Monday, January 15, 2007

Torah and Martin Luther King

By coincidence (or perhaps not) Martin Luther King's birthday comes out about the time we read Parshat Shemot. For those too young to remember Dr. King and his struggles, imagine a time when, in a large portion of our country, Americans with dark skin had to ride in the back of the bus, could not use the same rest rooms, drink from the same water fountains, be served in establishments otherwise open to the public, and so forth. Sounds like the bad old days in South Africa, no? But apartheid was firmly established right here in the U.S.A. Martin Luther King helped end it with a campaign of civil disobedience. Faced with a bad law, you violate it repeatedly in a very public way and willingly take the legal consequences. We associate this very effective tactic with people like Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi, but to the best of my knowledge its first use was in our Torah, in the parsha we just read. "The midwives feared God and did not do as the king of Egypt told them." That's it, al regal ahat, and Martin Luther King, a Protestant minister, had to know about it. The Jews wrote the Bible and the Protestants study it.


Blogger Charlie Hall said...


FWIW the first modern example of nonviolent civil disobedience was probably Henry David Thoreau, who wrote a long essay on the subject.

Mon Jan 15, 10:55:00 PM EST  
Blogger Zev Stern said...

Right. MLK drew on Thoreau as well as on Gandhi.

Tue Jan 16, 03:55:00 AM EST  
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