January 3, 2013
The Kosher Bookworm:The Exodus and the Emancipation
This past Tuesday, January 1st, 2013 we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. This coming Shabbat and for the next month ahead, we will be reading and learning from Shemot, the Book of Exodus, the story of our slavery in Egypt and the subsequent liberation and the giving of the Ten Commandments.
Given the cold weather that we are experiencing, these spring season-like Torah readings bringing to mind Pesach and Shavuot, should be giving us some rather warm feelings, spiritually speaking. Thematically speaking, the slavery link between the Exodus of so long ago and the emancipation of black slaves 150 years ago brings together two very precious events in both world and religious history. This week’s essay will touch upon both, citing some relevant literary works for your learning pleasure.
One month before President Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, he sent to Congress his annual message. He ended that message, in anticipation of the proclamation, with the following stirring words:
“Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves….No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We – even we here – hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free – honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope on earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and G-d must forever bless.”
The use of the Almighty’s name in this document was to be followed up in a month, when it is cited once again in the conclusion to the Emancipation Proclamation: