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Where have all the flowers gone?

07/23/2020 11:00:58 AM


Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

There are some who have elevated the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to the role of prophet, especially the prophets that we read and learn about in the Bible. When they saw injustice, they publicly chastised the people, reminding them of their responsibilities from God to create a just society. Dr. King was borne of that mold. Referencing the prophets of old, he chastised us and reminded us of our responsibilities. Alas, the threat he posed towards creating an equal and just society was too much, and he was assassinated for his powerful words.

Where are the prophets of today? Who are the ones who speak out loudly and clearly as the prophets of yore, chastising us and motivating us to do better? Especially during the pandemic, where are the prophets who offer regular words of hope? Our nation yearns for national pastors to speak up and out, to cause us to perk up our ears and listen to them, to spur us on to action. Alas, I don’t hear any.

The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis from Georgia was such a man. Many have written about him these past days since his passing, and his biography is readily accessible. He came of age in a shameful era in America, where there were separate water fountains, no service at luncheonette counters and seats only at the back of the bus. All attempts to demand the equality promised in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were met with lynchings, clubs, dogs, fire hoses and beatings. Yet he persevered, and, in his own words, “kept loving the people who denied me”. He was a man of courage, both moral and physical, whose faith grew throughout the trials and tribulations and beatings of the 1960’s. He was an original Freedom Rider, challenging the companies to obey the law as set forth by the Supreme Court.

He served in the House of Representatives for three decades, and had been referred to as the “Conscience of the House” by his colleagues, a rare honorific. While there is much that can be quoted from a life of service to America, I share with you his words that I find particularly timely and moving:

When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You                  have to do something.

He lived by those words until his final breath at the age of 80, much too soon. There is indeed much work still to be done, for far too long words have been offered, with little change. But words can spur us on to deeds, and another prophetic source of words and deeds is now silent. I honor his memory with this post, and ask the question again: Where are today’s prophets?

Sun, May 9 2021 27 Iyyar 5781