Selections from speeches and letters by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. read in ecumenical services for Martin Luther King Day in the United States. . . .
Our God, and God of our ancestors, who answered Abraham when his son was bound on the altar, who remembered Sarah’s prayers in her tent for a child, and who found Hagar in the wilderness on the road to Shur, and who heard the cries of her child in the wilderness of Beer Shava, may He remember our Palestinian brothers and sisters who were killed, who were expelled, who fled, who were not allowed to return home, and those who are still at risk of losing their homes. . . .
Sovereign of the Universe, accept in lovingkindness and with favor our prayers for the State of Israel, her government and all who dwell within her boundries and under her authority. Reopen our eyes and our hearts to the wonder of Israel and strengthen our faith in Your power to work redemption in every human soul. Grant us also the fortitude to keep ever before us those ideals to which Israel dedicated herself in her Declaration of Independence, so that we may be true partners with the people of Israel in working toward her as yet not fully fulfilled vision. . . .
May the Lord give our soldiers wisdom, understanding, and insight, so that they do not destroy the righteous with the wicked, as it is written in Your Torah: “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to kill the righteous with the wicked, treating them the same. Far be it from you – should the Judge of all the Earth not do justice?” (Genesis 18:25) . . .
God, full of compassion, who dwells in the heights, provide a fitting rest upon the wings of the Shekhina, within the ascents of the holy and the pure, who shine like the starry heaven for our six million sisters and brothers who lost their lives in the Shoah: that were killed and slaughtered, suffocated and buried alive, burned and tortured — the young and the elderly, women and men, leaders and simpletons, those faithful in Torah along with rebels and dreamers. Beloved and pleasant in life, and not separated from that love even after death. . . .
dedicated to Noam Ezra ben haRav Moshe z”l
יְהִי רָצוֹן מִלִּפְֿנֵי אָבִֽֿינוּ שֶׁבַּשָּׁמַֽיִם, בּוֹרְאֵֽנוּ, יוֹצְרֵֽנוּ, יוֹצֵר בְּרֵאשִׁיתֿ, הָאֻמָּן הָעֶלְיוֹן, כְּאָמְרָם ”אֵין צוּר כֵּאלֹהֵֽינוּ“ – ”אֵין צַיָּר כֵּאלֹהֵֽינוּ“, שֶׁיְּחָנֵּ֫נוּ בְכָֿל הַחָכְֿמוֹתֿ — חָכְֿמוֹתֿ הַלֵּבֿ, וְחָכְֿמוֹתֿ הַנֶּֽפֶֿשׁ, וְחָכְֿמוֹתֿ הַיָּדַֿיִם; וְיַנְחֵֽנוּ בִדְֿרָכָֿיו לַעֲשׂוֹתֿ אֶתֿ מְלַאכְֿתֵּנוּ בְּיֹֽשֶׁר, וּבְֿחֶֽסֶדֿ, וּבֶֿאֱמוּנָה; וִיבָֿרֵךְֿ אֶתֿ מַעֲשֵֽׂינוּ וְאֶתֿ מַעֲשֵׂי מַעֲשֵֽׂינוּ, לְקַדֵּשׁ אֶת שְׁמוֹ . . .
Opportunities to express gratitude on secular, nationalist days of thanksgiving demand acknowledgement of an almost unfathomably deep history of trauma — not only the suffering and striving of my immigrant ancestors, but the sacrifice of all those who endured suffering dealt by their struggle to survive, and often failure to survive, the oppressions dealt by colonization, conquest, hegemony, natural disaster. Only the Earth (from which we, earthlings were born, Bnei Adam from Adamah) has witnessed the constancy of the violent deprivations we inflict upon each other. The privilege I’ve inherited from these sacrifices has come at a cost, and it must be honestly acknowledged, especially on secular/national days of thanksgiving, independence, and freedom. I insert this prayer after Al Hanissim in the Amidah and in the Birkat Hamazon on national days of independence and thanksgiving. . . .
