Blessing for Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Hinei Mah Tov U’ma na’im, shevet achim gam yachad.
How good and powerful is it for all of us to come together. Psalm 133:1
This week in the Torah, we continue reading the story of the Exodus. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., characterized that this part of the narrative as follows:
At the first conference on religion and race, the main participants were Pharaoh and Moses. The outcome of that summit meeting has not come to an end. Pharaoh is not ready to capitulate. The Exodus began, but is far from having been completed.[i]
Sadly, fifty-five years after Rabbi Heschel uttered those words, it still is true. It is time to break silence.
Rabbi Joachim Prinz spoke at the March on Washington that same year, he reminded the assembled of the danger of silence:
When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.[ii]
Rabbi Prinz’s call is still true for us today. It is time to break silence.
Dr. Martin Luther King in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” that same year, said:
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.[iii]
We come together today to remember the work and the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and particularly the call to break silence.
We can break silence about injustice and hatred, racism and sexism. We can lift our voices in song and speech, in dance and in art. And by coming together today, we can break silence.
Adonai Oz L’amo Yitein Adonai Yivareich et Amo VaShalom
“God will give strength to God’s people, God will bless God’s people with peace.” Psalm 29:11
Rabbi Batsheva Appel's Benediction for Yom HaShoah 5777
A dear friend, finding herself at loose ends this year, took a class in drawing. She never thought of herself as artistic, never took any art classes, and putting pencil to paper to create an image of something is still a type of mysterious alchemy to her. She explained to me that drawing is all about seeing things. Her first class the instructor started the students drawing a still life immediately and the only thing the instructor said to her was, “what is the darkest part of the apple slice?” He was prompting her to see what was in front of her, to pay attention to the details that we do not always notice, and to try to translate that to paper with pencil. Art has changed way that my friend looks at the world.