November 9, 2016

Upon awakening each morning, we begin our day with this prayer of gratitude:

“I give thanks to You, living and eternal Sovereign, for restoring my soul to me with compassion. Great is Your faithfulness.”

With this simple statement, we are reminded of the blessing of being alive for this day. It is with the acknowledgement that today is a gift that we then move forward into this new day. We endeavor to make good use of this divinely bestowed gift, to do what is right and good in the eyes of the One who has given this day to us.

On the morning of November 9, we awoke to the stunning outcome of the presidential elections. The impact of this election for us and for our country only the future will tell, but what is clear – what has been clear for the many months of this election year – is that our society is rife with divisiveness, discontent, anger, and anxiety for our future. With all this, a lot of ugly hatefulness has risen to the surface.

But so too – across a wide range of the political spectrum – we have witnessed people demonstrate hope, courage, compassion, integrity and abiding decency.

On this new day, and on every new day with which we are blessed in life, we will make choices about how to live our lives. We will make choices about how politically and socially involved to be. We will make choices about which voices we will echo, and which we will condemn, about when we will speak up, and when we will remain silent. Each and every day brings us the opportunity to stand up for our most cherished values and ideals.

That work, that living, begins with how we treat one another in our individual, daily lives. Every interaction with another human being brings us the opportunity to treat that person well or ill, with compassion or with distrust, or with a mix of these responses based on our own complex inner workings.

The official motto of the United States, “In God we trust,” was adopted during the height of the Cold War in the 1950s as a reaction against the “godless communists.” But there is another, de facto motto that predates this one. It is stamped on the Seal of the United States. It is found on the change in our pockets. “E pluribus unum” – “out of many, one.” This motto was used to signify that our country was formed of many states, but I believe, as my friend and colleague Rabbi Van Lanckton has taught, that this motto also suggests “that a single and united country emerges out of many peoples, races, religions, languages, ancestries and political views.” As a motto, therefore, E pluribus unum, is not a simple statement of fact, but rather is an aspiration, and a challenge.

As we continue on from the morning of November 9, may we move toward realizing this aspiration. May we avoid the tempting but dangerous pitfall of demonizing our neighbors, family, and fellow citizens who voted in ways that appall or perplex us, or who voted not at all. May we work toward understanding, and embrace each other with compassion. In the face of fear, may we assert our common humanity and dignity. May our synagogue be a safe haven for all in our community.

I close with the prayer for our country found in our prayer book for Shabbat morning.

Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask Your blessings for our country – for its government, for its leaders and advisors, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority. Teach them insights from your Torah, that they may administer all affairs of state fairly, that peace and security, happiness and prosperity, justice and freedom may forever abide in our midst.

Creator of all flesh, bless all the inhabitants of our country with Your spirit. May citizens of all races and creeds forge a common bond in true harmony, to banish hatred and bigotry, and to safeguard the ideals and free institutions that are the pride and glory of our country.

May this land, under Your Providence, be an influence for good throughout the world, uniting all people in peace and freedom – and helping them to fulfill the vision of Your prophet: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they experience war any more.” And let us say: Amen.

E pluribus unum
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Rabbi Navah Lee Levine

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