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Letting our Core Values Guide Us

During times of change, it can be hard to see a way out of all the chaos. How do we move on, keep going, rebuild in a new world?

This must have been how Abraham felt when G-d told him to leave his home and travel to Canaan in this week’s Torah portion, Lech Lecha. Together with his wife Sarah and his community, Abraham left all that he knew to be true about the world and began the journey to a strange new land, filled with promises, but undoubtedly with a lot of uncertainty and trepidation.

How can we make sense of the changes brought about by the election? How will we face challenges and maintain who we are as Jews and citizens of our great country? We must go back to our roots and draw on our core values, reminding us of who we are and what we stand for:

When facing adversity, a natural response is to let the feelings of anger, frustration, helplessness or fear consume you. But you cannot separate yourself from your community – just as you find support and love and hope from your friends, family and teammates, so to do they find it in you. We must work together to help shape the future and stand up for what we know to be good and right for all Americans. As Margaret Mead said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful and committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

A leader is able to look at a situation and see it from all sides without judgement. We must be leaders in our community, helping others rise above their negative feelings and be empowered to take action.  Being a leader can be daunting but remember the quote from Pirkei Avot (a compilation of Jewish lessons and wisdom over the centuries), “You are not obligated to complete the task, but neither are you free to stand idly by.”

One of the hardest things to do is stand up to a bully. It takes courage … and courage takes pride. Be proud of who you are and what it means to be a good and decent human being. Keep in mind though, it can be just as hard to give respect to someone who has a different opinion than you do. Part of exhibiting pride is also to be humble. We must look for the good in every human being, even those who rarely show their good side. Anne Frank reminds us that, “In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

It’s easy to hit the ball off a tee or shoot free throws in an empty gym, but how can we prepare ourselves to preform when the game is on the line? We have to practice, we have to embrace failure! Pushing fearlessly out of our comfort zone is the only way we can learn and improve. During this transition time, we are being challenged to see the world in a different way, re-evaluate our leadership styles, and build bridges with unlikely allies. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds us that, “Only in the dark can we see the stars.”

When dealing with negativity and stress, the first step is to put on a happy face. That’s not to say that we should ignore our feelings but the worst thing we can do is wallow in our negativity. We must tackle every problem with the intention of making an advance towards solving it. In yoga, often times an instructor will offer an “intention” to guide participants’ thoughts during class. But every yogi knows that the true test of our intention comes once you hit a wall that seems insurmountable.  Hold on to your vision of a just, peaceful world – even when we seem to be moving in the opposite direction. That’s what Theodore Herzl said when conceiving of an unlikely Jewish homeland: “If you will it, it is no dream.”

It’s hard to extend a hand to the opposing team after a hard fought game – no matter the outcome. And every four years, in the game with the highest stakes, when it feels like we have everything to lose no matter which side you’re on, we must take the high road. It is our responsibility to mend the burned bridges and forge ahead, guided by our core values, to build a future together.  As Hillary Clinton said in her concession speech, “Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. And we don’t just respect that, we cherish it.”

May we all take the time this Shabbat to recommit to living a life guided by our core values – as Jews, as athletes and as citizens of the world.

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