I had the privilege to speak a number of times at the Democratic National Committee Convention. The messages I delivered would havebeen identical had I been similarly invited to the Republicans' event. This talk was delivered at a luncheon sponsored by the Faith and Politics Institute, a group that tends to the inner life of elected officials and their staff on Capitol Hill.
In my tradition, we sometimes speak of dos pintele yid. The phrase defies translation – in fact, a literal rendering sounds somewhere between silly and offensive. But dos pintele yid is the way Jewish culture expresses its own version of an idea that exists in every source of wisdom and spiritual insight.
Jews, like everyone else, gather around their souls the detritus of life in this rough and tumble world. It accumulates like barnacles on a ship's hull, like tarnish on silver, like grease on a hard working engine. That crust or coating can obscure the beauty beneath, not only to the outside world, but to the Jew himself or herself.
No matter how dense it becomes, however, it cannot extinguish dos pintele yid, the little spark of light, the persistent ember, the concentrated essence of who that Jew is and who s/he is meant to be. It waits, dos pintele yid, to be rediscovered deep in the battered soul, and to reemerge with pride and purpose. It waits, dos pintele yid, to remind the Jew of the sacred call that summoned this soul to the world.
Dear friends- elected, appointeds, policy wonks, campaigners, delegates and political tourists like me – you have inside of you dos pintele yid, waiting to shine forth with the passion and intensity that brought you to serve this great nation and its diverse and delicious population before you waded into the schmutz that tried to hide it.
Dos pintele Catholic. Dos pintele Baptist. Dos pintele Quaker, Muslim, Buddhist, secular humanist. Dos pintele Democrat.
Listen to your colleagues who have let their inner spark shine forth. May you then go out and illuminate the world.