It has been quite a week.

On Wednesday morning at 4 a.m., after 3 hours of tossing and turning and 45 minutes of fitful sleep, I posted my personal feelings about the election results on my facebook page. I later posted them on my new website and I urge you, if you haven’t read them to go to and read them. They reflected my immediate, deeply emotional reaction to the election and those feelings still reflect what I feel.

But, I also feel it is time for me this Shabbat in this position on this bima to look ahead and that is what I will do this morning.

God told Abraham: Lech Lecha. Go forward. I want you to keep those words in your minds today as I speak. If you are not ready to go forward, I completely understand but at some point we all must.

So, let me share with you some thoughts on what I think we all, whomever we voted for in this election, must do.

First, lech lecha, go out to the world we live in and act with compassion.

You heard me say this on Yom Kippur and it is even more important now.

There is a beautiful midrash that Abraham can be compared to a bottle of perfume which was closed. When God told Abraham lech lecha, go out, it was, the Rabbis say, as if the bottle was opened and the aroma filled the world. I love that midrash because it teaches us that our actions can have great and lasting affect. So, I want to begin by encouraging you to go out and perform acts of kindness. Turn off the TV and Facebook and go do something good for someone.

If you think compassion is a value which we are in danger of losing after this election, prove that at least in your corner of the world, it will always be there.

And, let me tell you what the first act of compassion can be. Regardless whether you are devastated or elated by the results of this election, lech lecha, go out and embrace and comfort and promise to support someone who sees himself or herself to be vulnerable after this election. There are so many in our nation who are afraid of what might lie ahead because of the rhetoric and policy proposals that we all heard from our President-elect during the campaign.

There are people who feel that they are in danger because of their religion, race, sexual identity, gender, ethnic origin, or status as immigrants. They are afraid and there are already acts of violence being perpetrated which have been linked to the election results and those acts are not just against individuals or groups, they are against all of us as Americans.

Whomever you voted for, whomever you supported, each and every one of us needs to stand and proclaim that this nation can not tolerate bigotry, can not stand by while people are threatened or persecuted. All of us, I don’t care what political party you belong to, must reach out to these individuals and speak out loudly against acts of hatred. And, we must hear that message loudly and clearly from the leaders and leaders-elect of this nation.

I have already reached out in the name of this congregation and will continue to do so. This synagogue will always stand against bigotry, against hatred, against exclusion. That I promise you.

I also want you to make sure that you have talked to and listened to your children. Our kids have heard a lot of things at home, on social media or in school. Please listen and talk with them. I hope that you tell your children that they are privileged to live in a democracy like ours. I hope you tell them that we are a nation of laws and that you still believe in this. Take their fears or their concerns seriously and help them also to move forward.

Then, in time, lech lecha, go forward and continue to be an active part of the political process. Don’t give up on it. Pirke Avot teaches: Al Tifros Min Hatzibbur, Do not separate yourself from the community. This is not the time to walk away and disengage.

Finally, lech lecha, and I know that this may be very hard, go and listen to people whom you may not agree with. That’s hard for all of us. I used to do it much more than I have done it recently and I regret that I do not do it as much. When we all stay in our little bubbles, as we are prone to do here in Ann Arbor, there are ramifications. We sometimes think we understand everyone and everything. We don’t always understand. Sometimes, we need to listen more clearly to what others are saying and feeling and experiencing. We may deeply disagree and reject what we hear. But, we still need to listen to others as well as to those with whom we agree.

So, those are things that I ask all of us to do. And now, the next step.

We all will carry with us our impressions of President-Elect Trump from this campaign. We heard and saw things which can not just be forgotten. Our tradition has taught that the tongue has great power and words once said can not be taken back. So, it is absolutely legitimate that the campaign will continue to echo in our minds as it would have been had the result been different.

But the election is over and we now look ahead to the future in this nation.

And, as a proud and hopefully patriotic American, I will say what I have said whenever I have spoken from the bima after a presidential election, echoing the words that have been said by so many people I respect, including President Obama and Secretary Clinton: President-Elect Trump will be inaugurated as our president on January 20. I wish him well in this most critical of all roles. I respect his position as the duly-elected leader of this nation. I pray that he will lead our nation properly.

I pray that we will be safe and secure and that the promise this nation offers will be shared by all of those who live in this land.

But, with an absolute determination to always stand up for the ideals and values that our Jewish tradition and our American tradition hold dear, I fervently pray that this nation will always live up to the values of justice, equality and compassion. When it does, we will celebrate and praise. When it does not, we will raise our voices loudly, passionately and clearly because being a land of justice, equality and compassion is the only way this nation will survive.

Without those values, this will not be America.

Lech Lecha… May we all go forward together.


One thought on “SERMON FOR SHABBAT LECH LECHA November 12, 2016

  1. Bonnie Howell

    Dear Rabbi,
    I am a “74 year old lapsed Jewish woman”. I was so moved as I read your sermon….I live far away, but those of us who are part of one of the tribes will always hold the teachings of our shared beliefs as a lantern to light our way….I will try to follow your other sermons and see another way to view the world….I think that has been missing in my life. Thank you for your powerful words!
    Bonnie Schwalb Howell

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