Apr 27, 2016

These Are Dark Days for America

These Are Dark Days for America
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Donald Trump laid out his vision of our country today, with the theme of "America First." It rang a bell. Here are a few dark resonances.

  • The America First Committee was the most prominent group opposing American entry into World War II. 
  • The contemporary "America First Party" includes the following in its platform: "Since the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, there have been 40 million unborn babies slaughtered, laying to waste an entire generation. It is time that we end the American Holocaust. We are committed to protecting the lives of these innocent persons." and this: "The America First Party will not support any proposal that allows homosexuals into the military service of the United States of America, in any capacity," and the real doozy is this one: "The America First Party is unalterably opposed to all so-called ' hate crime ' laws whether they are federal, state, county, or municipal. The elusive element of ' hate ' as a significant factor in the commission of a particular crime is something that can best be determined by God; not by Man." 
  • The final frightening bell it rang is the (marginally) alternative history of Phillip Roth's The Plot Against America, in which Charles Lindbergh's isolationist Presidential campaign blocks FDR's reelection. (As it so happens, the real Lindbergh was a leader in the actual "America First Committee.") The New Yorker had a related piece on this about a year ago. 

I believe we are in grave danger. We dare not stand idly by. These are dark days for America, and it is larger than a blowhard clown. Hate is contagious, and bullying, xenophobia, and a toxic society are the things of nightmares. Trump's ascent is no laughing matter.

Friends, though I respect the inner Democratic Party dynamic, and want so much for the societal vision of Bernie Sanders to keep influencing both Hilary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Party's conventional platform, it is time. The implosion of the Republican Party in the face of Trump's populism, Cruz's ridiculous ‪#‎HailCarly‬ pass today, the Kasich/Cruz too-late ‪#‎NeverTrump‬ alliance - all of this makes Roth's alternative history feel more real with each passing day. Now is the time to not just decry Trump's hate-speech. It is time to unify and work the mechanisms of our democracy to counter his hatred by getting behind Hilary Clinton, and then mobilizing to lobby her administration to fulfill much of the vision she has assimilated into her own during this campaign.

Step up. Do it because it is the necessary thing. Don't stop when this stage is done. There's untold damage being done, and, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav taught long ago: "If you believe you can corrupt, believe you can heal."

It's up to you.

Apr 11, 2016

Yearning Americans: A Prayer for a Beloved Society

Yearning Americans: A Prayer for a Beloved Society
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
offered at the US Capitol Building as part of the Fact Coalition/JubileeUSA Tax and Transparency Days 2016

Audio of the Prayer can be found here: soundcloud.com/rabbicreditor/yearning-americans-a-prayer

Dear God,

We stand together tonight, arm in arm, sisters and brothers, Americans of faith and American atheists, small business owners and elected officials, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Black, Brown, and White, conservative and progressive, all of us Yearning Americans united in a sacred collective dream awaiting fulfillment, the dream of a beloved community where every person is considered worthy, a society in which every person is treated with respect by their leaders and neighbors.

The prophets of old denounced the idolatry of greed, calling out the construction of great and ornate buildings while people slept naked and hungry in the streets. We thought that, by now, we’d have learned. But, God, to our great shame, this country we call home has once again traded the biblical prophets for business profits, prioritizing, through law, self-interest over the common good, marginalizing, incarcerating, and forgetting those in need. We have forgotten to abide by the spirit of the law, as we manipulate the letter of the law. We have sinned.

When faceless corporations are considered people but not held to basic human standards of fairness, when we allow terror  haven in the shadows of our own economy, every one of our traditions tells us we’ve lost our way, for all our faiths teach us that, in the end, law must embody Love.

Everywhere we look, on our streets, in our codes, in our campaigns, in our willingness to become polarized when we disagree, there is ample evidence, Dear God, that we have lost our way.

We have, too often, willfully closed our eyes to our most vulnerable neighbors and to the way our decisions and actions carry consequences far beyond our borders.

And so we look to You to remind us that the sacred obligation of citizenship compels us to act together, to repair our broken, fragmented society by being upstanders, by taking risks and bearing the burdens of our fellow women and men.

God, we look to You as we seek to repent the sin of structural selfishness, as we commit to bringing light where darkness masks our transactions and transgressions, to changing laws that commoditize and thereby devalue human worth. We are better than we’re being. We must do better.

God, we remember the ancient promise of a just society, a command that sears our hearts as we gaze upon the terrible effects of our own indifference.

Dear God, for all the statistics and policies and legal procedures, far too much information to hold, we know a few things for sure, values we feel deep in our bones.

We do know this: Turning away is the very worst kind of sin: a callous misallocation of the human capacity to do the right thing. We dare not turn away.

Dear God, we gather tonight in our Nation’s great capital, full of the knowledge that human dignity is the only bottom line that truly matters. We must as the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr told us, "make a career of humanity."

Yes, each one of us is a fragment of You, dear God, but only when we stand together is Your Divine Image recognizable.

And so we pray:

May we, together, gain a clear vision of the world as it might be, and lift that vision an inch closer to reality. Then another inch. And then another.

God, when we feel like our failures have defined us, may we remember the teaching of the great American, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, that “to be only human is to be less than human.”

We can do better than we’ve done.
We must do better than we’ve done.
We will do better than we’ve done.

Dear God, we ask you to be with us as we do better than we’ve ever done before.

Amen.

Justice, Soon and in Our Days: A Prayer, Sitting at the Steps of the Supreme Court

Justice, Soon and in Our Days: A Prayer, Sitting at the Steps of the Supreme Court
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear God,

Too many of us are denied our rights,
the gradual change
promised over and over again
a cruel canard
in the face of enduring structural disregard.

Where are You, Just One,
when the color of our skin
seals our fate in the eyes of the law?

Where are You, God,
when we are denied the vote
after serving long sentences
for minor offences?

Where are You, Merciful One,
when we inject poison
into Your Images
punishing them for wrongs
we are often wrong in deciding?

God, I sit at the foot of a building
on which is emblazoned
"justice the guardian of liberty"
and I remember:

This prayer long ago,
when the words
"justice, justice shall You pursue"
rang forth like a bell.

We are our sisters' keepers.
We are our brothers' keepers.
We just keeping forgetting our way,
closing our eyes through the unjust luxury of inherited privilege.

God, may we remember that the answer to societal injustice is more justice, that Mercy is a human choice, and that we can make a more perfect union. We are, after all, fragments of You.

May we remember that You are where we let You in, where we must come recognize You once again: in each other's eyes.

Amen.

Apr 5, 2016

I Love BimBam's "Shaboom!"

I Love BimBam's "Shaboom!"
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

A Letter to the NY Jewish Week

To those who see BimBam's "Shaboom" as anything other than an amazing new gift to Jewish families, I offer the following brief thought: As a rabbi, as a father, as a grown-up little boy who still reads 'The Monster at the End of the Book' for fun, I thank BimBam for bringing Torah to new heights, for bringing Jewish Joy into the 21st century, and for making me smile. (If you believe Judaism has never shared delightful and complicated images of Angels, I refer you to the following in-depth analysis: http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-life-and-religion/114837/angels-in-judaica). Thank you BimBam, for sanctifying technology and teaching my children!

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom
Berkeley,CA