With this in mind, I want to invite all Jews in North America that celebrate the secular/national holiday of Thanksgiving to consider what might be a thoughtful prayer on this day. For the few hundred years that our people have been here, as refugees fleeing the Spanish Inquisition and as immigrants simply seeking better fortunes in a safer land, this Land has been a sanctuary. At the same time, even through the storied travails of our immediate ancestors, we cannot ignore the suffering endured by the indigenous peoples of this land who, first by devastating plague, and later through intentional acts of dispossession were murdered, massacred, forcibly displaced, and assimilated (forbidden to speak their language, separated from their families, made ignorant of their traditions) — experiences that must resonate with our own historical experience in the Diaspora. It seems immoral and obscene to me to be thankful without also being mindful of this complexity — how the fruits we enjoy in this Land have a rotten and dramatic history that we, now as residents of this continent, must at least consider in our prayers of thanksgiving. . . .
We THANK YOU for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds and saving acts, brought about by You, and for the wars which You waged for US in this time. On the 5th day of the month of Iyar 5708, at the moment of declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel, the People of Israel gained sovereignty on its land and control over its destiny. The miracle of the establishment of a Jewish State is the first flowering of our redemption. The State arrives through a strong historical and traditional connection as the Jews through each generation strived to return and stand firm on their ancient homeland. In the recent generations they have returned to their land en masse as pioneers, clandestine immigrants, and defenders, they made the deserts bloom, revived their ancient Hebrew language, built towns and cities, and established a growing community in control over its own culture and economy. Born is a nation that seeks peace, defends itself, and brings the blessing of progress to all of its citizens. This is the day which the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it! As it is written: “For I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and will bring you into your own land.” (Ezekiel 36:24). And to your people Israel who you provided salvation and relief to this day, You helped us to overcome nations and marched us over peoples, and delivered our inheritance which is now the State of Israel. In its accordance this State will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions. “Peace be within your walls, and prosperity within your palaces” (Psalms 122:7). . . .
Every year on Yom ha-Atzmaut I feel a certain sense of frustration about its liturgy, and the failure of Religious Zionism to shape the holiday into one that would make a clear and definite religious statement. The “festive” prayer for Yom ha-Atzmaut is a hotchpotch of Yom Kippur, Kabbalat Shabbat, Shabbat Mevarkhim, and Pesaḥ. One gets a sense that there is an avoidance of hard issues. Even such a simple thing as saying Hallel with a blessing is not yet self-evident, but a subject of constant debate. Every year, there seem to be more leading rabbis, who adopt crypto-Ḥaredi stances, issuing pronunciamentos as to why one must not enter into the doubt of saying a brakha levatala, an unnecessary blessing, in this case. (As I was typing these words, I was interrupted by a phone call from a friend with this very question!) Bimhila mikvodam (no affront to the honor due them intended), but what on earth do they think the Talmud is talking about when it says that “On every occasion that Israel are in distress and then delivered, they are to recite the Hallel” (Pesaḥim 116a), if not the likes of Yom ha-Atzmaut? . . .
This prayer is broadly speaking a prayer that we learn to work together to create a better future, and it incorporates a pledge to do one thing for healing the world, for tikkun olam, that will make this future a reality. It’s not a prayer about winning or getting other people to see things our way, like some of the others I’ve seen. Whomever we support (I am supporting Obama), we need to pray for strength for the next president, and for the whole country, to face what will be challenging times. . . .
May it be the will [before the Lord our God and the God of our ancestors] that this ticket which I am placing in my ballot will join thousands of other tickets that will promise reasoned leadership that will strengthen democratic values, aspire towards peace with our neighbors, separate religion and state, be concerned with the weak and protect the laborers, fight corruption and exercise leadership through personal role modeling. May it be the will [before the Lord our God and the God of our ancestors] that the nation sitting in Zion will merit years of freedom, quiet, productivity, education and good health and that our children may never fear at all. . . .
May the next Thanksgivukkah be a time of health and abundance for all of you who will receive the world from our hands. May we together find away to make sure that there is health and wealth and beauty not just for our family, not just for the Jewish people and humanity, but for all living creatures who share this planet with us. May the One bless us with the power and wisdom to birth a society that shows love to the world around us, that lives with love towards all beings. . . .
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