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There is a story that I have heard over and over again. Each time it has been the same, but the people involved were different. Rabbi, when I was young (before Roe vs Wade made safe abortions available to the women in America), my aunt, or sister, or mother, or friend become pregnant. They traveled to Puerto Rico, or down to Mexico, or a doctor who was a friend managed to prescribe a procedure, and the pregnancy was terminated. Three things strike me every time I hear or tell this story.
First, the people involved were in a social/economic strata that allowed them to travel, or have the contacts, that allowed them to overcome the restrictions that forced women of lesser means, but no less humanity, into back alleys. Forced them into situations that put their lives at risk. Second, no one celebrated. No one was, or is, in favor of abortion, or even sees it as a wonderful thing. Yet, in spite of the difficulties, or even legalities, the women made that choice. Third, there were religious leaders who validated the choices made. They stood firmly within the teachings of their tradition, and with the full force of the moral and ethical imperatives of their religion, supported the right of women to control their bodies and their reproduction. Nothing has changed. There are still religious leaders who, like myself, have the right and in fact the obligation to speak out from within the real and valid boundaries of their beliefs, not in support of abortion, but in support of a woman's right to choose. There is an ancient legend in Jewish Tradition that teaches us that to this day rich, people are able to commit transgressions and not be punished for them while poor people are often severely punished for the very same actions.
So we turn to you O God, and humbly ask that you open our eyes, and the eyes of those around us, to this harsh reality in our world. Teach us to see that restrictive laws that may be couched by some in the loftiest of moral terms may in fact be acts of harshness devoid of empathy and compassion perpetrated against the lower economic echelons of society. Teach us O God to speak out on behalf of those whose voices would be muffled by those in power. Open our eyes O God, so that those who see only one singular vision of You will be able to see that you speak to humankind in many ways. Teach us to make room with in our lives and our hearts for differing visions of your revelation. And please O God teach those who would seek to force their vision on those who see You differently that there is more than a single vision of You. Let them come to understand that we seek not to force our beliefs on others, but simply want to protect the freedom of all people to live in harmony with the dictates their religious traditions. We pray as well Dear God that we can learn to value for all the freedom to choose which you have bestowed upon us under
the umbrella of your love. May we come to understand that we most live up to our potential as human beings, made in the image of God, when we grant freedom of choice to those around us.
Our God and God of our ancestors, we ask that You pour out upon us the Spirit of wisdom. We ask as well that you strengthen our hearts so that we may accomplish successfully the tasks that lay ahead of us. We understand that it is when we partner with You that we are most able to create a world filled with kindness, compassion, fairness, and understanding. Give us the strength to make the works of our hands a monument to the gifts of intellect, free will, and justice for all which you have bestowed upon us.
Finally, O God, give us the will and the ability to preserve the sanctity of the rule of laws like Roe vs Wade. It has protected the lives of women across our country for 41 years. It has stretched its shelter across two generations or more. Let us celebrate with great joy the freedom that it brings and hallows. Not every religious tradition agrees with Jewish Law which states that a woman should have control over her body. But please God, we pray that this country will long stand as a nation that does not allow one religion to oppress another, but continues to fulfill the promise of freedom of religion. Teach us within that framework to respect each others' beliefs even when they are not ours. And help us O God to keep the hard-won rights of women safe, secure and sacrosanct. Amen