Prayer for the Country on Presidents’ Day

by Rabbi Jodie Siff

As we observe Presidents’ Day today, may we collectively and individually reflect on our leaders. Our community just finished voting in a special election and Presidents’ Day reminds us of the profound significance of voting in the context of our civic responsibility. Regardless of the outcome of any particular election, it is incumbent upon us as individuals and as a community to remain actively engaged in shaping the future of our society.

In the Jewish tradition there is focus on civic duty and communal involvement. From the earliest days of our history to the present moment, the Torah has emphasized the essential role that each of us plays in contributing to the well-being of our community and our nation.

In Exodus 18:21, we are instructed to “look for able people from all the people, people who fear god, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such people over the community as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.” This verse highlights the responsibility we have to select leaders who embody qualities of integrity, honesty, and commitment to the common good.

In Deuteronomy 16:20, we are reminded, “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God gives you.” This timeless directive emphasizes our obligation to actively pursue justice and righteousness in our society, ensuring that all individuals are treated with fairness and dignity.

This Presidents’ Day, let us honor the legacy of our nation’s leaders by fulfilling our civic duty with diligence and purpose. No matter who holds office or which political party is in power, our obligation to be involved in the civic life of our community remains unchanged. Whether it is through voting, advocacy, volunteerism, or other forms of civic engagement, each of us has a role to play in shaping the future of our towns, our state, and our nation.

May we draw inspiration from our tradition, from righteous leaders, and each other, as we navigate the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

This prayer expresses Rabindranath Tagore’s vision for his country India, advocating for freedom, knowledge, unity, truth, and progress. It remains an inspiration.

“What do I desire for my country? How do I vision the land I love? Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action —
Into that heaven of freedom, let my country awake.”

– Rabindranath Tagore (adapted)

Rabbi Jodie