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Jewish Journal

JFK and the Gettysburg Address

by Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater

November 27, 2013 | 6:24 pm

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater

Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater

Thousands of years ago, humanity came into existence, a partner conceived in the image of God, dedicated to the pursuit of morality, truth, peace and love.

What lies before us now is a great debate of whether this human race can stand the test of time, can make the necessary sacrifices for the good of all.  We face grave decisions of life and death, war and peace, ultimate issues including the survival of our planet.  The battle-field of existence, the sacred ground on which we seek to endure, is being tested, stretched, as we grapple with delusional hopes of unending limits on our finite resources.  Will those who give their lives have died in vain?

Yet, in a larger sense, will we also dedicate our own lives to the realization of the original purpose of our creation?  With vision and courage, will a world of promise be delivered to our children and grandchildren?

With boldness, and bluntness, we must move beyond conversation, debate, excuses and willful blindness, as the great leaders of the past, one of whom we honor this night, 50 years on from his tragic death, sought to inspire us towards.  Invoking the name of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all, we imagine a day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace shall embrace the whole world.

Soul-stirring rhetoric, with its ability to move an individual, or a nation, stands silenced when that movement doesn’t lead to soul-stirring action.  We, the memorializers of Auschwitz, stand as witnesses to Darfur, Syria, Congo; we, the memorializers of Columbine stand as witnesses to Sandy Hook; we, the memorializers of the Great Depression stand as witnesses to the economic maladies of our day; oratory that fails to move us to brave response falls deaf on the ears of history.  It is rather for us here dedicated to the great task remaining before us: that peace, prosperity, equality, freedom and love shall win out over the forces of darkness and despair.  May we never cease from our efforts until we reach our own “last full measure of devotion.”

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