Reflection on the Day after Election Day, 2020

As I write this, we still don’t have a clear resolution to the Presidential election. This was not unexpected, as we knew that with the increased amount of early and mail-in voting, it was going to take a while to tabulate the results. How long is unclear, and we must remember to have patience.

Patience, or in Hebrew savlanut, is one of the key middot of the Jewish mussar tradition, the tradition that examines Jewish tradition to assist in the development and refinement of character traits. On patience, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Satanov teaches, “When something happens to you and you did not have the power to control it, do not aggravate the situation further through wasted anxiety and grief.”

Easier said than done.

In many ways, we do not have the power. The voting is done, we await the results. But awaiting those results can bring anxiety and grief. Our power, our patience, is not in passively waiting. Our patience comes from continuing to insist that every ballot is processed, every vote is counted.

The root of the Hebrew word for patience, savlanut, is samech-lamed-nun, which also has the connotation of “suffering,” “tolerating,” or “bearing a load.” This may seem like a negative—something meant to be painful—but it can also mean the positive: we demonstrate our endurance and resilience in the face of challenge.

Additionally, it is usually only through “bearing a load” that we are able to accomplish something. Change takes work, and it’s not always easy. But it only by lifting up our burdens that we are able to bring about transformation. In this case, the burden of democracy is ensuring that elections are fair, free, and safe. That is what we are called upon to do now.

We know that our system needs refinement. Regardless of who wins this Presidential election, we will still have a system in which the will of the many is at the mercy of the will of the few. That voting is seen as a privilege to be earned rather than a right to be granted. That some seek to suppress suffrage rather than expand it.

And we know that regardless of who wins, we will have issues of racism, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, classism and misogyny to overcome. We will still contend with a society with inherent inequality and disparities in access.

Regardless of who wins, we have work to do.

At this moment, though, it is ok to live into our feelings of anxiety, or anger, or hurt, or fear—whatever is manifesting for you right now. Let us hold close those for whom the result of this election can have devastating consequences for their liberty, their loves, and their lives.

And know too that waiting for you is hope and love and compassion and insight. The only way to get from here to there is together.

As a blessing for this moment (as I shared this morning on Facebook):

Celebrate the victories known.

Wait for the victories yet unknown.

Work for the victories to come.

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