On Monday night I heard Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz speak on the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I'm sharing my notes from the talk so that you readers can benefit from it, as well as to give us an opportunity to discuss what he said!
After a few light-hearted opening statements (on the sponsor's succinct introduction: "Thank you for making that an introduction and not an obituary."), Rabbi Steinsaltz began his talk by admitting, "This is the first time I have to do a commentary on the writings of a priest" (meaning Dr. King). "Hopefully I can deal with it," he added jokingly.
He then started with an observation: Dr. King's speeches were filled with quotations of Scripture, but all of them* come from the Tanakh. ("The Old Testament," he clarified, since "I'm in America.")
R. Steinsaltz suggested that perhaps this wasn't a terribly PC thing for him to say (On politically correctness: "the one law in Washington that nobody breaks"). And to be clear: "I'm not saying that MLK was a 'crypto-Jew.'" Rather, R. Steinsaltz wanted to make the point that in his fight for justice, the bulk of Dr. King's scriptural inspiration came from the Old Testament. This is because, R. Steinsaltz continued, there is a difference between the moral message of the Old Testament and the New Testament.
I'll continue with this later in the week, but for now: what do you think? Is R. Steinsaltz right about MLK? What difference in moral message between Old Testament and New Testament do you think R. Steinsaltz is getting at?
* Or most--R. Steinsaltz admitted that there may be a few he was leaving out.