First Things on Heschel and King

First things

A Narrative on the occasion of the Hillula
Praise of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel

It begins with language
in the beginning
the Holy One engraved the world
with 32 hidden paths of wisdom,
the 22 holy letters
and ten principles.
The ten fundamentals —
about these, we will disagree
but the 22 creative tools
the building blocks
the essentials
on this we can agree:
The world we create out of language;

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
what drew them together: love of justice
the pursuit of justice.
On King’s grave these words from Micah
What does God require of you but
to do justice, to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God [Micah 6:8].
These are the texts they cited:
the Prophets, but as for me, I am filled with authority,
justice and courage [Micah 3:8]
the source of the doing also the source of the don’t.
More primary the Exodus story,
the movement given shape in the liberation story of Exodus,
that and the visionary resistance of the prophets;

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

We might think it begins with right action
the serious resistance
the organizing idea
we might think it begins
with the intentional act of defiance,
it begins with language,
the power of blessing
that integrates the worlds at the heart.

From the lectern of the Ebeneezer church
the beginning is in language,
the right text to inspire the right action,
to inspire with intention.
Careful words, understood by masters of Kabbalah
and jazzmen who work the depth with their saxophones
pulling from the word pool
spin words into ideas
to save lives, save civilizations, save the country;

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

They met in January 1963
at a Chicago conference on religion and race.
With Heschel’s involvement in the civil rights struggle
they came closer,
the Prophets and the Exodus story as text for the struggle —
even closer.
In 1965, the march on Selma,
Heschel welcomed into the front row with Dr. King,
Ralph Bunche, Ralph Abernathy;

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

Just before the march began
in a small chapel, Heschel read Psalm 27,
God is my light and my salvation, who shall I fear? [27:1]
Dr. King brought down a teaching on threes
the children of Israel in the Wilderness
the rootedness in the text of the liberation story
as told in the Hebrew Bible,
it was Exodus, it was the Prophets
that drew them down into the source;

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

About Selma, King wrote to Heschel: I cannot tell you
how much your presence means to us,
About Selma, Dr. King said, this was the greatest day
in my life, the most important [of all]
the civil rights demonstrations.
About Selma, Heschel wrote: I felt as if I was praying
with my feet;

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

Bless us all in our holy places
the meeting of two worlds
like a city joined together.
O holy God of all the worlds,
the spirit of inwardliness that authenticates
all movement all absence of movement,
enter this struggle and all struggles with holy intent,
the blessed, the holy, let it descend here, this space,
let the occupants carry it like a blessing.
Let the blessings we carry be received
with our eyes closed,
dreaming;

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

Let us dream ourselves blessed,
true to the peaks
loyal to the fields
let all valleys be known as high places
concealing the deep story;

Bless these words/ Bless these words/
Bless these words/ Bless these words

Bless this street, this city
the moon out the back window,
the forest,
the dream of peace that is trapped in a small box within.
Bless us in our going out and our coming in;

Bless these words
Bless these people
bless us among the huts
and other holy places;

Bless these words
Bless these words
Bless these words
Bless these words

Amen.

james stone goodman
united states of america