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Reb Lisa's Message

June 14, 2023

Jewish tradition teaches us that we are not free until ALL are free. We are in the middle of Pride Month–a time of celebration, education, unification, collaboration, and commemoration. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that Pride month is also a time to rededicate ourselves to foundational Torah values like inclusion, respect, love, and equity.

We dig more deeply into these values as we consider that this coming Monday is Juneteenth–a now national holiday that commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Major General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston Texas and announced that all slaves were now free. At that time, Texas had the distinction of holding the last remaining enslaved people in our country. Junteenth does not mark the beginning of the end of slavery–which was the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Rather Juneteenth acknowledges the last and final thread that kept some still enslaved. It was the important and long awaited moment that ALL were truly free.

In recognition of Juneteenth, I’d like to share a powerful poem by Lilyfish (inspired by Rabbi Sandra Lawson)–one that weaves together our ancestral stories of oppression and liberation, because none of us are free until ALL of us are free.

May Each of Us: A Jewish Prayer for Juneteenth

  • by LilyFish

after 246 years of slavery

on june 19 it was proclaimed in galveston:

– all slaves are free –

but also:

– freedmen are advised to remain quietly –

after 400 years of slavery

on nissan 15 hashem split the sea

but not before ten deadly plagues

and nakhshon risking his life

one hundred and fifty eight years later

three thousand one hundred and seventeen years later

we are here

thank you hashem

for making me free!

But are we free?

as audre said:

“i am not free while any woman is unfree,

even when her shackles are very different from my own.”

as talmud said

“at a time when the community is suffering, no one should say,

‘i will go home, eat, drink, and be at peace with myself.’”

the freedom i found upon crossing that sea was incomplete.

i wandered three months to sinai then forty years in the desert.

only to see my children to the promised land

land of freedom flowing with milk and honey.

our siblings are wandering their own desert today.

my ancestors wandered to eretz yisrael once, our siblings four times.

we celebrate each step toward liberation

every nissan 15, every June 19

and still we seek freedom.

each of us

may each of us

wade in the water like nakhshon

may each of us

reach the mountaintop

may each of us

learn what it is to do good

may each of us

devote our souls to justice

may each of us

aid the wronged

may each of us

remove the shackles of another

until there are no shackles left

until our stories have been quilted together

until we are all in the promised land

until we have build eden together


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