Monday, August 17, 2009

Melech Karl Mahalel

We deliberated a lot about his name. In fact, the last things keeping us at the hospital were two blank spaces on his birth certificate (first name, middle name). Although we were still discussing until the last minute, Melech Karl's name was the one that stuck in my head for months now. Adi finally agreed.
Melech ("king" in Hebrew) is named for one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King. King was a modern-day Moses who stood for justice not only for his own people but for all mankind. When I watched an interview with him this pas MLK day I saw a man who was deeply thoughtful, highly intelligent, wonderfully articulate, and very handsome. But most of all what struck me was his sense of dignity. I believe it is this sense of dignity, dignity of self and dignity of humanity that led him to pursue his causes through practice of non-violent means. This sense of dignity has been sorely lacking amongst most of the leadership I've seen during my lifetime both in this country (the United States), in Israel, and amongst those we consider to be our enemies.
I hope that our Melech will treat all people with respect and dignity, for there is no King but God under whom all people are equal. Or, if you don't believe in God (nod to Adi ;) - there are no kings among men, only equals.
According to wikipedia, it is likely that it was not for Dr. King's groundbreaking civil rights work that he was assassinated. Rather, it was for his radical vision of economic equality for all which preoccupied his final days (as well as false rumors that he was a communist) - that terrified his destroyers.
Economic equality is not a goal that King lived to realize. As he put it, “It is much easier to integrate a lunch counter than it is to guarantee a monthly income.” We are not even close to the mountaintop on this issue.
Which brings us to Melech's middle name, Karl with a "K". Yes, for that Karl!
Karl Marx's revolutionary analysis of class divisions gave us a solid understanding of how capitalism deprives many people of their dignity. I believe that the solutions to the problems raised by King and Marx are far from clear. If they were, then I'd like to think that we'd be seeing some signs of their success somewhere.
In the meanwhile, I hope that our children will come closer to that time of economic and social equality where the dignity of all is fully respected and realized.
And if all this - my comfortable praise for both God and communism in the same speech is too much to process, then consider this more simple explanation: the name Karl comes from a Germanic root meaning "manly".
We can sum up everything I just said with the instruction to our son in Yiddish:
Zai a mensch!
Be a mensch.