The benediction I gave President Biden before his inauguration
You already know the Yiddish word for “mensch.” It means a person who endeavors to consistently do the right thing — textbook example: Joe Biden.
Here’s a new Yiddish word for our vocabulary as we send off our favorite Delawarean to Washington: “bashert.” My wife, Dr. Elissa Green, aka Major Biden’s Delaware Humane Association veterinarian, is my bashert. Dr. Jill Biden is Joe’s bashert. Proving that both the President-Elect and I love doctors, and that we both married up.
But bashert also means “meant to be.” It is indeed, bashert, that you, our dear President-elect, are being inaugurated on the very week when Jews, all around the world, are reading from the Book of Exodus, about Moses’ freeing us from 400 years of back-breaking Egyptian slavery at the hands of an autocratic, cruel Pharaoh.
In many ways, dear Joe, you are our Moses, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is our Aaron. Among your closer Jewish friends, together, your administration will always affectionately be known as “Mamala and the Mench.”
Stay safe our dear friend. Defeat the plague of COVID-19, rebuild our crumbling infrastructure and kick-start our sluggish economy. On the week we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, rid us of the scourge of 400 years of institutional racism. Deal aggressively and boldly with global climate change for the sake of our children’s future. And find allies on both sides of the aisle to pass your legislation, helping us heal our rifts so, with sincerity, we can declare the words of Psalm 133, “behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together in unity.” And in all these mighty endeavors, invite God in to help you do the heavy lifting with you — you are never alone — you have God — and you have us.
So allow me to conclude my dear friend, President-elect Biden, with the same blessing I gave you six years ago, when you first publicly declared me your rabbi. At that Jewish New Year’s Celebration, I offered you a blessing. You enthusiastically said yes! You lowered your head reverentially. In pre-COVID fashion, I laid my hands on your forehead, and pulling from the Book of Numbers, I blessed you with the following:
Yevrecha Adonai v’yishmerecha
May God bless you and keep you.
Y’air Adonai panav aylecha vee-chuneka
May God shine His face upon you and be gracious to you.
Y’sah Adonai panav aleycha v’ya’same l’cha shalom.
May God lift His countenance towards you, and give you that most precious gift of all, the gift of wholeness, the gift of completeness, the gift of peace.
And, together, let us all say amen!
Michael Beals is the rabbi at Congregation Beth Shalom in Wilmington, DE