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Being Micah in Trump’s America

3 Adar 5777 – 1 March 2017

Dear Micah,

It feels as if the world I left before I began my Sabbatical is a very different one than the one I found upon my return just a few weeks ago.

The new leadership of our country alarms, outrages and frightens me.  The Orwellian manipulation of and mistrust of truth taunts and terrorizes us  Under its shadow, friends in our Park Hill neighborhood – the Masjid Taqwa mosque – fear leaving their homes unless to meet their most basic needs.  Under its shadow, Jews have been threatened and publicly denigrated in the United States of America at a rate that seems unprecedented for my lifetime.  Under its shadow, the institutions that have for almost two and a half centuries protected and catalyzed this great American experiment are mocked, belittled and in danger.  This worry for the political, moral and spiritual direction of our country permeates and encumbers our daily lives.  

I often wonder what it was like to be a rabbi during another tumultuous time in our country’s history, the Civil Rights movement.  I wonder if I would have had the clarity of purpose and courage of conviction to act as so many of my ecclesiastical ancestors did at that time.  I always assume — since we study in hindsight about what they did — that the ‘what?’ was clear to them at the time.  However, as I find myself in this historical moment,  I am revisiting that assumption.  I wonder if those ecclesiastical ancestors of mine felt the dissonance between the clarity of what was wrong and the ambiguity of what to do about it.

During my Sabbatical and since my return I have been asking myself: What is my role as your rabbi in the midst of this particular historical moment?  What is the role of Temple Micah? As I have considered and reflected on these questions, the wisdom of the great Hassidic leader, Rabbi Zusia spoke to me.  

One time Zusia came to his followers, his eyes were red with tears, and his face was pale with fear.  He told them: “The other day, I had a vision. In it, I learned the question that the angels will one day ask me about my life.”  

His students were puzzled. “Zusia, you are pious. You are scholarly and humble. You have helped so many of us. What question about your life could be so terrifying that you would be frightened to answer it?”

Zusia turned his gaze to heaven. “I have learned that the angels will not ask me, ‘Why weren’t you a Moses, leading your people out of slavery?’ … or ‘Why weren’t you a Joshua, leading your people into the promised land?’ … “They will say to me, ‘Zusia, there was only one thing that no power of heaven or earth could have prevented you from becoming.’ They will say, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?'”

In these anxious days, the best that any of us can do — as individuals and communities — is to intentionally, vigilantly andwith integrity be the best of our selves.  

What does keeping Zusia’s wisdom in mind — and striving to ‘Be Micah’ — look like for Temple Micah and for its rabbinic leadership?  

Temple Micah needs to be Temple Micah.  That begins with an understanding of who we are.   Fully cognizant of our gifts and blessings, we will continue to strive to do what we do with excellence.     Fully aware of our limitations, we will collaborate with those in our community with the skills and experience to confront injustice, intolerance and ignorance.

Micah being Micah means … Doing Justly.  Part of ‘Zusia being Zusia’ entailed Zusia teaching, helping and impacting his world.  Part of ‘Micah being Micah’ entails the same things.  With a healthy understanding of our strengths and limitations, we will continue to involve ourselves in the actions that seek to make the world a better place,  We will also seek out the methods and partners that will help us address the challenges we face in the current political reality.

  • Relationships with PHUMC and Masjid Taqwa mosque have become important resources for me and our community in the last few months.  Pastor Smith, Imam Ali and I are committed to further developing our relationships.
  • Our budding connection with Project Worthmore has also emerged as even more significant in the last few months.  Supporting their work with Colorado refugee families is a constructive response to national efforts that threaten refugee families.
  • Organizations like Together Colorado and the Interfaith Alliance actively advocate on various political issues.  I am meeting with their leaders to learn even more about what they do and how we may lend our support to their efforts.
  • Pastor Smith and I are also studying the possibility of declaring our shared facility a political Sanctuary.  We are inviting both of our communities to learn more and discuss the nature of this commitment on Sunday, March 12th at 1:00pm.

We will continue to act justly as long as when we leave the friendly confines of our own sanctuary and community, we still encounter injustice in our world.  We invite you to participate and collaborate with us to help us continue doing so.

Micah being Micah means … Creating Meaningful Moments.  Temple Micah strives to create meaningful opportunities that ground, clarify and even inspire us to go out and live our lives in a fashion that brings justice, compassion and peace to the world.  You and I need Micah to provide moments for us keep praying and reflecting and studying so that we remember who we are and what we want to do.  We will continue to strive to create meaningful moments that allow us to be grateful for our blessings, see clearly our challenges and have faith in our ability to face them.   I invite you to participate and collaborate with us to help us continue doing so.

I am scared, worried and outraged.  I am also grateful, hopeful and inspired.  May we stand together sharing and experiencing these feelings and face this historical moment with grace, determination and courage.


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