A Life of Privilege

Being alive now, at this humbling time, suddenly and surprisingly strikes me as a privilege that has not occurred for fifty years. It's entirely turned around my thinking.

America's Founders envisioned a nation where "All men are created equal, .... endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." As visionary as they were, they nonetheless could not have dreamed how far the ideal of equal rights would grow: to women as well as men, Jews and Muslims as well as Christians, African-Americans (descendants of slaves) as well as White Europeans, gays as well as straights. Most of these have been achieved in the last hundred years, and a full-throated counter-revolution is underway.

We are fighting for the American vision and soul. Blacks will tell you that this has never been a free country, that racism permeates the very marrow of the American body. But must that be the case? As a racist President unveils his mercenary bigotry in full view of the world, and his destructive venom courses through the airways and either nauseates or invigorates every citizen nearly without exception, each American feels compelled to decide: viz. - either all humans are equal or not. Choose!

We are being forced to confront whether the fullness of the uniquely American vision of equality of all human beings can be achieved. This fulfillment of the Promise now rests surprisingly but unequivocally on our shoulders. Hence our discomfort. We thought the fight was over, and we had won.

Similarly, Israel, the other nation I love but where I am not a citizen, confronts whether is will fulfill or deny its raison d'etre. Will Israel fulfill the ideal of a homeland for all of the Jewish people, even as it accepts the Jewish ideal that all human beings are created in God's image; or will Israel reject both "homeland" and Isaiah's vision of "a light to the nations" (Isaiah 42:6)? As the corrupt Netanyahu government hands monopolistic control of Judaism to the tunnel-visioned, exclusionary and misogenistic Haredim, giving in to their bribery to the tune of billions of shekels annually to maintain his balance of power while selling out the unity of the Jewish people, will the world Jewry abandon the Zionist ideal of ingathering the exiles and establishing the spiritual home of the entire Jewish people?

Whether in the U.S. or Israel: the national ideal, the empowering vision that motivated citizens to forsake their own lives for the betterment of their people and humanity, stands challenged as it has not been in the U.S. since the sixties, and in Israel as never before since the establishment of the State in 1948.

It's a privilege to live in this time of opportunity, when ideals that can uplift the soul of the people we love, and provide an eternal example for all of humanity are clearer they have ever been and simultaneously challenged in ways we had never imagined.

Whether we accept this challenge, how we rise to the occasion or do not, whether we retreat into our own private spheres or recognize that we may not be the pioneers but we are called to fulfill the ideals that we have cherished as the vision of God's own prophets, will be the judge of the authenticity of our lives.

Let us consider this privilege well and choose wisely, for not only our lives, but the future of the nations we love and the principles we embrace as God's own Light hang in the balance. We should not despair but rejoice, because we have been chosen to fulfill the prophecy of Zechariah 14:9, "On that day the Lord shall be One and God's name shall be One."

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© 2016 by Rabbi Mark H. Levin.