Dedicating the Statue of Liberty to the LORD

The statue of liberty was a “gift” from the French government to the American people, as if from a knowing father to an unexperienced child. The sculptor prided himself in creating gargantuan statuary that rivaled that of the ancients. The Statue of Liberty was no exception, it was commonly known that this statue would rival the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonder of the Ancient World (which was also situated in the midst of a busy harbor). The design of the Statue of Liberty was intended to be a depiction of the Roman Goddess, Libertas wearing a representation of the Phrygian cap, which was the mark of a freed slave. In her hand she bore a torch, representing (in the mind of the sculptor) the enlightenment of France being bestowed upon America as a gift (as if the Americans could not find it themselves.

This all adds up to a statue of dubious character, and we could all wonder why it has become such a loved emblem of this country. The answer to this lies in the short poem written to raise funds for the base of the proposed statue by a woman named Emma Lazarus. Emma was a Sephardic Jewish woman born in New York City in 1849.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

As most Americans know, this poem was later engraved onto a plaque which was placed on the base of the statue. What most Americans don’t know, however, is the message she was trying to give to the world with her poem. By comparing this poem to a selection of her other poetry and by remembering her Jewish upbringing, we can suddenly see a clear message of revolt from the Babylon of Europe, into the welcoming arms of a new mother, a new Zion where true liberty prevails. Let us take this monumental poem phrase by phrase and learn how this Jewish woman dedicated an unavoidable symbol of the corruption of the Old World into a Declaration of the Light of her LORD to all the people of the earth.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

The poem starts out by proclaiming that this new statue is not like the old Colossus of Rhodes, Apollo, with conquering limbs astride from land to land. Liberty could not be obtained through warfare and domination! What does she replace this standard of European thought with?

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles.

The Mother of Exiles is a mighty woman carrying a torch, but who is she? To answer that question, we can turn to another of Emma’s poems, 1492 (written in 1883) which describes the “two-faced year” in which the Jews were exiled from Spain and a New World was discovered for them to flee to.


Thou two-faced year, Mother of Change and Fate,

Didst weep when Spain cast forth with flaming sword,

The children of the prophets of the Lord,

Prince, priest, and people, spurned by zealot hate.

Hounded from sea to sea, from state to state,

The West refused them, and the East abhorred.

No anchorage the known world could afford,

Close-locked was every port, barred every gate.

Then smiling, thou unveil'dst, O two-faced year,

A virgin world where doors of sunset part,

Saying, "Ho, all who weary, enter here!

There falls each ancient barrier that the art

Of race or creed or rank devised, to rear

Grim bulwarked hatred between heart and heart!"

One cannot help but see the similarity between these two lines: Then smiling, thou unveil'dst, O two-faced year, // A virgin world where doors of sunset part and Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand // A mighty woman with a torch. The lands of America (North and South) were a refuge for the Jews who were being actively cast forth from their homes. Where else could they turn? In another poem, written by Emma during the same time period as The New Colossus, we catch another glimpse of this Mother of Exiles.

By the Waters of Babylon

Part V. - Currents

Vast oceanic movements, the flux and reflux of immeasurable tides oversweep our continent.

From the far Caucasian steppes, from the squalid Ghettoes of Europe,

From Odessa and Bucharest, from Kief and Ekaterinoslav,

Hark to the cry of the exiles of Babylon, the voice of Rachel mourning for her children, of Israel lamenting for Zion.

And lo, like a turbid stream, the long-pent flood bursts the dykes of oppression and rushes hitherward.

Unto her ample breast, the generous mother of nations welcomes them.

The herdsman of Canaan and the seed of Jerusalem's royal shepherd renew their youth amid the pastoral plains of Texas and the golden valleys of the Sierras.

Hark to the cry of the exiles of Babylon, the voice of Rachel mourning for her children, of Israel lamenting for Zion. The Jewish people have been exiled from their homes, cast forth by religion and government, they are crying for peace and freedom. They burst forth from the Old World like a broken dam and flow into the New World, welcomed by The Mother of Nations. Zion and Israel are often depicted in the Scriptures as a woman, the bride of the LORD. It is fitting then, that their lamentations were answered with a new land, a new Zion, where they could proser without turning away from their LORD.

From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

The imprisoned lightning that glows in her torch is a welcoming light for all the world, and this is exemplified by the imagery which casts her as a guardian of the harbor (which, incidentally, was the original purpose of the Colossus of Rhodes) in the next few lines:

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

The message hinted at in the first lines are now brought home; Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! America has no need of the corruption and religious persecution that had cast so many from their homes. You might also compare the wording of these lines to the end of her poem, 1492. And so, we come to the last line of this poem:

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The lamp of the Mother of Exiles could represent one of many things, but the most compelling is referenced in yet another of Emma’s poems, titled Gifts:


"O World-God, give me Wealth!" the Egyptian cried.

