Witness. Feel. Act.

Chol Ha Mo’ed Sukkot Sermon offered at Congregation Beth Am,  September 28, 2018

I want to share about this momentous time we are in  our Country.  We are at a crossroads.  Never before has there been a supreme court justice elected into the lifetime position along party lines.  To my knowledge, we have not seen or heard the partisan politics, the animosity, the lies, the campaigning, the crying, yelling, the threatening… the circus that we have seen from the elected officials as we have this week.

In the last few hours, the Reform Movement has put out a statement in response to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s vote to recommend Judge Brett Kavanaugh as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement institutions:

“We are deeply disappointed by the Senate Judiciary Committee’s recommendation today, which puts Judge Kavanaugh one step closer to a seat on the Court. The Reform Jewish Movement continues to believe that Judge Kavanaugh’s elevation to the Supreme Court would significantly jeopardize the most fundamental rights, rooted in our enduring Jewish values, that we have long supported.

“The recent allegations of sexual assault have added urgency to our opposition. The Senate must take these allegations seriously, especially given that the position in question is a lifetime appointment. We are particularly pained as we think of the youth of this country, who will endure the consequences of this nomination process and, potentially Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation, for decades to come. As Zoe Terner, the Social Action Vice President of NFTY, the Reform Jewish Youth Movement, wrote in an open letter to Senators,

‘The nine individuals who serve life terms on the highest court in the land must be the best that our nation has to offer. As Reform Jews, as Americans, and as patriots, we believe that that this kind of treatment of women cannot possibly be the best that our country has to offer. We must believe that this nation is capable of so much more.’

“We urge the full Senate to reject Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination when it comes to the floor for a vote.”

There is much to discuss and share about Judge Kavanaugh, Dr. Ford, Washington D.C. and the future of democracy.  We can and will share and discuss this in the future together, as a community yet tonight, I don’t want to talk about the hearing, the FBI, the process.  Tonight, I want to talk about how I am feeling. Perhaps you are feeling similarly.

Tonight, I want to be with you and tell you that I am hurt.  That I hurt.  My stomach hurts, my heart hurts and I ache for justice to be felt and I am shaken by the lack of compassion, kindness, and general decency, exhibited by so many of our elected officials and our citizenry.

Tonight, I want to tell you that I am grieving.   I am grieving because when we do not witness fairness and equality from the highest offices in our great country it means trouble and our great democracy is in peril.  I am grieving because I see privilege and kowtowing captivating more than a woman’s courage and devotion to her country.  I am grieving because I fear that the return from this brokenness will not happen in my lifetime.

Tonight, I feel exhausted from the heartache of watching Dr. Ford tell her truth and from the disgust and fear I felt when I heard a judge yell and lose his cool.  I am exhausted from triggers and from the news reports of thousands of men and woman sharing their stories of abuse and assault that no one took the time to witness and believe.

I am exhausted, grieving, and hurt at the trauma so many of us have and how easily and summerly dismissed these stories are.

This is real, deep down pain: as a woman, as a citizen, as a witness.

This week we have all been witnesses: Witnesses to trauma, anger, pain, courage and strength and the power of the voice.  The extraordinary poet, David Whyte, in a recent On Being podcast spoke about the importance of being a witness.  He said there is “privilege of having been seen by someone… to have walked with them and to have believed in them and sometimes just to have accompanied them for however brief a span in a journey impossible to accomplish alone.” (On Being, September 10)

We, together are witnesses and we

Do not run.
Do not fear.
Do not hate.

We, together are Witnesses and we

Stand with
Feel and


On this Shabbat of Sukkot, may we truly come to feel the impermanence of the sukkah, both its fragility and its shelter. For indeed we stand under the canopy that is Love and is of love and together we stay present in the moment, we feel, and we get up and try again, one day at a time.

Ken Yihu Ratzon.  May this be true.  




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