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How We Can Honor MLK

01/17/2019 08:32:42 AM


Beth Schafer

It is beshert (meant to be) that the story of our enslavement and redemption from slavery in Torah fall around the time of our national observation and celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King’s life. There are so many parallels in these stories. Both the Jewish people and our African American brothers and sisters have borrowed songs and texts from one another throughout American history to expose the harshness of slavery, to capture the hope of faithful people, and to give thanks for the God of mercy and justice.

At the beginning of the book of Exodus, we learn that there came a Pharoah who did not know Joseph and the good relationship that Egypt had with our people. Pharoah imposed a heavy tax on the Israelites to burden them for he was afraid that our numbers were too great and that in a time of war, we would rise up against the them. After that, they were degraded to slaves. But the Torah continues by saying not that the Pharoah dealt harshly with the Israelites, but that the Egyptians dealt harshly with the Israelites. According to 19th Century Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, this process of degradation not only affected the Israelites, but the Egyptians, as well. When injustice is mandated from the top, it poisons the sensibilities of the masses. After generations of injustice, there no longer needs to be a reason, it becomes part of the DNA of the culture.

Dr. King worked tirelessly to mend a legacy of inequality grown from a practice of slavery that is in America’s DNA. As we celebrate this weekend, let us be inspired to continue his sacred work to one day birth a generation who does not see others through a lens of color or creed, but rather through an appreciation of all humanity.

Shabbat shalom,


Tue, February 18 2020 23 Sh'vat 5780