate. Not only is that a violation of the 501c3 rules that govern what houses of worship can and cannot do and still remain a nonprofit, but it is also not the job of a rabbi to tell their congregants for whom they should vote.
So what is my job as a rabbi when it comes election time? Every year I feel it is duty to encourage people to vote and to engage in the democratic process. We sing the words of the Mi Chamocha prayer, the words which we sang upon being freed from slavery in Egypt. It is a song about freedom and voting is how we show that we are now and continue to be free people.
But this week, I am no longer thinking about the election. I believe at this point that die is cast. We do not yet know what the outcome will be on Tuesday evening, but whatever it will be, it will be.
I am now thinking only about Wednesday.
On Wednesday, we will wake up with a new leader of the free world probably elected by a narrow margin and largely despised, disliked or distrusted by a small minority in this country. We are coming through months of assaults and insults and, what feels to me, the unleashing of a monumental amount of pent up fear, hatred and anger in our nation. We may be falling apart as a people. And on Wednesday we will begin looking to someone new to put the country back together again, help us find wholeness and a new balance of things.
But the new leader of the free world will not be alone in this task and it is, I believe, my job as a rabbi to encourage those around me to help by being our best selves. This is after all what religion pushes us to do. It will be up to each one of us to participate in moving forward, being good winners and good losers in this election. It is upon Congress to get out of the deadlock we’ve witnessed for the last few years but it is up to each one of us to lean in to the wisdom of our various faiths if we have them and sense of the greater good, good judgment and, hopefully, common sense even if we don’t and move forward. It is up to each individual, family and community to forgive and seek forgiveness, let go, and come together as one nation, indivisible under whoever or whatever you believe in.
So as I am preparing to lead services tonight and speak to my congregation, I am thinking carefully and seriously about my role in the unfolding drama of Tuesday, and, perhaps even more importantly, all of our roles in the near-impossible yet critically important task of starting fresh on Wednesday.