July 4, 1863 was a Saturday, and Rabbi Sabato Morais, a Sephardi immigrant from Italy serving as religious leader of Philadelphia's Mikveh Israel Congregation, delivered his Sabbath morning sermon. His sermon contains a phrase that might well have influenced the most celebrated speech in American history.
This particular Sabbath 150 years ago was unusual for several reasons. It was the American Independence Day, an occasion for celebration. However, in the Jewish calendar, it was also the 17th Day of Tammuz, a traditional day of mourning, commemorating the Roman breaching of the walls of Jerusalem in 70 CE, beginning a three-week period of solemnity that culminates with the 9th of Av, when the Temple was destroyed. This contrast in moods between the American and the ...TAGGED: Jews