This year, given the current political climate, voting is more important than ever. And yet, there has been a lot of recent news about the long lines at early polling sites, voter suppression, election interference, and false claims of voter fraud. As I hear about efforts to enable more people to have access to vote (and vote early), I keep thinking about the 225,000 people who are no longer eligible to vote this year because they have lost their lives to Covid-19.
These 225,000 individuals — and let’s never forget that each and every one of them was a person — deserve the right to vote, just like every American adult. But, unfortunately, their lives were cut short during this deadly pandemic.
As a rabbi, thinking about this tragedy got me thinking about a Jewish prayer called El Maleh Rahamim, which means “God full of compassion.” This prayer is typically recited during Yizkor — a memorial service held in synagogue four times each year — in which we remember loved ones that have passed away. The Yizkor service (yizkor means “remember”) was originally called Seder Matnat Yad, “The Order of Giving,” because the prayers emphasized the importance of giving tzedakah each time we recall someone who had died.
During this service, we ask God to remember the souls of our loved ones and then pledge to give tzedakah in their memory. Tzedakah is incorporated into this prayer in order to give us a concrete way to honor their memories, and to support causes that were important to them. The prayers in the Yizkor service are rather inspiring, as they remind us that the memories of those we have lost in this world should inspire us to do actionable items of good.
While we can and should donate in loving memory of the 225,000 Americans (so far) who have succumbed to Covid-19, we can do even more to bring solace to the souls of those who have left this world: We must vote. The sheer magnitude of that number should serve as another catalyst for us to vote, as these 225,000 people can longer cast their ballots and have their voices heard. It is our obligation to ensure we show up at polling places, or fill out and mail in our absentee ballots correctly, in order to honor the memories of those who are no longer with us.
My hope is that this Election Prayer for Victims of Covid-19 will remind all of us that 225,000 is not just a number — 225,000 represents caring individuals with loving families, resolute ideas, and passionate causes that they cared about in this world. May we fulfill our sacred mission of voting, not only for ourselves but for their souls as well. We each have only one vote, but our vote can bring comfort to lives stilled by this pandemic.
Election Prayer for Victims of Covid-19
Compassionate God, grant peace in your sheltering presence to the souls of 225,000 Americans, and hundreds of thousands more worldwide who contracted and perished from Covid-19. In loving testimony to their lives, let us pledge to vote this year to help perpetuate causes important to them.
Through social distancing, mask wearing, remembrance, and good deeds, we commit to continue to do our part in helping to bring an end to the spread of this virus.
May our actions bring honor to the memories of all those who have died in this pandemic, and may we continue to bring comfort to their surviving loved ones.
May the memories of those we recall be for a blessing. May they rest in peace and let us say: Amen.
Header Image by Evgenii_Bobrov Aksenova Nadezhda/ Getty Images