Let My People Go

Dear Friends,
This week we remembered and celebrated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In a time of profound brokenness, it is not clear whether the moral universe is bending, as Dr. King taught, toward justice. So how do we stay resilient, courageous, and strong enough to play our parts in bending that arc? I find myself drawing upon two spiritual qualities that animated MLK’s life and teaching.  
Compassion. Dr. King fought the battle for racial justice with revolutionary urgency, yet he preached a resistance rooted in love, not hate. He was committed to building up, not tearing down. How do we find the empathy, compassion, and spiritual fortitude to not feel bitter, angry, and hateful toward people whose behaviors and ideologies we find abhorrent? How do we pursue justice with love in our hearts for every human being?  
Faith. I love the quote that is attributed to Dr. King: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Sometimes, when we cannot see or even imagine where the staircase ends, or when it looks incredibly steep, we wonder whether it’s even worth climbing at all. We fear the journey will be unbearably hard and we might never arrive. Dr. King taught us to have the faith and the determination to put one foot in front of the other and just start climbing, one step at a time.  
This reminds me of the mystical underpinnings of tikkun olam, the Jewish mandate to repair the world. Jewish mysticism teaches that when the world was created, a divine light shattered into an infinite number of pieces, or sparks. Our job is to pick up one piece — one holy spark at a time. That is how we repair and rebuild. 
Earlier this week, I saw examples of this when 1,000 people gathered for the 54th Annual Boston MLK, Jr. Memorial Breakfast. I also joined 150 parents and children who showed up to Temple Beth Am in Framingham for a MetroWest Day of Service that CJP proudly co-sponsored along with several of our trusted partners. I’m grateful to everyone who helped create opportunities for so many of us, together with allies and friends, to engage, serve, and learn from the life and legacy of MLK.  
This year, MLK weekend felt different since Sunday also marked 100 days since Hamas’ horrific October 7 attacks. For 100 interminable days, the hostages have been held captive in Gaza. It was uplifting to march through the streets of Cambridge with so many of you from across our community. We were there to stand in solidarity and love with the hostages and their families.
Dr. King spoke about the importance of Israel’s security and about his great admiration for Israel as an oasis of brotherhood and democracy. He also reminded us that Moses’ call to “Let my people go” continues to echo loudly as the fight goes on for freedom and justice against tyranny and oppression here and all around the world. 
In the days and weeks to come, please continue to raise your voices for the hostages, tell their stories — on social media, through the blue ribbon campaign, in letters to elected officials, and conversations with friends and family. We cannot stop until every one of them is back where they belong.
We cannot let the world look away. So today, we say again, “let my people go.” Bring them home, now.
Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Marc Baker

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