Monday, January 21, 2013

I've Seen The Promised Land - Shabbat Shira

Is it just a coincidence that we are observing the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the inauguration of Barack Obama, and Shabbat Shira, where we celebrate the Israelite's redemption from Egypt.
So, why do we, as Jews honor the legacy of Dr. King?
Abraham Joshua Heschel shared these words: "At the first conference on religion and race, the main participants were Pharoah and Moses. Moses' words were: "Thus says the Lord the God of Israel, let My people go that they may celebrate a feast to Me". While Pharoah retored: "Who is the Lord, that I should heed their voice and let Israel go?  I do not know the Lord, and moreover I will not let Israel go." 

"The outcome of that meeting has not come to an end.  Pharoah is not ready to capitulate.  The exodus began, but is far from being completed.  In fact, it was easier for the children of Israel to cross the Red Sea than for a Negro to cross certain university campuses."

Every week, when we read the Torah, we honor Moses. This week, we honor one of the most important leaders of our time. And today, President Barack Obama will take the oath of office for a 2nd time holding a bible that belonged to Dr. Martin Luther King. 

The Shabbat on which the parasha of Beshalach is read is called Shabbat Shira because it contains the song sung by Israel after the splitting of the Red Sea. This week in our Parashat we reached the Red Sea, and crossed it, then we sang our songs of praise. We couldn't turn back. We had our dreams, and Moses was leading us to new opportunities, to our Promised Land. We were free at last. And this week, as we remember Dr. King's vision of a world where all of God's children would be able to join hands in peace, may we all be able to say, "Free at last."  

Many compare Dr. King to Moses.
Dr. King concluded a speech the night before he was murdered. "I've been to the mountaintop," he said in a deliberate comparison to Mount Nebo. "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life....But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land."  

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