A long time ago, Amos said in the book that bears his name in the Bible, “I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I’m a goat herder, and I grow sycamore figs.” As for me, the same might be said: I am not a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I don’t know what’s in store for our nation and its many diverse citizens and residents as our 45th president assumes office today.
The new president wasn’t my preferred candidate, but he’s the man. Donald Trump is the president of the United States. This makes him my president. His picture will soon be in Federal buildings. When I fly I’ll see his picture at Logan. When we need to mourn or celebrate as Americans, President Trump will be the face of our nation.
I can moan and express a good deal of anguish over this. Actually, I have moaned over this. A lot. But it clearly does me no good, other than to acknowledge how hard this period in American life has been for me and many others. My experience with all of this is akin to being a steel ball in a pinball machine, bouncing off of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ 5 stages of dealing with loss: denial, anger, depression, bargaining, and acceptance.
Of course, I know that some of you are very happy about today, and I’m glad you feel so confident. I don’t know if I can ever arrive at your place of being so certain about the future under this new president. But I don’t want to get stuck in anger. I don’t want to be like those last Japanese soldiers who kept fighting the Allies long after the war was lost. Is that acceptance? I think more aptly, its resignation.
I’m not a prophet nor the son of a prophet, and I don’t raise figs or goats. I’m a Reform rabbi, a part of a movement that has existed for close to 200 years. I’m responsible for lifting up the central tenets of our tradition, which includes being acutely attuned to the values of social justice. Healing the sick and clothing the naked are not just words spoken in our daily liturgy. They are integral values, part of an obligation that we, as Jews, take with the utmost seriousness: to not stand idly by while our neighbor suffers.
The poor and the dispossessed of this country must be able to look to others, including the American Jewish community, for support and succor. We Jews have lived through some of the darkest moments of human history. We know all about vulnerability and sorrow. We know what it feels like to fear that the world is indifferent to our plight. We were slaves to Pharaoh, strangers in a strange land.
I don’t know what’s going to happen. I do know what must never happen. That’s what I will be dedicated to, regardless of the person or the party in the White House.