This week we read the beginning of our beloved Passover in the book of Sh’mot, a brand new book, and the second book of Torah. A new Pharaoh has come to power who does not know Joseph. Pharaoh fears that the Israelites are growing so rapidly and quickly and will take over the nation. After first imposing a harsh tax on them, he enslaved them, and then instructed two heroic midwives, Shifrah and Puah, to kill the baby boys. The midwives saved many of them until Pharaoh ordered that every newborn Hebrew boy be thrown into the river. We learn of our hero Moses whose mother had hidden him for up to three months until she could no longer keep him a secret. At this time, she gently placed him in a carefully woven basket in the river, where his sister Miriam watched over him as he sailed on until he was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter.
After living as the son of Pharaoh for his formative years, Moses begins to realize who he really was, and kills an Egyptian taskmaster for beating a Hebrew slave. He flees Egypt to the desert land of Midian where he meets Jethro, who soon becomes his father-in-law and great advisor, and marries Jethro’s daughter Tzipporah. Later, a burning bush speaks to Moses with the voice of God and instructs him to go back to Egypt and demand freedom of his people. Reluctantly, Moses returns, reunites with his brother Aaron, and demands that Pharaoh let his people go, to which Pharaoh says no, and God promises to punish him. We learn later about the plagues inflicted upon Egypt.
Moses is one of the heroes of this story, in addition to the Midwives Shifrah and Puah, who saved many of the Israelite boys. It is fitting that we read this story this week, as this Shabbat, we will also be celebrating the story of another hero in our American history: Rev. Dr.Martin Luther King Jr. King was a leader in the modern Civil Rights Movement, from 1955-1968, who was inspired by the peaceful teachings of his Christian faith (including this story in Sh’mot), and Mahatma Ghandi, which moved him to lead a non-violent movement by means of grassroots organizing, protests, and civil disobedience to achieve equal rights for all people. This was particularly applicable to African-Americans, who were forced to live as worse than second class citizens in Southern States for decades, long after they were freed from slavery after the Civil War. Like Moses, Dr. King demanded that these Southern States “Let My People Go,” and give equal rights to all. Some of the legacies that Dr. King is responsible for are the 1955 Montgomery Alabama Bus Boycott, which resulted in the US Supreme Court ruling that Bus Segregation in transportation is unconstitutional, and a 1963 non-violent campaign to repair the segregation in Birmingham AL, which at the time was labeled the “most segregated city in America.” One of Dr. King’s greatest contributions to social change was his “I have a dream” speech, where he was one of the leaders for the March for Jobs and Freedom Act. This led hundreds of thousands of people to the Washington National Mall to hear him deliver this speech, which resulted in the US acting on making Civil Rights a reality.
Please join us this Friday night as we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King with a very special service featuring leaders from the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY). We will hear about the legacy of Dr. King in a D’vrei Torah delivered by two of our very own Jeremiah youth: Claire Schwartz and Sloan Greenfield. This service will feature music by our very special guests, Van Gilmer and the Bahá’í Temple Choir, who along with our Adult choir and Shir Joy, will bring us music from the era of Dr. King and in this style to honor his legacy, and to help us all find peace and rest in this Shabbat. I hope very much to see you there. Shabbat Shalom.