May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples with equity
and guide the nations of the earth. — Psalm 67:4
When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other African-American leaders began their heroic march for civil rights and fight for justice, the Jewish community stood side-by-side on the frontlines of faith. As we honor Dr. King’s legacy this month, let Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein’s reflections on justice inspire and encourage you.
For more on the historic and spiritual bonds between the African-American and Jewish community, download our complimentary booklet here.
Three years ago, Brian Mast, an American veteran who lost both his legs in Afghanistan, decided to come to Israel to volunteer with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). He wanted to work side by side with the soldiers whom he holds in such high regard. Brian Mast now serves in the U.S. Congress from Florida’s 18th Congressional District, recently winning re-election in November.
What would make an American Christian want to help the Jewish State?
Psalm 67 helps provide an answer to that question. According to Jewish tradition, Psalm 67 is a very special psalm. God revealed this psalm to only two people — Moses and David. Moreover, when God granted each a vision of this psalm, it was shown to them in the shape of a menorah, the lampstand that was placed first in the Tabernacle and then later in the Temple.
The psalm is composed of seven verses. The first three comprise the three branches on the left side of the menorah, the fourth verse serves as the center trunk, and the final three verses make up the three branches on the right side. The Jewish sages teach that whoever concentrates daily on this menorah-shaped psalm, it’s as if that person has kindled the lights of the Temple menorah.
So what’s the message of this most esteemed psalm?
The message, in short, reflects our goal and our mission as the Jewish people, as the nation of Israel, and as freedom-loving, God-serving people everywhere. It asks that all people recognize God and live in joyful harmony. The fourth verse – the one that forms the central beam of the menorah — reads, “May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.”
While in Israel, Brian Mast was interviewed on the radio and asked why he came to help Israelis. Brian explained that he wanted to help because he felt that Israel acted justly, but was being misjudged terribly by much of the world. He also added that he witnessed firsthand how the people of Israel are not warmongers. Israeli mothers don’t want their children going off to war. Israel wants peace, but will take whatever steps necessary to protect her citizens.
On a spiritual level, the Jewish people are most interested in being a light to the nations. We strive, and at times fight, for the day that there will peace, justice, and harmony. Our goal is that the entire world will joyfully recognize God – not that they will be oppressed, repressed, and depressed.
Tradition teaches that King David had this menorah-shaped psalm etched upon his battle shield and this is what made him successful on the battlefield. Like David, it’s important to remember what we are fighting for and be inspired to work as hard as we can until the vision of a harmonious world becomes a reality.
Download your complimentary copy of our booklet, On the Frontlines of Faith, which explores the historic and spiritual bond between the African-American and Jewish communities during the Civil Rights Movement.Honor Rabbi Eckstein