2021: A Strong and Smooth Transition

Biden–Harris Transition - https://buildbackbetter.com/

It is a New Year. Many are ready to put so much of 2020 behind. Indeed, we should look back at last year and never forget our losses, our anxieties, our pain. But we also must relish in all of those positive moments we experienced, fueling a future of blessing, hope, and recovery.

This new year calls for an upward and forward trajectory. We need a better and safer and more united 2021, and a less divided world, too. Chief to that resolution is a smooth, fair, and legal certification of the 2020 United States presidential election results.

As they do every four years, Congress next week will certify the results of this past November’s presidential election. And likewise, every four years, despite the bitterest of acrimony in some years, each Vice President has presided over the certification—Nixon for Kennedy, Gore for George W. Bush, Biden for Trump, to name a few.

Next week, Vice President Pence will preside over the certification of President Biden’s win. Vice President Pence’s attorneys even asked a federal judge yesterday to reject a request from Rep. Louie Gohmert seeking to compel the Vice President to ignore electoral votes of several states when Congress meets to certify.

The right to vote is one of our constitutionally afforded rights. That right has been threatened and undermined time and again—for people of color, for the poor, for the under-educated, for women, for felons, and for so many more. We have fought through the generations to counter those threats and those suppressions, but now, frankly, this right to vote is being threatened for each and every one of us.

The courts (including the Supreme Court) have rejected attempts to discount or overturn the results of the election 59 times. State election officials from both sides of the aisle have repeatedly stated this election was free and fair. Joe Biden was elected President of the United States and Kamala Harris was elected Vice President of the United States.

This year will implicitly regress into the discord of the last year without the peaceful, unruffled, and dignified transfer of power.

And that transfer of power is soulfully embedded in our Jewish tradition of transition. This weekend we conclude the Book of Genesis. It is the first time we finish a Book of Torah during our annual cycle of reading. And as with each book closing, the congregation and reader recite Chazak, Chazak, V’Nitzchazek. One of the most common understandings of this expression is that our strength only grows together—that is: I am Chazak (strong) and you are Chazak, but together, passing from one Book to the next, one chapter to the next, we will be strengthened (nitzchazek). This could not be timelier.

A delayed and protracted objection next week will only be a disservice to Chazak, Chazak, V’Nitchazek – or as our nation’s forefathers put it: E. Pluribus Unum.

We are categorically morally obligated to call upon every member of Congress who believes in their own strength, in the strength of each one of us, and in the strength of our democracy. We call upon them to speak out in the name of those strengths and in the name of this democracy—and against all efforts to undermine and besmirch it.

God-willing, we will recover in 2021 in so many ways. And it must start now.

About the Author
Rabbi Avi Olitzky is a senior rabbi of Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. He graduated from the Joint Program at Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary in 2003 where he was awarded a BA in Sociology and a BA in Talmud and Rabbinics. Rabbi Olitzky went on to receive an MA in Midrash in October 2007 and his ordination as a rabbi from JTS in May 2008.
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