As clergy, I really try not to show partisanship when acting on behalf of my community. And yet, I’m finding it more and more difficult these days because of basic ideals that I never dreamed would be considered political… Like the value of truth.
In Judaism, we often pray to the God of Truth, and speak of the Torah of Truth. And in Talmud, Rashi explains that God is present when there is Truth and absent when there is not. I never imagined that “real” facts versus “alternative facts” would become a debate to be had, but apparently truth doesn’t mean what it used to. How is it possible that truth and facts are now a partisan issue? How is it that the freedom of the press is now an endangered species? How does it serve mankind to silence the educated? I mean, argue about whatever you like. Let’s disagree. But no amount of pushing will ever make 2+2 not equal 4, and no amount of finger pointing will ever make it palatable to suppress the fact-finding of our news sources and scientists. Some things are opinions. Some things are just plain facts. So, let’s have an honest debate based on truth. But we will all lose if we debate with fiction.
With these thoughts pulsing around in my mind, I watched the video below which features the Statue of Liberty. After viewing it, I started singing these words, which are mounted to her pedestal, and ended up humming them to myself all day:
Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teaming shore. Send these, the homeless tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
These words by the Jewish American poet Emma Lazarus were written to welcome incoming immigrants. And I’m so sad these days, as I know many of you are, that those words are fighting to remain in the hearts and minds of the American people while truth is is being silenced, freedom is being suppressed, immigrants desperate for a new home are being turned away, and a wall is being built.
The rain falling in this video is certainly representing our tears and the storm so many feel internally and fear externally. And yet, there is hope as the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Ronald Regan appear against the darkness. I hope after you watch, Emma Lazarus’s poem will be ringing in your ears as well.
Let’s never give up on the pursuit of facts or on the American dream. We owe it to Lazarus, to King, and even to Reagan (what do you think he would be saying right now?) to keep fighting, even when we are tired from the battle. It may be raining today, but it is up to us to create that first break in the storm. We are our own messiah.
Thank you to my dear friend Beth Gallagher for creating this gorgeous and moving video.
Wishing Shalom (peace, contentment, completeness) for all mankind.
Rabbi/Cantor (“Rantor”) Diane