As an observant Jew I do not study scripture, but rather I try to live by it, using the word of G-d as a script for life. In that sense I am a slave. This week’s biblical portion tells the story of my people prior to our redemption from Egypt.
Today, I witnessed the freedom of a people embodied in the ascension of one man to the single most powerful position on earth. The new leader of the free world is the son of people the world has been cruel to. A man who long ago would have been judged by the color of his skin has been elected to deliver on the promise of his character. It is a great day for America, and for all Americans, whether or not they voted for President Obama.
Two months ago I stood in Times Square as the gentleman from Illinois became the president-elect. Today I was there again to watch him become the President of the United States. The crowds were enormous, and their passion withstood the frigid temperature. African-Americans weren’t the only ones crying, as even registered Republicans could not deny themselves participating in the making of history.
As someone who loves New York, and who frequently strolls through Times Square, I know that a long stretch of silence mixed with disturbances of cheer and excitement is unnatural for a crossroads where honking horns and noise are the standard. However, while traffic may have not stopped in the Square, it was as if time did. There were no blasts from automobiles or people shouting on mobile phones. There were just eyes glued to gigantic displays that brought the ceremony, which hopefully will bring change, to them.
When the Jews left Egypt, dogs were muzzled by awe. There was a hush of silence as a nation rose to triumph. Today’s remarkable inauguration had a member of a minority rising as the executive of a united majority, and a people’s triumph over their own dark past. Times Square’s deafening silence was an appropriate tribute to a defining moment in our nation’s history.
The commentary of the Sefat Emet on our current Torah reading is a good assessment on what this country has experienced today: Moses knew that the power of a leader derives from his people. If he had not succeeded in penetrating their hearts, he would not have been able to achieve anything on their behalf.
I pray that our new President leads the American people with dignity and integrity, and that he penetrates our hearts. I pray that he achieves all that he has set out to accomplish on behalf of the people of the United States, and indeed of the entire world.