Pharaohs & Prophets: Inauguration Day Reflection

The following letter was read at "A Call to Courage", Detroit - 1/20/17


Dear friends,

I'm sorry that I can't be physically present at this powerful gathering, and I'm so grateful to be present in spirit and in word. 

I'll be honest: sometimes I hate Torah. Too often it feels like I am raging against my inheritance more than I am nourished by it. This is not one of those moments - and I am so grateful. This is one of those moments that Torah gives me just what I need. Tomorrow, in synagogues around the world, Jews will read the beginning of the story of Exodus. We will chant: "Vayakom melekh chadash al Mitzrayim -- a new King arose over Egypt".... and thus begins, again, our formative story of moving from the narrow-straights of slavery to the wide plains of liberation. 

As Michael Walzer writes

“We still believe [...] what the Exodus first taught [...]: First; that wherever you live, it is probably Egypt; second; that there is a better place, [...] a promised land; and third, that the way to the land is through the wilderness. There is no way to get from here to there except by joining together and marching.”

The meeting of this moment in our mythic history and this moment in our lived history is just what I needed. Through this chance miracle I remember: we've been here before. Our comrades at Jews for Racial and Economic Justice have been saying "5777 years of Jewish resistance -- we're ready already".


I would like to take this opportunity to honor the memory of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who died this week in Jewish time 45 years ago. When he marched with Rev. King in Selma he said "i felt as if my feet were praying".


A few days after the election, I posted:

I have never been more grateful to be both clergy and a community organizer.

Movement friends: if you don't have some wellspring from which to draw, start digging! There are rituals, stories, songs that can make you stronger. There are frameworks to help you feel a part of the long arc.

Faith friends: lace up your shoes, and roll up your sleeves - it's time to pray with those feet.


I leave you with the words Rabbi Heschel wrote to President Kennedy in 1963: 

"the hour calls for high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity"


Many thanks & blessings -- see you in the streets!


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