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“A Brazen Beacon,” Rabbi Zecher’s Shabbat Awakenings

January 27, 2023 | 5 Sh’vat 5783

Welcome again to Shabbat Awakenings, a weekly reflection as we move toward Shabbat. You can listen to it as a podcast here.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, [1]

Or pyramids built to inflate the egos of their Pharaohs
As to cause the sad comparison to the lowly whose
Back breaking toil made them.

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here, at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

And here it is possible to understand a Power that transcends
Misplaced might and misused strength.

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

Those whose lives are darkened by oppression
Who cannot see because they are not free
Who live despite tyranny and long for redemption.
Plagued by darkness, immobilized;
They cannot reach out even to another. [2]
And yet they lift their eyes toward the heavens,
Longing for the light of freedom, a beacon of light
Floating in the air.

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

Other lands, other places of promise and hope,
A link from the past into a better future that call to us:
You do not need to be silent.  You need not be immobilized.
That shining light speaks to you.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

You hold the lamp now in your hand.
The “you” has become “us.”
You be the beacon.
Mother, Father, Sister, Brother of Exiles is now us.
What shall we say by what we do?

May Shabbat ignite a brazen beacon of light in us all.

Shabbat Shalom.

[1] The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. (in bold) It is affixed to the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty
[2] Exodus 10:23
Originally shared February 3, 2017

Rabbi Elaine Zecher