Sign In Forgot Password

We Will Not Go Back

05/19/2022 09:59:38 AM


Rabbi Kelly Levy

Just a few days ago, I had the great honor and privilege of speaking at the Jewish Rally for Abortion Justice in Washington, DC. I was asked to speak because of the work I do to help promote reproductive justice and freedom in this country, but also because I serve as a rabbi in Texas. Along with my friend and colleague, Rabbi Josh Fixler (Congregation Emanu El in Houston), we spoke to thousands of Jews who support abortion access for all. These are the remarks we shared on Tuesday, May 17:


Rabbi Levy: A few weeks ago, in Parashat Achrei Mot, we read the commandment: “You shall not copy the practices of the land of Egypt where you dwelt.” One of God’s biggest fears was that these newly freed Israelites would get pulled back into Egypt. The journey in the wilderness required a spiritual resistance to the forces that would try to carry us back into slavery. We are gathered here today because we are in the wilderness. We are here to declare that we will not go back to Egypt.  

We come to you from Texas, a state near and dear to my heart. Our state is a border state. Not just geographically, but also spiritually. We live on the border of Egypt. Since the 6-week abortion ban went into effect, we have been reminded every day what it was like in Egypt. When Pharoah wanted to control the Israelites, the first thing he did was make laws limiting their reproductive freedom. In our state, we see this playbook being used again. And we see the impact. Underground railroads transporting people thousands of miles, across state lines to get an abortion. Fear or financial insecurity keep so many people from accessing the services they need. That is the Egypt we once knew and we cannot go back.

Rabbi Fixler: I grew up hearing my grandmother tell stories about that Egypt. A few years before Roe, during her first pregnancy, she experienced a dire complication, and she needed an abortion. She too had to cross state lines to seek care. Her doctors had to lie on her admittance forms and say she had a miscarriage so that they could perform a life-saving DNC. When she would tell me this story, she would speak of her fears, and I would marvel at her resolve. And I understood: that was Egypt and we could not go back.

Rabbi Levy: We are in the wilderness. That decision made by 9 men in 1973 didn't magically transport us to the promised land. No, it freed us into the wilderness, and for nearly 50 years we have been wandering, working our way towards the promise of a land built on freedom, justice, and dignity.

There are too many people still trapped in Egypt. There are too many people who have never known freedom. Too many people for whom the choice has never been a choice at all, to whom abortion has remained inaccessible. So we will find them and join hands with them and march with them towards the promised land. Because when those who have been freed and those who are still enslaved march hand in hand together, no Pharaoh can stand against them.

Rabbi Fixler: What is that promised land to which we are marching? It is the promise of a land where every person who experiences pregnancy is held in love. Is treated with dignity. Is given respect. It is the promise of a land where every choice can be a sacred choice. The choice to parent, and the choice not. It can only be a sacred choice if people can afford it. It can only be a sacred choice if people can make it without fear or coercion. It can only be a sacred choice if people can make it within systems that will support them, not just during pregnancy, but beyond. Otherwise, it’s not a choice at all, not freedom at all.

Because here’s what we have learned in all our years of wandering - the secret to our survival. A people who has been freed will not go back to Egypt. Once we have tasted freedom, we will never again drink from the bitter cup of oppression. The Supreme Court can take away Roe. But they can never take the taste of freedom from our lips anymore than they can take the image of the promised Land from ours mind. In 1973, they gave us a taste of freedom, and now we cannot go back because we must move forward, we must go to that promised Land. We must build that promised land together.

We will not go back. We will March forward. Hand in hand. To the promised land.

Fri, September 29 2023 14 Tishrei 5784