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When I interviewed Rabbi David Wolpe in advance of his prayer at the DNC, he told me that “If there’s something that I very much object to, I’ll point it out, but I try mainly not to be a political rabbi, but a rabbi.” He made such an objection known last night.
On Wednesday, reference to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was removed from the DNC platform, before being forced back in by party leadership over the protests of many delegates. Wolpe had accepted his speaking slot last Thursday, with no notion that he would capping a day of such turmoil and consternation on the convention floor and within the American Jewish community. Tasked with delivering the day’s closing benediction, Wolpe chose to take a stand.
“You have taught us that we must count on one another; that our country is strong through community, and that the children of Israel on the way to that sanctified and cherished land, and ultimately to that golden and capital city of Jerusalem—that those children of Israel did not walk through the wilderness alone,” he stated, placing special emphasis on the word the DNC had almost omitted.
Read the full benediction as delivered below:
Ribono shel Olam, dear God.
We are grateful that our nation is founded on the highest principles of freedom and resourcefulness and creativity and ever-renewed strength. And we understand that those worthy ideals stand alongside the commitment to compassion, to goodness, our sacred covenant to care for those who are bereaved and bereft, who are frightened, who are hungry, who are bewildered and lost, who seek shelter from the cold.
As your prophet Isaiah taught us: shiftu yatom, v’rivu almanah—defend the orphan and fight on behalf of the widow.
We know that our lamp is lifted not only to illuminate our way but to serve as a beacon to others—that here, this land, is a place where the dreams of a weary world flourish and endure.
Ours is a holy charge: a single moment, a touch, a glance, a word, can change a life; our children look to us with aspirational eyes, with the hope that their world will be kinder, sweeter, smarter, than the world we have known.
Each of these changes touches all of us: for you have taught us that we must count on one another; that our country is strong through community, and that the children of Israel on the way to that sanctified and cherished land, and ultimately to that golden and capital city of Jerusalem, that those children of Israel did not walk through the wilderness alone.
Rachmana, merciful God, may we be guided by your wisdom, and so become more understanding and tolerant of others. May our souls be enlarged by empathy and uplifted by leaders and thinkers and teachers who believe in strength of soul and wild, wonderful visions; so together, with right and left worshiping the same God, our nation, this nation, this strong, blessed nation, filled with spirit and called to noble cause, will become more passionate, more purposeful, more burnished and bright through the warmth of your embrace and the extraordinary power, dear God, of your love.