How beautiful it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity. — Psalm 133
I awoke early the day after the election, ironically, with this verse from Psalms running through my head, to a country swirling with emotion. I am sure for some it will take some time to unpack, to understand and to fully embrace. How are we to process the stark reality that we are not dwelling together in unity, that there are deep divisions in our country, and a presidential campaign espoused so much ugliness, vulgarity and division?
I know there are some in our community who are deeply afraid, angry, uncertain and perhaps mistrustful of our democracy, as I know there are others who feel the opposite. But this is the beauty and the pain of a representative democracy such as ours. We cannot love democracy only when the candidate we support wins and shun democracy when the opposite occurs. While we may not have a perfect system, it is ours and it worked as it has since the founding of the republic.
We will certainly ask ourselves, “What does it mean to affirm the government of the people, by the people, for the people?”
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It depends on who you ask. And if you ask enough Americans you will see, as Boston University professor Stephen Prothero says, “that our nation rests not on agreement about its core ideas and values, but on a willingness to continue to debate them. What constitutes America, are ideas — a common commitment to key words such as “liberty,” “equality,” “constitutionalism” and “republicanism.” In every generation our pluribus threatens to overtake our unum; in every generation the nation must be imagined anew. ... The way to wisdom here lies not in affirming simple truths but in engaging in difficult discussions.”
The particular power of the Jewish response to personal and national events is to exercise the greatest Jewish gift, the gift of hope. For even when we grieve, we are asked to praise God; even when times seem dark, and uncertain, we light a candle, imposing our will of brightness and possibility on the darkness. Because Hatikvah, the Hope that has always been our beacon, is a power that is stronger than any one moment in time.
What is needed now more than ever are the reservoirs of kindness and compassion to be called forth to vanquish the deep divisions that are so clearly evident. We cannot wait for our elected officials to do this. We must be the examples we seek.
Regardless of the candidate who received our votes, while some may grieve and some may dance, we must all recommit ourselves to bringing more love, more kindness, more compassion, more justice, more thoughtfulness, more care and more peace to each other every day. Our very country depends on that and depends on us being active and involved citizens.
We can and should do no less.
Andrew Paley is the senior rabbi for Temple Shalom in Dallas. He wrote this for the Dallas Morning News.