It’s the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech; the 100th anniversary of Menachem Begin’s birth; and the 5,774th anniversary of God’s dream and Adam’s birth. All are worthy of being “dipped in honey” this week on Rosh HaShanah.
Much of the beauty and power of King’s speech — just about all his speeches, actually — came from his liturgical and biblical references and inspirations, the Hebrew Bible often the source. That he spoke of an America still unfulfilled, similar to our own prayers in an unfulfilled world, does not diminish the poetry and spirituality that continues to sustain us.
Although some point out that the United States still has a ways to go, as does Israel, as do we all, it is every bit as valid to point out that when Martin Luther King was born into the Jim Crow South of 1929, or when Menachem Begin was born into the European anti-Semitism of 1913, with King spending time in a Birmingham jail and Begin spending time in a Russian prison and on a British “Most Wanted” list, both King and Begin, had they been able to see into the future, would surely believe that 2013, for all its troubles, is a lot closer to God’s ideal than the world into which they were born.
And yet “the Day” remains “awesome and frightening.” God’s “dream” is unfulfilled, as well. God remembers who and why and all that we’d prefer forgotten. On Rosh HaShanah, according to our tradition, it will be inscribed “who will rest and who will wander” — to wander from doctor to doctor, job to job, or peace possibility to peace possibility. Even a fleeting dream has its virtues, if only to remind us how to dream Both King and Begin remind us, as Daniel Gordis wrote of Begin, that “one could harbor both deeply humanist convictions and a passionate allegiance to one’s own people.”
May all of us, our own people and all the people of the world, know only blessings and God’s grace in 5774.