Inaugural Weeping, Inaugural Joy

Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi (she/her)
5 min readJan 22, 2021
Close up of columns in the dome of the US national capitol building with flag waving at half-mast at sunset
Photo by ElevenPhotographs on Unsplash

It happened the moment those four hundred lamps, representing the 400,000 American lives lost to the COVID-19 virus, illuminated the reflecting pool between the Washington monument and the Lincoln Memorial. I exhaled. I wept. I dropped my shoulders. I closed my eyes. I felt as though I had been received in a comforting hug, or been offered the gentle hand of a loving and supportive friend. Into my head popped a verse from Tehillim (Psalms): “One may lie down weeping at nightfall; but at dawn, joy” (30:6).

Don’t get me wrong: The Biden Administration’s National COVID Memorial did not solve anything. Not infection rates, not the ableism that treats people as disposable, not the refusal to wear masks, not systemic discrimination.

But what the memorial did for me, and I hope, our nation here in the U.S., was to ritualize our trauma, create a container for unexpressed grief, and frame this virus not as a series of individual misfortunes, but as a collective experience that requires a collective response.

Sometimes, we move too quickly to joy, to celebration, to relief. We move in that direction because we desperately need to be able to hope in a future that will erase the oppression and the despair and the suffering of the past.

The thing is, those of us who have been overlooked and oppressed, those of us who have been in grief and despair, those of us who have been read as “angry” but who are drowning in the task of daily fighting systems that desperately try to destroy us, masquerading as “the way it just is” — we need the weeping and the wailing. We need to be able to look to our right and to our left and to see others, tears in their eyes, bearing their own burdens, and saying, nonetheless, The waters rise at our sides, but the strip of land before us is dry, let’s keep going.

I am not suggesting that we cry for those who have died due to our nation’s inaction, and then get up in the morning refreshed and happy again. Nor am I suggesting that the inauguration of President Biden and Vice President Harris marks the end to despair, or suffering, or oppression. My exhale on Tuesday evening, and the joy I indeed felt in hearing Amanda Gorman recite “The Hill We Climb” and in hearing our new President cite that same verse from Tehillim — those do not portend the quick…

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Rabbi Nikki DeBlosi (she/her)

queer belonging. sex positivity. creative ritual. inclusive judaism.