Sunday, February 16, 2014

Stuck In DC - A Reminder Of Our Values

After a week studying at the Brickner Seminar for Rabbinic Fellows about some of the differences between Jewish and American values, some of those differences ended up being driven home to me.

Having lived in Anchorage and Buffalo I am not used to airport closings due to snow. But here in our nation's capitol that is a different story. My Thursday flight home was canceled and I was rescheduled to leave on Sunday. Afterall, this is a city where the taxis automatically add $15.00 to your fare if they merely perceive a single flake of snow in the air.

While trying to go standby on earlier flights it was easy to see how the very American values of immediate gratification and impatience played out among the seemingly endless line of passengers who needed to reschedule their flights home. In our Musar class, we have been studying the Jewish value of patience. I pulled out my iPad and reread that chapter several times this weekend and was tempted to read it outload while standing in line.

In contrast, there are some values that Judaism and America share.

Looking for an appropriate Shabbat activity I decided to go to my favorite place in DC, the National Archives. Not thinking about it being President's Day weekend, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the Emancipation Proclamation was on display for the weekend to commemorate the 150th anniversary of President Lincoln's issuing it. Only 2 of the 5 pages have been fully restored but to see those pages with President Lincoln's signature was a special moment.

The Proclamation was displayed in a room dedicated to the theme of expanding freedom and liberty. The first document is one of four surviving original copies of the Magna Carta from 1297. The exhibit then moves to our founding documents, the fight for an end to slavery, equal rights for women, workers and those of all races and creeds. Everyone of those documents promotes the expansion of freedom and liberty to more and more people showing how that has played out in our continuing American drama. As I walked that room and then the rotunda with the Declaration of Independance, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights the words of the Prophet Amos continuously echoed through my mind: "Let justice roll down as waters and righteousness as a mighty stream." 

A question also looped through my thoughts: "Why are there so many in America looking to contract the freedom of others? The right to vote? The right to control our own bodies? The right to privacy.?