Last week I told you that I would be sharing with you quotations from some of my favorite writers, scholars, and/or books. These are quotations that inspire me in my own spiritual journey. Since then, I decided to focus especially on one of Judaism’s modern prophets, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who I actually quoted last week. I’ll tell you more about Rabbi Heschel in the weeks to come, but this is the perfect week to draw your attention to him. This Jewish leader is known for many things, not the least of which is walking arm in arm with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Freedom March in Selma, Alabama. The quote that most inspires me and directs my inner conscience is this:
When Rabbi Heschel returned from Selma, he was asked, “Did you find much time to pray when you were in Selma?” Rabbi Heschel responded, “I prayed with my feet.”
To Rabbi Heschel, protesting racism was the greatest prayer of all. In this regard he said, “Few of us seem to realize how insidious, how radical, how universal an evil racism is. Few of us realize that racism is man’s gravest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking.”
Finally, as we approach Martin Luther King Day, I am reminded of these words, spoken by Rabbi Heschel after the assassination of King, “Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. God has sent him to us…his mission is sacred…I call upon every Jew to hearken to his voice, to share his vision, to follow in his way. The whole future of America will depend upon the influence of Dr. King.”
May this be a week of blessings, a Shabbat of peace, and a time for all of humanity to experience tolerance, justice, and universal freedom.
Rabbi Debbie Israel