His prayer was granted. High as heaven, behold

Palace and Pyramid; the brimming tide

Of lavish Nile washed all his land with gold.

Armies of slaves toiled ant-wise at his feet,

World-circling traffic roared through mart and street,

His priests were gods, his spice-balmed kings enshrined,

Set death at naught in rock-ribbed channels deep.

Seek Pharaoh's race to-day and ye shall find

Rust and the moth, silence and dusty sleep.

"O World-God, give me beauty!" cried the Greek.

His prayer was granted. All the earth became

Plastic and vocal to his sense; each peak,

Each grove, each stream, quick with Promethean flame,

Peopled the world with imaged grace and light.

The lyre was his, and his the breathing might

Of the immortal marble, his the play

Of diamond-pointed thought and golden tongue.

Go seek the sun-shine race, ye find to-day

A broken column and a lute unstrung.

"O World-God, give me Power!" the Roman cried.

His prayer was granted. The vast world was chained

A captive to the chariot of his pride.

The blood of myriad provinces was drained

To feed that fierce, insatiable red heart.

Invulnerably bulwarked every part

With serried legions and with close-meshed Code,

Within, the burrowing worm had gnawed its home,

A roofless ruin stands where once abode

The imperial race of everlasting Rome.

"O Godhead, give me Truth!" the Hebrew cried.

His prayer was granted; he became the slave

Of the Idea, a pilgrim far and wide,

Cursed, hated, spurned, and scourged with none to save.

The Pharaohs knew him, and when Greece beheld,

His wisdom wore the hoary crown of Eld.

Beauty he hath forsworn, and wealth and power.

Seek him to-day, and find in every land.

No fire consumes him, neither floods devour;

Immortal through the lamp within his hand.

The Lamp of the Hebrews is Truth from the LORD. This theme can be found in a number of Emma’s other works, including "The Choice," "The Feast of Lights," and "In Exile." It isn’t too far of a leap to suggest that the lamp that the Mother of Exiles holds next to the golden door, might be this same lamp mentioned in her other poetry.

In the end, the original message of the Statue of Liberty became turned around from one of condescending light shining forth from the Ancient and Civilized Lands into the Young Lands guiding their reckless venture of freedom into more traditional and tested forms of power and control into a welcoming light of moral truths on which this country was founded shining forth into the rest of the weary world. Emma Lazarus did our world a favor when she dedicated the Statue of Liberty to her LORD and changed her name to the Mother of Exiles.

I would like to give credit to Daniel Marom and his book Prooftexts: A Journal of Jewish Literary History for giving me the idea of writing this essay, and also to Emma Lazarus for being brave enough to combat tendrils of Babylon that had begun to creep into her Zion. May we all have as much courage as her in our own struggles.

Update to Fish on Friday

there is a possible Dagon influence to the fish on friday thing ... I'll investigate and report back!

Jews and Indians (and DNA)

I have an acquaintance who believes that he is an Indian. He believes that the Great Spirit changed his DNA, and that he is now a "real" Indian. Why? Because, only actual Indians can speak with the Great Spirit? Because, only Indians can heal though song and ritual? hmm .. what gives a race of people a right to deny their religion, customs or way of life to any other human being? If a person feels their soul being draw toward a certain group of people, they should be allowed to join with them in full fellowship, or practice in solitary as they wish, saying that they are what they are, without the need to have their DNA change in order to legitimately belong to that group. Of course, there is a difference between a person who has been born into a culture, and a person who adopts it later in life. But, even this is a false barrier, for there are newcomers who out -shine those who have lived inside the system their entire lives - it is the fact that they are new that gives them the insights and determination that many lifetime members lack through a sense of complacency and satisfaction with the way things are.

the bible

I love the bible! but I do not believe it to be true.

How can that be? If you love the Bible, you must truly believe it to be true in your heart.

If I believed the bible to be true, I would hate it. Instead, I have loosened my grasping reliance on this book so that I can love it for what it really is. How many things do we love in this world, even though they are not perfect? True love overlooks imperfections and faults. I love the bible, despite its flaws and falsehoods.

Fish on Friday

The Catholic Church had and still has in the minds and hearts of the people a strange rule: no meat on Friday or during the Lent Season, but you can eat fish during those times. I had read somewhere once that after the no meat rule came into place (I don't remember why they came up with that rule exactly), the new converts in the northern regions almost defected from the faith as a result of this rule as they had little but meat to eat during the early spring months. The Vatican quickly revised their policy and stipulated that fish could be eaten. The northern Christians were happy enough and life went on.

