The feeling of sadness for what took place yesterday has not fully dissipated. Rarely am I at a loss for words. Yesterday left me with nothing to say, only to feel a sense of deep sadness for our country. I don’t know what it must have been like to live outside of Jerusalem at the time of destruction of the Temple, to hear of it burning down, being looted and destroyed. I am sure the pain felt was deep and profound, not just a loss of physical items, but a loss felt so deep because it was desecration of holy space.
I grew up right outside of Washington, DC. I remember my first memories of my parents and grandparents taking me downtown to visit the Smithsonian, the monuments, and memorials to our founding fathers and fallen heroes. I have sat as a child, hanging out of a window from a family store a block or so off of Pennsylvania Ave. where I watched more than one presidential inauguration.
One of the most memorable moments of my professional life was being asked to offer a prayer in the US House of Representatives. To stand in the spot where the President delivers the State of the Union, the spot where world leaders have addressed our country, is something I will never forget. Yet what made the experience for me that day was not the honor of saying a few words. While my parents were escorted upstairs to the gallery, Leor and Naama were allowed to sit on the House floor flanked by their congressman and the house chaplain. I was overwhelmed with emotion that even though they may not have appreciated the honor they were given, one day I know they will understand its enormity. And after the prayer was offered, I walked off the podium and there the three of us stood, with our hands over our hearts to recite the pledge of allegiance, led not by a school child, but by a member of congress. All I could do in that moment was watch my children, to see the awe in their eyes as we left the floor of the House and walked under the rotunda, to standing out on the speaker’s podium overlooking the mall. They knew it was special, they knew it was sacred and they understood it was holy.
The Capitol may not be our temple in Jerusalem, but it is our temple of democracy. The sadness we feel today is because we saw it treated in a manner unbecoming of its dignity and importance. We feel this way because our democracy and the cathedrals built to protect it have over generations become part of our own identity.
“The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.” – Justice Louis Brandeis, 1928
We feel a sense of loss today because we have become part of the fabric of this great nation. Its sacred halls are our sacred halls, its cathedrals to freedom, liberty and democracy are our cathedrals and yesterday we saw one of those cathedrals desecrated.
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