Next week, we will celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as our school’s namesake, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, by commemorating Pluralism and Diversity Week. Part of next week’s commemoration will focus on the close, personal relationship that Dr. King shared with Rabbi Heschel. In thinking about this week’s Middat Hashavua, taken from Parshat Vaera, it struck me how closely it is tied to next week’s commemorations.

The Middah is:

Key Verse: וַיִּכְבַּד לֵב פַּרְעֹה, וְלֹא שִׁלַּח אֶת-הָעָם 

שמות ט:ז

Middah: Don’t harden your heart

We learn in this week’s Parsha that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, not just once, but time and time again! Dr. King, Rabbi Heschel and the leaders of the civil rights movement had to deal with people whose hearts had been hardened through hatred and bigotry for centuries. Dr. King referred to the opposite of a hardened heart as a “heart full of grace.” In one of his famous quotes, Dr. King said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” 

This Shabbat, let us reflect on this teaching from our Torah portion and by the work of Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel. Let us not have hardened hearts like Pharaoh or the bigots who lived in the time of Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel, or who still live among us today. Let us have hearts that are giving, kind, open, inclusive, compassionate, and loving. Let us have hearts full of grace, so that we can continue the work of Dr. King and Rabbi Heschel, to repair our broken world, and to make our world a better place for one and all!

Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorach,

Moreh Alan

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