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November 4, 2020 in Rabbi Greg Harris
I could not watch the election returns last night. I normally love to see the numbers come in, hear about little counties in far off States and see Washington’s political wonks in their glory. I remember going with a bunch of friends to a bar on Capitol Hill in 1992 to watch the returns come in. It was Bush v Clinton. In so many ways, it was a different time.
I woke up this morning and did not want to look at my phone. Was a winner declared? I cherished my purposeful ignorance under the comforter. As soon as the light of my phone pierced the bedroom’s darkness, my heart would race faster. Did my candidate win? Did he lose? Would we be on the right path or be on the wrong road?
I have spent the day corralling my attention towards work. I have been teaching classes, meeting with families, committee work, and reading. I have written in my personal journal a few times today. Anything to keep myself calm. Many newscasters and editorialist have told me to be patient until the votes are finalized. After all, it was only the President himself who proclaimed his own victory.
I have been sneaking looks at the electoral map on websites today. Like the button on the elevator that obviously makes the doors open faster, the more I refreshed my web browser, the quicker Pennsylvania would be decided. Eventually this liminality would be over.
But then I came across a prayer written by a wonderful teacher, Dr. Erica Brown. Erica is on faculty at George Washington University and lives in Kemp Mill. She is an outstanding educator, leader and colleague. Her words have helped me refocus beyond the immediate. She expresses a hope for what happens after the results are verified. Implicitly she asks, Who do we want to be?
Whomever is our next President, he does not dictate who I am as a person. He does not decide if I chose be an activist or speak up as an ally for my neighbor. He does not control if I am kind or tolerant or generous or faithful. The President has more power than we realized but he is powerless to force me to hate or scapegoat or mock. I am responsible for my own actions… regardless of who lives temporarily at 1600.
I hope this prayer helps you too.
By: Dr. Erica Brown
Today is a time for hope and prayer…
I pray for the equanimity to accept whatever the election result is.
I pray that there will be no violence as a result of this election.
I pray that relationships fractured by politics will be reconciled.
I pray for the patience to wait out what could be a long and drawn out election.
I pray for an end to gratuitously mean arguments among strangers and friends on Facebook.
I pray for the curiosity to learn more about the governance of this country.
I pray in thanksgiving to retrieve the time I spent sending out political memes.
I pray for the kindness to reach out to neighbors who did not vote like me.
I pray that millions of lawn signs will find themselves in recycling bins by the end of the week.
I pray that I can put the distraction of this election behind me and return with full energy to my work and my family.
I pray for a peaceful succession of power.
I pray that whatever party wins will reach across the aisle.
I pray that no matter the outcome, we will all take racial injustice seriously.
I pray that no matter the outcome, anti-Semitism will be on the decline.
I pray that every congregational rabbi in this country will give a sermon on Jewish unity this Shabbat.
I pray that whoever sits in the highest seat in the nation will do everything within his power to fight COVID-19 and return America’s citizens to good health.
I pray that we can still internalize the Talmud’s message of robust and respectful debate.
I pray that I am fair enough to acknowledge the contributions of the party I did not vote for.
I pray for the wisdom to believe in our unity even when we don’t act uniformly.