Morning in America
Late last night I fell into uneasy sleep, having watched the anarchy that unfolded in our Nation’s Capital and the first hours of the night session of the Senate and Congress. Rising this morning, I joined the daily minyan in reciting Psalm 130, the Psalm for troubled times: Out of the depths I call to You….I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.
The dark night we witnessed brought our nation to the brink of disaster: a violent mob invading our Capitol building, the business of government disrupted, bloodshed in the halls of governance, vandalism, bombs and ugly hatred defiling the sacred precincts of our democracy. The spectacle of this anarchism sobered some Senators to abandon their “objections” to the properly certified votes of several states.
Sadly, other Senators and Representatives persisted in their ill-conceived attempt to thwart the will of the People, legitimately expressed at the ballot box. Yet, finally, thankfully, the vote of the majority overcame this latest attempt to subvert and overturn the outcome of our November elections. The outgoing President, whose reprehensible lies, invective and despicable incitement have fouled the waters of our Republic, finally acceded to an “orderly transfer of power” even as he persists in destructive falsehoods about the election that he lost.
Sorely tested and cynically exploited by some, the institutions and norms of our nation’s democracy have survived a profound attack and proven resilient and vital. It is my hope and prayer that, as a Nation, we seize the opportunity afforded us in this moment to embrace the spirit of honest governance, respect for the rule of law, a return to truthfulness as a real standard in the public square, and dedicate ourselves to work together for the common good. As the beautiful Prayer for Peace declares: We have not come into being to hate or to destroy. We have come into being to praise, to labor and to love (Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festival, p.149).
The profound challenges America and all of humanity face in this moment in history summon us to transcend party rivalries and overcome genuine differences of opinion to bring healing, peace and goodness to the world. While one terrible crisis has been averted, we could still fall into the abyss of division chaos, terror and destruction. The decisions we make and the stances we and our elected leaders take in the coming years will have a profound impact upon posterity. Future generations look to us to lift up our nation and transform our world for the better.
The Jewish people are blessed with historical memory that spans millennia. We have witnessed disaster and destruction, have exercised tremendous resilience and risen from the ashes time and time again. We know in our bones both the precariousness of freedom and the costs of tyranny. As citizens of the United States of America, let us be inspired by our heritage and share that spirit with our society. Let us urge our leaders to find the moral courage to govern together for the common good. Let us resolve to understand and cooperate with our neighbors in a spirit of humility and compassion.
The morning prayer of gratitude upon waking thanks God, “shehehezarta bi nishmati b’hemla,” meaning: “who has, with compassion, restored my soul to me…..” (Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, p.61). May today go down in history as the day the United States of America, collectively, recovered our soul. My God bless to go forward and bring our nation from strength to strength. Amen.
Rabbi David J. Small
The Emanuel Synagogue, West Hartford, Connecticut
January 7, 2021/ 23 Tevet 5781