The Babylonian Talmud, Berakhot 58a, records the blessing to recite when seeing a multitude of people (in the original context, a huge gathering of Jews) which reads, “Blessed are You...the knower of secrets.” The Gemara adds: “For their minds differ one from the other, and their faces differ one from the other.”
While not gathered all in one place, a US election in which over 100 million people participated is a large gathering (far larger than the 600,000 envisioned in our tradition!), and indeed while God may already know the outcome, we will not be privileged to know fully the secrets we have collectively expressed through our ballots for some time.
This blessing (and it is a blessing) reminds us that we each hold our own very passionate beliefs about the leaders and policies of our country. Created in God’s image, our faces differ, and that diversity is more than skin deep. God knows and values every person’s secrets, but the only way we will discern the future of our country is through this very human election and vote-counting process.
In the face of both the power of such a multitude of people, and the frailty of human process, we might recall the words of our prophet, Micah (6:8):
[God] has told you, O Adam, what is good, and what the LORD requires of you: Only to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk modestly with your God.
As we wait for final results, our job as clergy and as leaders is to counsel patience and perspective. Our calls to vote have been heeded. Now is the time to continue to counsel our people to:
- Do Justice -- every legal vote should be counted: It will take time, and there will likely be litigation, but every vote should count. The United States has had centuries of iterating and improving our democracy; at this moment we need to stand up for those democratic ideals.
- Love Goodness -- no process is perfect: God knows all secrets, and any human process meant to discern them will be flawed. No matter what, we must press to ensure that the dignity of every person is upheld through their vote.
- Walk Modestly -- have patience: We are a society that has become accustomed to instant knowledge and gratification. But in earlier times, and in other countries, it’s not unusual for election results to take some time. This is especially true during a pandemic, when so many voted by mail in order to stay safe. Harsh words and violence will not make the process go faster, nor will it build the connections needed to heal our society. We should encourage civility along with civic engagement.
These sentiments were also expressed in the RA’s resolution on the US election.
I wish us strength and courage as we connect with our colleagues and our communities, holding them and their anxiety as we await the outcome, with prayers that our collective secrets will yield healing and blessing.