Have you ever experienced a moment when seemingly unrelated things – such as a snippet of a conversation you had yesterday and an article you read online today – all of a sudden have a connection? That happened to me today.
Let me explain.
First of all, today is Freedom Day, which celebrates the day that Abraham Lincoln signed the resolution to outlaw slavery. (On Feb. 1, 1865.)
Second of all, today marks the start of Black History Month. At first I thought it was connected to Freedom Day, but after doing some research, I learned that Black History Month, according to an article on history.com, began as “Negro History Week,” which was started by historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926. He chose the second week in February to raise awareness of the contributions of black Americans because it coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. By the late 1960s, the week evolved into Black History Month on college campuses and in 1976, President Gerald Ford officially recognized February as Black History Month.
Last night I was speaking with a rabbi’s wife about the Torah portion. The Torah, also known as the five books of Moses or the Pentateuch, is divided into 54 separate portions and one is read each week on the same date in synagogues around the world. This week’s parsha is Yitro, which named after Moses’s father-in-law, Yitro (Jethro). She told me that Yitro was a Midian, described as being “dark-skinned,” and his daughter, Tziporah, Moses’s wife was also “dark-skinned.” According to the Bible, Yitro met Moses after the Exodus from Egypt (where the Israelites were slaves) and converted to Judaism.
So (bear with me, I’m almost done), in America, Black History Month is observed in February because of the birthdays of two men who are symbols of the end of slavery in America. And then in biblical texts, Black History Month also coincides with the Torah portion that lauds the accomplishments of Yitro, a black man who was the father-in-law of the man who brought the Jewish people out of slavery in Egypt.
Not sure if that is significant in the great scheme of things, but I thought it was a cool connection.