Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
Veteran’s Day is a day to honor every American who served in the armed forces to defend our country. It’s a day to give thanks to those who honor the American dream inscribed in the Constitution, and emblazoned on memorials and public buildings across our great land. It’s a time to remember our hope symbolized by the Liberty Bell and its famous inscription from Torah (Leviticus 25:10) “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all the inhabitants.” On Friday, November 11th, at 6:30pm at Congregation Beth Israel, Houston, we will honor our veterans with a blessing and the singing of “God Bless America”.
The hallmarks of our nation have upheld us through war, political corruption, and civil unrest. We have reached high to overcome inequality and to achieve rights for women and minorities. We have placed trust into the hands of those who were newcomers to us but who shared our outlook for America. But, never have we faced a president-elect who blatantly and freely spoke of nearly every demographic in pejorative and racist terms. For or against him, his branded message precedes him. The effects have been swift and immediate. Swastikas have appeared on storefronts and southern synagogues were threatened with a letter that said, in effect, “We’re coming into the synagogues to finish the job” of Dylan Roof, the Charleston church shooter. These are not just words. We know that from history.
What to do? What to say? Congregation Beth Israel has weathered many storms in its 162 year history in Houston. Judaism’s Golden Rules have helped us endure: “Love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18), “Do not wrong the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (found 36 times in Torah), and, “What is hateful to you, do not do to others” (Mishnah).
We were separated only at the election booth; but, now we stand together as one people under one God. As Americans and Jews, we find in the values of our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and sacred Jewish teachings the aspirations of our nation. Our obligations to our country and each other remain the same: to uphold the Constitution; to provide for the common good; and, to live by a sacred standard, which for us is inherent in our Torah, a symbol of the covenant you and I make with Adonai, our God.
May we join in prayer now and always with these words:
May we choose life and good, that our children may inherit from us the blessings of dignity and freedom, prosperity and peace.
May we have the vision to see that each of us, in some measure, can help to realize these aims:
Where there is ignorance and superstition, let there be enlightenment and knowledge.
Where there is prejudice and hatred, let there be acceptance and love.
Where there is fear and suspicion, let there be confidence and trust.
Where there is tyranny and oppression, let there be freedom and justice.
Where there is poverty and disease, let there be prosperity and health.
Where there is strife and discord, let there be harmony and peace.
(adapted from Gates of Prayer, CCAR)
God bless you and your family. God bless America.
Rabbi David Lyon