I know that like me, many of you are reeling from last night's election results. I've seen some of your tears this morning, received your frightened emails, and read of your tremendous disappointment and shock on Facebook.
Almost nowhere in the country is the disconnect greater between local and national politics. Here in Seattle / Washington State, voters have advanced light rail transit, supported raising the state minimum wage, and pushed for gun safety. But, it appears that our region is quite out of sync with the national sentiments of fear and discontent that fueled a "stunning win" for Trump.
Members of our community have many different places to turn for political analysis. But, my hope is that ALL of us will be able to turn to our Kavana community (specifically) and Jewish tradition (more broadly) for comfort, solace, community, and hope.
It may sound strange to say, but we Jews know how to do tragedy well. We know how to mourn, we know how to comfort one another, and we know how to continue to move forward with our eyes on the future. On this post-election day, I hope that we will take the time we need to absorb what has happened and then figure out how to move forward together, keeping in mind that this is not the end of the story. It's also a little bizarre that today happens to be the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht (the "Night of Broken Glass" from 1938, when Nazis carried out a massive pogrom against the Jews of Germany, smashing shop windows and murdering dozens). Without making any equivalency, to me this coincidence is simply a reminder of the sense of urgency many of us feel and the serious stakes of politics.
There is great wisdom in our Jewish tradition of observing shiva -- of taking seven days in the wake of a loss to simply be: praying together or sitting in silence, offering hugs and words of comfort, grieving together. Let's be together: come to Living Room Learning tonight, invite other Kavana folks to join you for Shabbat dinner this week, reach out to me or to Rabbi Sydney for a meeting. This week, we should all dispense hugs freely, and try to go easy on ourselves and others. We should reach out and reassure those around us -- our friends, our children, and most especially anyone who may be feeling particularly vulnerable right now (and it's a long list: women, Muslims, people of color, Mexican immigrants, the LGBTQ community, survivors of sexual violence, people with disabilities, veterans, etc., etc.) -- that we are in it together, that we will have each other's backs, that together we will find a way forward.
Next, we reaffirm our commitment to who we are at our core, and to the values that we hold dear. Because I can't say it any better than he did, I share with you the eloquent words that my friend and colleague, Rabbi Shai Held, wrote last night:
"Jews, and people of conscience everywhere, are called to commit our lives to love and justice. We commit to love in a world consumed by hate, and especially at a time when America has elected a man who is a walking brew of toxic hate. We commit to justice in a world fueled by injustice, and especially at a time when American has elected a man who has no understanding at all of what justice means. So we can and must fight for love and for justice. But make no mistake: a commitment to love and to justice will require a willingness to resist; resistance takes courage, and courage is a rare commodity indeed. Let us hold each other tight and keep reminding ourselves: Love and justice. Love and justice. Love and justice. It is as simple and as excruciatingly difficult as that."
Next week, we will figure out the next steps, of how we organize and join together to double down on achieving all that we believe is right and good in the world. For now, I leave you with the concluding words of Psalm 27, which we recited together many times over the High Holidays just a few weeks ago: "chazak v'ametz libecha v'kavei el adonai," "Be strong and courageous in your heart, and find hope in God."
We will move forward together, with our history, tradition, and faith to guide us.
With love and comfort,
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
This configuration rings true to me today. I picture volunteers in my community working shoulder-to-shoulder in the kitchen preparing meals for homeless “tent city” residents or a multigenerational group marching for justice and equality arm-in-arm, like a wall of planks.
In this quiet pause, it's awesome to be able to reflect on the theme of this week's holiday. Thanksgiving isn't celebrated widely in Israel, of course, but it does have a Hebrew name: Chag ha-Hodaya, literally, the Holiday of Gratitude (or thanks or acknowledgement). You might recognize the root word from so many of our Jewish prayers... it's conjugated into forms like "modeh ani" ("I give thanks") or "modim anachnu lach" ("We give thanks to You") or, perhaps most famous of all -- a line repeated during the Hallel service or at a bris -- "hoduladonai ki tov, ki l'olam chasdo" ("Give thanks to Adonai who is good, for God's lovingkindness endures forever.")
Last night, I went to bed with the mixed election results fresh in my mind. This morning, I woke up thinking about a powerful image that appears at the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Parashat Toledot. In last week's reading, Abraham's servant had traveled to find a wife for Isaac, and he had selected Rebecca based on her incredible generosity and compassion (as our Moadon students have learned, she offered water not only to him but also to his camels!). This week, we meet Rebecca again, now pregnant and uncomfortable. She seeks divine intervention, and is told that two nations are struggling in her womb. In the pshat (the simple, plain meaning), this means that she is pregnant with a set of twins. On the level of drash (deeper interpretation), these twins, Jacob and Esau, represent two very different modalities of being, and it is these that are struggling within her.