How true this story is, I don't really know (but I'll look it up on Wikipedia in a minute and then tell you). But, as my husband and I were driving home tonight we came up with a more religiously meaningful reason for eating no meat on Friday, but still allowing fish to be eaten.

I should preface this by telling you that I have been forgoing meat on the Sabbath with the idea that the animals deserve a day of rest as well as we do, so I shouldn't eat them since that isn't very restful for them.

Back to the story, as we were driving home, my husband was lamenting the fact that we would never have great special meals on Sabbath, since to him MEAT = Good Food. He suggested that I move it to a different day, perhaps I should abstain from eating animals on the day they were created (the 6th day). We pondered this for a minute and then realized that this resulted in not eating meat on Friday! wow .. but, you can eat fish (and birds) because they were created on the 5th day! Remember, Saturday is the seventh day of the week. There were factions of Christians who tried to pretend that the Jews were wrong all along and Sunday was the true seventh day .. they didn't succeed, and Sunday is still considered the first day of the week.

So, now that I've speculated, let's look it up and see what scholars (Wikipedia, the Catholic Encyclopedia and a site about the Second Vatican Counsel) say the reasoning behind this rule is.
According to canon law, all Fridays of the year, Ash Wednesday and several other days are days of abstinence, though in most countries, the strict requirements of abstinence have been limited by the bishops (in accordance with Canon 1253) to the Fridays of Lent and Ash Wednesday. On other abstinence days, the faithful are invited to perform some other act of penance.
the historian Socrates (Hist. Eccl., V, 22) tells of the practice of the fifth century: "Some abstain from every sort of creature that has life, while others of all the living creatures eat of fish only. Others eat birds as well as fish, because, according to the Mosaic account of the Creation, they too sprang from the water; others abstain from fruit covered by a hard shell and from eggs. Some eat dry bread only, others not even that; others again when they have fasted to the ninth hour (three o'clock) partake of various kinds of food"
Throughout the Latin Church the law of abstinence prohibits all responsible subjects from indulging in meat diet on duly appointed days. Meat diet comprises the flesh, blood, or marrow of such animals and birds as constitute flesh meat according to the appreciation of intelligent and law-abiding Christians. For this reason the use of fish, vegetables, mollusks, crabs, turtles, frogs, and such-like cold-blooded creatures is not at variance with the law of abstinence. Amphibians are relegated to the category whereunto they bear most striking resemblance.
Some think that an ounce of flesh meat suffices to constitute a serious breach of this law, whereas others claim that nothing short of two ounces involves infringement of this obligation. Ordinarily, the actual observance of the law is confined to such circumstances as carry no insupportable burden. This is why the sick, the infirm, mendicants, labourers, and such as find difficulty in procuring fish diet are not bound to observe the law as long as such conditions prevail.
Friday itself remains a special day of penitential observance throughout the year, a time when those who seek perfection will be mindful of their personal sins and the sins of mankind which they are called upon to help expiate in union with Christ Crucified;
The forty days represents, according to the Bible, the time Jesus spent in the desert, enduring the temptation of Satan
Friday should be in each week something of what Lent is in the entire year. For this reason we urge all to prepare for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday be freely making of every Friday a day of self-denial and mortification in prayerful remembrance of the passion of Jesus Christ;

Now I see--Friday is the day Jesus was crucified, and (even though it is called Good Friday), it is a day of fasting (in more ancient times only until the 9th hour, supposedly because the moment of the death of Jesus had some mystic significance freeing the rest of humanity from death, but I'm not very well versed in Catholic theology, so I might be missing the obvious). Because all things have their type or symbolic representation, every Friday represents Good Friday, and every Sunday represents Easter. But, the Friday abstinence also represents Lent, which is a remembrance of Jesus' 40 day fast in the wilderness. So, which is it? a piece of Lent or a piece of Good Friday or maybe both at the same time. I think the last option is the most fitting one, since abstaining on the Fridays during Lent is much more weighty than any other Friday (aside from Good Friday itself).

I couldn't find any substantiation for my 'fast strike of the northern barbarians' story .. oh well, I've told that tale to many a listener already! and ... I couldn't find anything actually refuting it either ;-)

A few other people mentioned the correspondence between not eating meat on the day that the animals were created and the Catholic observance.

I also found this fascinating theory:
The Hebrew scriptures also tell of Leviathan, a primordial gigantic enigmatic sea-creature (think Jonah's whale) that represents death. So carving up and eating Leviathan on the day that Christ killed death makes great sense to the biblical imagination. Because of Christ's victory, the great monster death is now nothing more than fish sticks on your plate!

--The Free Library