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Inauguration Day 2017

Sometimes when I sit down to write, the sermon pours out of me. I type as quickly as I can because it feels like the words have been circling in my mind - only waiting for me to touch a keyboard to start crystallizing into a coherent message.

Other times, it takes hours for me to find my way into a sermon. In these instances, it is only after I read and research and even make a few false starts that something clicks and the doorway into the topic is finally revealed.

I have been thinking about and preparing for this sermon for at least a month. My work began the moment I realized that the inauguration would take place on a Friday and that- hours after that ceremony- I would need to stand on our bimah and offer some insight into this next chapter of our country’s life.

I’ve researched; I’ve studied; I’ve spoken with colleagues and friends; and, as I'm writing this, it is now Friday morning, and I still don’t have a sermon.

I wish that my ordination came with some reservoir of prophetic knowledge that I could tap into when my own concerns and emotions tie me up into knots. I wish that there had been a class that taught me how to speak reassuringly after watching friends and colleagues breathe deeply in relief when the bomb threats called into their local JCC’s were revealed to be only threats. I wish that holding onto hope and optimism was not always such a desperate struggle.

I do not know what is coming next for our country, and so, after weeks of attempting to write, I have decided to approach this transition as I do when presented with unknown next steps and unknown outcomes in my own life. Rather than preach, I am going to pray.

This prayer was inspired by the men and especially by the women of our Torah portion this week, Shemot, the first parashah of Exodus.

Ezrat Nafsheinu, M’kor Chayeinu, our Soul-Sustainer, Source of Our Life-

We ask that You hear our prayers on this historic day and that you fill us with inspiration to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with You, our God.

May we be like Shiphrah and Puah who relied on their faith and their consciences when they found themselves in an unjust and dangerous world. Help us to follow in their footsteps and honor the way that they refused to be cowed by even the most powerful bully.

May we be like Bithiah (Batyah) the daughter of Pharaoh who encountered a helpless child of a marginalized people and who chose to act with compassion, using her position and her privilege to protect the most vulnerable in her society.

May we be like Moses who admitted and owned his weaknesses and asked for the help that he needed to succeed as a leader.

May we be like Jethro who was able to see righteousness in someone unlike himself and who provided wise and generous council throughout his life.

May we be like Zipporah who acted quickly when faced with danger, throwing herself into new and challenging roles to protect those whom she loved.

May we be like Yocheved, the first of Moses’ mothers, who was willing to share that which was most precious to her in order to save what she valued most.

May we like Miriam who was brave and intelligent and whose love made her a protector.

May we find within ourselves the strength of our ancestors. May we use that strength to help create a more just future.


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