I suspect you are feeling the way I am: anxious about the election, concerned about what it will trigger, confused about the feelings and motivations of about half the people in this country, and yearning for a way to knit ourselves together again, to reclaim the sense that we are Americans, and not warring, disparate tribes with little in common except that we inhabit the same vast land.
But we are also fortunate, in that Jewish tradition’s creativity and flexibility has given rise to a number of lovely prayers to elevate our senses and remind us of what this is all about.
Some are brief, meant to be said when you enter the voting booth, such as this offering by Rabbi Laura Novak Winer: “Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of the Universe, who expects us to engage as citizens in our country.”
Others created longer texts to be read on the Shabbat before the election, but truth is, they can be read anytime the spirit moves us. Here’s an excerpt from the Prayer for the Electorate by David Zvi Kalman, addressed to “The One who sustains nations on order, on truth, and on peace.” It’s a little dark and foreboding, but then so has been this election:
May it be Your will that no misfortune occur by their hands, and may the nation rejoice when the righteous abound. Save them from a wicked path, from those who speak perversely. Send wisdom into their heart and make knowledge pleasant to their soul,as it says, “Then you shall understand virtue and justice; equality and every good path.” And may it be Your will. And let us say: Amen.
T’ruah, the rabbinic social justice group, has its own take, which is calls “A Meditation on Voting” and its aspirational expressions really resonate with me right now. “May it be Your Will, at this season of our election, to guide us towards peace,” it opens.
By voting, we commit to being full members of society, to accepting our individual responsibility for the good of the whole…Grant us the courage to fulfill the mitzvah of loving our neighbors as ourselves, and place in our hearts the wisdom to understand those who do not share our views.
Knowing the depth of innovation in American Jewry, I’m sure that there are other wise and uplifting prayers out there, and I encourage you to share them with me and our readers. This is not about asking a higher power to intervene in a political election. It’s about accepting our own responsibilities, elevating our sights, and remembering that we have a duty to our community and to our nation. Amen.
Contact Jane Eisner at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @Jane_Eisner
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Jane Eisner, a pioneer in journalism, is writer-at-large at the Forward and the 2019 Koeppel Fellow in Journalism at Wesleyan University. For more than a decade, she was editor-in-chief of the Forward, the first woman to hold the position at the influential Jewish national news organization. Under her leadership, the Forward’s digital readership grew significantly, and won numerous regional and national awards for its original journalism, in print and online.