A Haftarah for Martin Luther King Shabbat, by Rabbi Marcia Prager and Ḥazzan Jack Kessler

These quotations from Dr. King’s speeches were edited by Rabbi Marcia Prager and set to Haftarah Trop by Hazzan Jack Kessler. This adaptation was first published in Kerem (Fall 2014), in Jack Kessler’s article, “English Leyning: Bringing New Meaning to the Torah Service.”


Contribute a Translation English (source)

We are on the move now
The burning of our churches will not deter us
We are on the move now
The bombing of our homes will not dissuade us
We are on the move now
The beating and killing of our clergymen and young people
will not divert us׃
We are on the move now. Like an idea whose time has come,
not even the marching of mighty armies can halt us.
We are moving to the land of freedom׃[1]Speech before the Alabama State Capitol building in Montgomery, at the conclusion of the march from Selma to Montgomery,March 25, 1965; in James M. Washington, ed., A Testament of Hope: The EssentialWritings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), 229.

Now the fact that this new age is emerging
reveals something basic about the universe.
It tells us something about the core and heartbeat of the cosmos.
It reminds us that the universe is on the side of justice׃
It says to those who struggle for justice:
“You do not struggle alone, but God struggles with you.”
This belief that God is on the side of truth and justice
comes down to us from the long tradition of our faith׃[2]Address to the First Annual Institute on Non-Violence and Social Change,
Montgomery, Alabama, December 1956; in A Testament of Hope, 141.

I am convinced that the universe
is under the control of a loving purpose,
and that in the struggle for righteousness
man has cosmic companionship.
Behind the harsh appearances of the world there is a benign power׃[3]“Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” in Strength to Love (collection of sermons by Dr. King) (Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress, 1963), 153.

I refuse to accept the view
that mankind is so tragically bound
to the starless midnight of racism and war
that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood
can never become a reality׃
I refuse to accept the cynical notion
that nation after nation
must spiral down a militaristic stairway
into the hell of thermonuclear destruction׃
I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love
will have the final word in reality׃
This is why right temporarily defeated
is stronger than evil triumphant׃
I have the audacity to believe
that peoples everywhere
can have three meals a day for their bodies,
education and culture for their minds,
and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits׃
I still believe that one day mankind
Will bow down before the altars of God
and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed,
and nonviolent redemptive goodwill
will proclaim the rule of the land׃
I still believe that we shall overcome׃[4]Address upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Oslo, Norway, December 10, 1964; in A
Testament of Hope
, 225-226.

We’ve got some difficult days ahead.
But it doesn’t matter with me now.
Because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to have a long life.
Longevity has its place.
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.
And I’m happy, tonight.
I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord׃[5]Address at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968 (Dr.
King’s last sermon); in A Testament of Hope, 226.

Notes   [ + ]

  1. Speech before the Alabama State Capitol building in Montgomery, at the conclusion of the march from Selma to Montgomery,March 25, 1965; in James M. Washington, ed., A Testament of Hope: The EssentialWritings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), 229.
  2. Address to the First Annual Institute on Non-Violence and Social Change,
Montgomery, Alabama, December 1956; in A Testament of Hope, 141.
  3. “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence,” in Strength to Love (collection of sermons by Dr. King) (Philadelphia: Augsburg Fortress, 1963), 153.
  4. Address upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Oslo, Norway, December 10, 1964; in A
Testament of Hope
, 225-226.
  5. Address at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee, April 3, 1968 (Dr.
King’s last sermon); in A Testament of Hope, 226.

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