Heschel King


On the Yahrzeit of Heschel and birthday of King

 Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak
and may the earth hear the words of my mouth.

– Deuteronomy 32:1

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 back packs,
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 the prophet 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.

All that was 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.


Part 1


There is a picture of Abraham Joshua Heschel,
rabbi, human being, interpreter of inner Judaism and the prophets,
walking with Martin Luther King, jr.,
preacher, prophet, activist, redeemer,
walking together in the front row of the marchers,
Selma, 1965.

King and Heschel and Ralph Bunche walking arm in arm,
Ralph Bunche who received Nobel Peace Prize in 1950
for mediating armistice 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
the pictorial story of history and a return to coalition,
good intention, hope, hope, hope.

Our freedom stories have been told
in the same narratives,
we are characters in each other’s freedom story.


Part 2


“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 he felt
“as though 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 the prophet Amos, until justice rolls down like waters
and righteousness like a mighty stream.

This verse is engraved into the King Memorial
Atlanta, Georgia.

Exodus every day.
Freedom the daily struggle.
Justice justice justice.