In a 1963 speech, Dr. King said, “The churches and synagogues have an opportunity and a duty to lift up their voices like a trumpet and declare unto the people the immorality of segregation.”
It is clear that their friendship influenced them personally as well. Reflecting upon walking arm in arm with Dr. King in the 1965 civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Rabbi Heschel said,
I felt my legs were praying.
Here Heschel takes a spiritual practice, arguably one of the most personal ones, prayer, and connects it to the practice of walking in solidarity with someone of a different religion and race for social change. He intentionally joined his personal spiritual wellness practice to the practice of working for his country’s wellness; for the U.S. to be cured of what he called the “eye disease” of racism.
Fifty-five years later, we find ourselves encountering another moment to march arm in arm with people of all different races, religions and identities as racism is still an active disease in the U.S. body politic. There is a stress to this time. It is a shock to the system. Though in the midst of the stress, is the promise of peace as Heschel encourages us to transform our activism to prayers and our prayers to activism.
Prayer might not be your thing. Protesting might not be something you are comfortable with. I would urge you not to let that get in the way of taking on the challenge issued by Rabbi Heschel and Reverend Dr. King; can you envision your personal wellness practices as connected to practices that work to heal our nation? We invite you to find ways to “pray with your legs” in whatever form that might take. In so doing you are linking arms with those who have come before you.
For more information see: Susannah Heschel “Two Friends, Two Prophets” May 9, 2018, Plough Magazine