Saturday, November 15, 2008

Avraham Avinu and Obama Malkeinu

One of the most moving things about Barack Obama’s historic win in the US elections was his incredibly powerful victory speechdelivered to thousands in Grant Park, Chicago. It happened on the week of Parashat Lech Lecha, where the great forefather of monotheism, Avraham Avinu, set out on another very different journey of his own, which was, like Obama’s, full of promise. I wondered what a discussion between Avraham and Sarah would sound like, if he decided to take a leaf out of the President Elect’s speech writing school. Here is Bibliodrama I came up with:

Avram: Sarah, I believe our lives can be better. I believe that change is possible.

Sarai: How?

Avram: I think about all that I have seen in the last 99 years of my life– the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that Hebrew creed: Yes we can.

At a time when people were swept up in the idolatry of Ur Casdim, where Faith in one God was scorned, I left the affluenza of Haran, and travelled to the new land. When there was despair and famine in Canaan, you God saved us from the wrath of pharaoh and set us free to be man and wife yet again. Yes we can.

Then we returned to the land, and had to divide it up with my nephew lot, who got himself into many a troubling situation both in Sodom and with the four kings. It took great diplomacy, and God by my side to keep the peace. Yes We Can.

And Hagar became my wife, and brought unhappiness between myself and you, and I had to choose whether to throw them out where they would surely perish. You told me to abandon my first born son, and my handmaiden wife. I listened to you Sarah, and your words were proved right. Yes we can.

Then God made with me a covenant, saying that our offspring will be strangers in a strange land, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed 400 years, but He, God, will execute judgement, and in the end they shall go free with great wealth. Yes we can.

I look up to the stars and God said to me “count the stars, if you can count them, so shall be your seed” . My child-less wife found this funny, but I told her “Yes We Can”

I finally got my coveted heir, my beloved Yitzchak, and as my wife lay in labour for hours at age ninety, she screamed “ Yes Yes Yes Yes We Can”

We have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So this morning, let us ask ourselves – if our children Issac and Ishmael should live to see the next century; if they can put their hatreds which they’ve inherited from us aside and be so lucky to live as long as we have, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time – to rise up, walk about the land through its length and its breadth, for god has given it to us. To reclaim the Hebrew Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth – that out of one, we will be many, like the stars of the sky and the dust of the earth. That while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless Am Yisrael. And let us say Amen.