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“Pray with Your Feet or Pray in Your Seat” 

08/26/2021 09:10:27 AM


“Pray with Your Feet or Pray in Your Seat” 
Let us all pray in our own way for Voting Rights in the USA 

This August, on the 58th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, democracy advocates across the country are joining the historic March On for Voting Rights. 

On Saturday, August 28th, the March On for Voting Rights will take place in Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Miami, Phoenix, Houston, and across the country, as we protect voting rights and demand that Congress act by passing federal voting rights legislation. 

For those of us for whom our Shabbat practice prohibits our ability to join in the actual march, we should be aware that this historic occasion falls on Shabbat Ki Tavo. Later that evening, Jews will be gathering for Selichot. 

We invite you to support this momentous occasion by utilizing one of these resources that we have prepared. You will find: 

A Prayer For Voting Rights by Rabbi Joshua Lesser 

Source of Life, we give thanks to you, for breathing us to life and creating each one of us in Your divine image. It is from our moment of creation that every human being is endowed with the inherent dignity of coming from one Source. How we encounter one another is paramount in how we serve Your creation. 

Our country’s democracy was envisioned to secure the liberty, equality, and free expression of all of its citizens. We pray that we become bearers of that vision as our democracy is being tested. Help us understand that our commitment to a just democracy stems from our desire to manifest the common good. Aid us in taking the actions that foster a nation that nourishes all of its citizens. 

Once again, the soul of our democracy, the right to vote, is being challenged. We pray for safe, free, and fair elections for all. Grant us the wisdom and the solidarity to ensure that those who are most suppressed and vulnerable are able to cast their vote unobstructed. Remind us of our courage to resist, to persist and to insist on this basic right. May all of the actions that seek to corrupt the right to vote be averted so that we may uplift Your vision of freedom. 

Today, as we honor the anniversary of the March on Washington, may the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and the message of Amos ring in our ears and guide us as we leave this place: “Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children…“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream..” 

And let us say Amen! 

A Voting Rights Sermon Prompt by Rabbi Joshua Lesser 

Ki Tavo is well known for the ritual creating a national covenant as half the nation gathers on Mount Eval and the other gathers on Mount Gerizim. While we are moved by the promise of beautiful blessings of abundance if we live in alignment with the covenant. But I want to draw our attention to the part of the ceremony where Moses enumerates the devastating curses.(Chapter 27:14-26) 

In looking for the commonality between the behaviors that are mentioned, many commentaries point to a word that is repeated twice baseter/in secret (v.15, 24). 

“Cursed be anyone who makes a sculptured or molten image, abhorred by Hashem, a craftsperson’s handiwork, and sets it up in secret.” v.15 

“Cursed be the one who strikes down a fellow man in secret…" v.24 

These acts are clearly prohibited when done in public, so of course, they would also be prohibited in private!? Thus, what purpose does the description baseter/in secret serve? 

In Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch’s Torah Commentary, he notes this detail and comments in the following way: 

“... it is sins which, as a rule, escape the attention of the human courts, which are here placed under the Rule of God dispensation of ‘blessing’ and ‘curse’... 

...All blessing is denied to him who outwardly plays the pious man devoted to God, but in secret denies the exclusive existence of One God and His Rule; who outwardly is respectful to his parents but inwardly considers himself vastly superior to them (v.16), who in the eyes of men preserves the reputation of an honest man but where unobserved does not hesitate to injure the rights of his neighbor to his own advantage (v.17), who is full of enthusiasm for the welfare of his neighbors in the presence of clever and intelligent people, but pushes short-sighted and blind people into misfortune (v.18); who grovels before the powerful, but denied the weak and helpless their rights (v.19); pretends to be a respectful member of society, to wallow in sexual licentiousness in his intimate privacy (v.20)....” 

In other words, this list might be emblematic of the kind of hypocrisy of presenting one way, but secretly intending it to be the opposite. Might it be like proclaiming the need for “voting integrity” or “voter protection” when the goal is actual suppression? 

Might Ki Tavo be a warning reminding us that our voting rights for all, are a part of this country’s national covenant and if subverted, what curses might befall our nation, our democracy? 

Fri, September 22 2023 7 Tishrei 5784