Heschel King

Heschel and King marching arm in arm at the march in Selma, 1965

On the yahrzeit/anniversary of passing of Abraham Joshua Heschel and birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.


I

The picture of Abraham Joshua Heschel

rabbi, human being, interpreter of inner Judaism and the prophets

on the march from Selma to Montgomery March 21, 1965, 

and Martin Luther King, Jr.

preacher, prophet, activist, redeemer.

 

King and Heschel and Ralph Bunche walking arm in arm

Ralph Bunche who received Nobel Peace Prize in 1950

for mediating between Israel and the Arab states.

 

Look at the picture of Heschel, King, and all of them

this emblem of deep connection

bound at the arms they are

bound by the legs they are

pictorial story of history in coalition

good intention 

hope.

 

Our freedom stories have been told

in the same narratives.

 

We are characters in each other’s freedom story.

 

II

“The day we marched together out of Selma

was a day of sanctification. That day

I hope will never be past to me—

that day will continue to be to this day”

—Heschel in a letter to King.

In that letter Heschel wrote 

“my legs were praying.”

 

Both men read their story into

the freedom narrative of Exodus.

The freedom arc of Exodus

and the prophets

two stories that transformed and guided their lives.

For Heschel and King

the Exile story was not theoretical.

 

We will not be satisfied preached King 

quoting prophet Amos 

until justice rolls down like waters

and righteousness like a mighty stream.

 

This verse engraved into the King Memorial

Atlanta, Georgia.

 

Exodus every day. 

Freedom the daily struggle.

Justice justice justice.

 

Eulogia

 

Listen, O earth, to these wounds

we have been pounded on the peaks

elevated and alone.

Who ascends these holy mountains

and why?

 

We have bled all over our backpacks

descended at the penultimate moment.

Snatched away from the precipice

we descended into the valley

where we sat quietly with our eyes closed 

waiting for a bus, nothing loftier,

and we would have remained there 

if not sitting next to us was Amos

watching for the light to change.

 

His skepticism as always

was an inspiration

justice rolling down like water

and righteousness like a mighty stream.

 

Holy entered through our wounds

the last place we expected. 

 

Listen to the wounds O earth

pay attention to the bleeding sky

brother elements sister flesh

pay a little attention will you

at least give ear to these words.

These wounds. 


Photo courtesy of Susannah Heschel.

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