Into the Unknown

Waking up to election results on Wednesday morning I can’t help thinking about the scriptural reading that Jews around the world will be chanting this weekend.  In Genesis 12:1, Abram is challenged to “go forth” into a new land, “…to a land that I will show you.”

My tradition teaches that the commandment to leave everything that they knew was one of many tests that Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah would face throughout their lives.

As a nation, we too have been cast into uncharted territory. Like Abram and Sarai, we do not know what we will encounter as we travel on our journey into the future. Each step we take brings us further away from the touchstones we thought we could count on to steady ourselves as individuals and as a nation. The hateful rhetoric, misogyny and bigotry that were hallmarks of this campaign are no longer abstract concepts spoken by a careless campaigner — they now seem frighteningly real. Many of us find ourselves experiencing grief, shock and mourning as we try to make sense of what happened.

Now is a time to take stock in and learn from this brutal new reality.  We must pause in order to feel and, yes, begin to heal. Only then can we find the ability to decide what next to do.

But healing does not mean complacency. Let us not forget that another test faced by Abraham and Sarah was when God told them about the plan to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gemorah. The fact that Abraham, unlike Noah, challenged God and passionately argued for mercy and compassion bore witness to both his character and his leadership.

Our task, as we go forth in the aftermath of a brutal, ugly, frightening and vastly disappointing election is to speak up and make our voices heard if and when we see injustice and bigotry injected into our daily lives. Our character will be on display as we go forth into this wilderness. Will we be able to  speak truth to power?  Will we be voices of conscience, compassion and consistency, or will we allow the waves of ugliness that this election has unleashed go unchecked?

As we take our first steps into the unknown, let us remember that our faith, our values and our footsteps are all intertwined.

- Rabbi Joseph Black

Rabbi Joseph Black has been the Senior Rabbi of Temple Emanuel in Denver since 2010. Rabbi Black serves as a Chaplain in the Colorado House of Representatives and is Immediate Past President of the Rocky Mountain Rabbinical Council