Rabbi Josh Franklin serves the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton. Father Constantine Lazarakis serves the Dormition of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons in Southampton. Together they share their thoughts, insights and wisdom in “Hamptons Soul,” which appears bimonthly in Dan’s Papers and on DansPapers.com.
Father Constantine Lazarakis
Wow! Election Day has come and gone. A record-breaking number of us participated in the most contentious presidential race of our lifetime…perhaps one of the most contentious in our history. One hundred sixty million ballots cast. Razor-thin margins. Even with 4.5 million more popular votes, President Elect Joe Biden wins with only a 3% advantage. Notwithstanding recounts and legal challenges, indications are that there will be peaceful transfer of power come January 20. And, on January 21, we will still be a nation in which half of us would choose one direction, and the other half would choose another. How then, as a nation divided, are we to find our path forward?
The answer can only be found by shifting the way that we look at one another. Listening to the radio the other day, I heard a young man say, “The nation is lost. We don’t know which way is up, but we certainly know left from right.” You see, because we have lost sight of God, we have lost sight of one another. If we can turn our eyes heavenward and understand that our Creator loves ALL of His children, then when we look to the left and the right, rather than seeing camps, we can begin to see brothers and sisters. While we have real disagreements about important things, as brothers and siters, it becomes difficult to see one another as enemies, and it becomes easier to find common ground and common solutions.
Too often, we are too ready to condemn those with whom we disagree. We are too ready to cut out the person who challenges our views, to sacrifice our relationships, to stand for our positions. Instead, we must be ready to learn from those with whom we disagree, to grow with those we don’t understand, and yes, to love even those whose positions we oppose. Christ taught that before one makes an offering to God, he or she must be reconciled to his/her brother or sister. As Americans, now is the time to be reconciled to one another. We have too much to do, and we can only do it together.
Rabbi Josh Franklin
The biblical book of Genesis overflows with familial discord. Brothers are continually split apart because of their differences. There’s Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers. These families share the common theme of brothers forgetting that they are family. They ignore the bonds that should unite them despite their differences. We are living Genesis! We are living the great divide of brothers and sisters. My hope is that we not emulate the experiences of our biblical ancestors who unravel their familial fabric.
We turn to a new chapter in our nation’s history this coming January. This brings with it the opportunity to reconcile the brokenness in our relationships, and to see past the political labels that mask our commonalities. When Genesis ends, and the book of Exodus begins, the Israelites are called a nation for the very first time (Exodus 1:9). Exodus paints a new portrait of the Israelites, one in which they become a united people. We’ve been living Genesis, and now is the time to chronicle our own chapters of Exodus, of reuniting as a nation divided.
In reflecting on how to move forward with this daunting task, I would ask us to reflect on where we have placed wedges between ourselves and others. How many of you have stopped talking to a friend because of their conservative or liberal politics? How many have deleted a Facebook friend because of their political views? How many of you have found your important relationships damaged by opinions about the recent election? It might feel good to be right and morally superior, but I promise you that it’s not as good as the feeling of having a loving family, solid relationships and a sense of national unity.
This is the time for us to dig down and unearth the values that will guide us through the next chapters of our country’s story. There is much more that unites us than divides us, but it will take a recalibration of our focus to reunify all that has fallen into disarray.