I am sitting in my apartment in Chicago, wrestling for feelings. Like most mornings, I am looking to my siddur, tefillin and talit for comfort as I recite my morning prayers. But that too is a struggle and I cannot seem to get through it as I worry about the security of minorities, the climate, health access for all, and so much more.
It is November 9, 2016-the day after the United States election. Donald Trump is the President-elect, a moment that so many Americans of all views are shocked to realize. I, like so many other citizens, am not sure how to feel and how to react to my emotions and thoughts. I am angry. I am disappointed in this country’s fabric, and I keep thinking this is just a bad dream from which to wake up. I worry that this is just the beginning. I worry that I’m in the same state that so many were in before World War II began. I worry for every single sound-bite that President-elect Trump created:
“Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States…”
“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
But I do not want to feel this way. I do not want be angry. I do not want to hold grudges, and I do not want to cause even more divides than my nation has already sewn. As I am struggling to connect with the words of my tradition written in the siddur, I flip to the cover. Inscribed are the words, “Da lifnei mi atah omed: Know before whom you stand.” This phrase sits on the tops of many arks in synagogues across the world. Many attribute it to our relationship with God. It reminds us that there is one infinite power and ruler for whom all of our work is done and judged. I believe, especially today, this also speaks to our morals and values we bring into the world day-to-day. We all have certain values before which we stand: ensuring a better economy for our children, working to prevent climate change increases, fighting for the safety of students on college campuses, or even brushing our teeth twice a day.
We must take every day as an opportunity and blessing to use our lives for the better and act upon our values. To fight for those who do not have a voice, inspire others, and work for a world with liberty and justice for all. I do not want to hold grudges, and I do not want to create divides. I want to use this election to create a brighter world for myself and future generations. I know the values before which I stand, and I know the infinite opportunities that are possible for Americans and those in our country if I stick to those values. Today is not a grieving day. Today is not a day for grudges. Today is a day to get to work. What do you stand before?