When You Squeeze an Orange: On Democracy and the Events of January 6, 2021

We will remember January 6, 2021, as a day of infamy. America’s temple of democracy was defiled and her secular Torah, the U.S. Constitution, was imperiled as never before in the 230 year history of this republic.

I share these words with spiritual purpose. As always, the ethics of my public role bars me from public partisanship. But whatever one’s politics, democracy demands guardrails – a shared commitment to truth, law, dignity, honor and revered memory of those who lived and died to protect it.

Rabbi Bella Bogart taught me an apt aphorism for this moment: “When we squeeze an orange, we get orange juice.” When stress squeezes a system – a person, a community or a nation – what’s inside comes out.

Squeezed by stress both natural and manufactured, our nation displayed her insides for the world to see. The world saw that democracy is both fragile and resilient. The world saw disgrace, sedition and shame – and also courage, inspired leadership and righteous resolve.

When the covid-19 pandemic began in March, I wrote to our community that this time will challenge us: lockdown and isolation will marinate us in “our stuff.” It’s another way of saying much the same thing: what’s inside will come out.

Riveting and shockingly tragic as Capitol events were, I also see hope. Forced to see ugliness unmasked, many pulled back from the brink. Profiles in courage made a difference. Truth was spoken forcefully as never before.

Now there’s much to do – justice to seek and wounds to heal – and it won’t be easy. But when we squeeze an orange, we get orange juice. I believe with all my heart that this nation, this community and each of us can and will summon our insides to meet this moment with our very best. Every act of compassion and care is one next step on the journey of tikkun olam – repairing the world.

Let’s show the world what we’re really made of. May God bless you and your loved ones, and may God bless these United States. Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi David

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