“The Day After”
“The Day After”
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
We’re all finding our breath after watching the chaos that ensued in the nation’s capital. We have all felt tension before, during, and after the election, but nothing could have prepared us for what occurred yesterday, when marauders took aim at our Democracy and national institutions.
Political pundits and commentators of all varieties will weigh in on how and why it happened, and then who to blame and hold accountable. We’ll have to wait and see how acts of insurrection will be dealt with and how any response will soothe an overheated nation.
As Americans, we share in the horror of yesterday’s events. As Jews, we have a long history from which we can learn about political insurrection and who was blamed. In the past, political insurrection didn’t end well for us, and we were often blamed and scapegoated. But as Jews and Americans, we foster a deeper fear. It begins with a fact that only in a democratic state did we ever thrive and under a benevolent leader did we ever survive. The promise of America, the land our ancestors called the “Goldene Medina,” the Golden Land, because they believed that the streets were paved with gold, was our people’s refuge before the Land of Israel was born in 1948. In World War II, European Jews had little choice. Those who can remember said, “The pessimists went to New York City; the optimists went to Auschwitz.” It’s a cold statement and it stirs emotions that can’t be ignored.
As all Americans watched events unfold in the U.S. Capital, and in the Capitol building, itself, we held onto our belief that the police and other defenders of our nation would push back the insurrectionists. For fleeting moments, and still today, we wondered what would happen if the pillars of our great republic were really shaken. For now we’ll have to continue wondering if those pillars sustained any lasting damage. A commentator who observed coups in Europe, said, and I paraphrase, “A coup doesn’t often succeed the first time, but it can on the second or third attempts.” In a word, we’ve been warned. The pillars of our republic must be fortified and the offices that elected officials occupy must be held by the most honorable, respectable, moral, and able people we can prepare through education, civic-mindedness, and duty to country.
For the time-being, every American and every Jew among us must set aside any antipathy for the other, whoever that might be, politically, socially, economically, etc., and choose the high road on which we can all find a place in this great republic. When we do, we’ll have less to fear, because we’ll soon learn that there is a place where we can dream our dreams, build our careers, raise our families, and fulfill the vision that our immigrant ancestors had when they first came to this country. In Judaism, we’ve don’t turn back the clock to reclaim some halcyon days. We aim to transform the world into what it ought to be. What should the world be for you and me, our neighbors, the stranger among us, and those who long to be part of an American dream of their own?
On this Shabbat, let’s lay down our weapons, be they real instruments of war, destructive words, or biases and bigotries, and pick up the champions of hope in the form of Jewish values that command us to “Welcome the stranger,” “Love your neighbor,” and “What is hateful to you, do not do to others; that is the whole Torah, go and learn it.” Let’s commit ourselves to our faith, which is the foundation of a future we share.