Pirke Avot 4:14—Rabbi Yochanan the sandal maker said: Every assembly which is for the sake of Heaven will eventually endure. And one which is not for the sake of Heaven will not endure.
January 11, 2019
13 Tevet 5779
Shabbat Bo Exodus 10:1-13:16
Next week begins the celebration of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In the Canton community, this starts with the annual Mayor’s Breakfast, though this year it will be the Mayors’ Breakfast as the celebration has extended to all of Stark County not just the area surrounding the city of Canton. Seven mayors will be in attendance. I am part of the breakfast committee and the few meetings I have attended enabled me to see and witness the excitement among the committee members to try and double the size of this celebration. The next evening the celebration shifts to the annual MLK Shabbat Service at Temple Israel. (Last years’ service was cancelled due to an ice storm, but despite the cold we should be okay this year.) Temple Israel has been hosting this service since the 1980’s. It is a proud part of our history and a sign of our ongoing relationship to promote civil rights, unity, and relationships with our many partners in the city. I have to be honest, I had no idea in the fall of 2011, my first year at Temple Israel, what our MLK Shabbat was all about and now I realize its significance. If you are a Temple member, then it is important to be at this service. If you are a member of the Canton community, then it is important to be a part of this evening which begins at 7:15 pm. Thank you to the MLK Shabbat committee for doing all the work to get this ready.
This spring, Sandy and I will be traveling to Memphis to attend a wedding and on our list is a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel which is where Rev. King was assassinated. I have seen the memorial in Washington, DC—the statue of Dr. King surrounded by many of his memorable and insightful quotes etched into the stone wall. I have participated in the annual commemoration in Indianapolis at the Kennedy-King park where Robert Kennedy gave his incredible speech immediately after learning of King’s death to a crowd who hadn’t learned of this tragedy. His words calmed a situation that could have turned yet another city into angry flames. I marched in Lexington on what was inevitably the coldest day of the year. And now, in Canton, I lead a service that reminds us of what it means to open our eyes and see the world as it is and find ways to fix it. There is too much hate and fear. Xenophobia is blinding us. We are being led by people who are trying to stoke fear in our hearts instead of love in our souls. If there are crises surrounding us, then it is the crisis of hate trumping love and fear trumping faith. We are a nation that should be better than this.
Next week when we celebrate together our parashah will be B’Shallach when our ancestors finally cross the water leaving the slavery behind as they taste freedom. This is the Jewish people’s idea of redemption. For this redemption to take place, the Midrash teaches us the lesson of Nachshon who, when no one else would leave the safety of the shore despite the fact that the Egyptian army was not far behind, took a step into the water. He had faith that he wouldn’t drown. He believed that a miracle would happen, and it did. The waters parted, the people followed, and we reached safety. It is time for us to be like Nachshon and take those first steps into the water of bigotry and hate and racism and fear. Until we do this, until everyone does this, those negative parts of our country that have reared their ugly head, will not part. We need to be the agents of change. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us this. We need to take the steps across the Edmund Pettus Bridge or onto the Mall in Washington. We need to lift our voices and say “enough”! We need to be the light of love and caring. We can do this together.
When you light your Shabbat candles this evening, light one for the power each of us has to make a positive difference in this world. Light the other candle and may its light always lead us forward to a better world.
Rabbi Jon Adland