This week’s portion, one of the more colorful and famous, features a talking donkey,a revelation and a change in mindset from curse to blessing, as well as the text of the famous melody “Mah Tovu”. (Numbers 24:5). The portion is rich in symbolism and raises important questions about how one can see things, how one can be influenced to change one’s mind as well as other theological challenges. However, for this week, I would like to suggest you turn to a passage from the section of the Bible read to parallel Balak, the Haftorah portion for this Shabbat Balak, which comes from the 8th century BCE prophet Micah.
The reading from Micah includes a reference to the Torah portion (Micah 6:5) which reminds the reader of the gracious acts of God. The passage reminds the reader of a popular theme that appears throughout the Prophetic writings, that it is not the sacrifice of things that God demands, rather it is a way of living. Thus we read one of the most famous passages in all of Biblical literature, found in Micah 6:8: “He has told you, Oh Man. what is good, and what God requires of you: only to do justice, and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.” Justice, love and humility, then are Micah’s prescription for how to live life.
I think this passage from Micah is especially meaningful for us as we age, and even more relevant for the times in which we live. To live a life infused with justice and love requires, it would seem, an understanding of this last value, that of humility. We live in times when the volume of life is turned up and the information coming to us is on overload. Maybe Micah is saying that, as we get a little older, and have a better understanding of the world, we can appreciate why Judaism stresses this value of humility. We learn that it is best not to take oursleves too seriously, that the world does not revolve around us, and that the quiet victories of family, friends and community are the real pleasures.
It may mean, finding our place in the universe and being comfortabel in that space. In his book “Every Day Holy Day”, Alan Morinis, who has been largey responsible for the reclaiming of Musar within contemporary Judaism, writes: “Humility stands on a foundation of self-esteem, and is defined by how much space you occupy–being humble means occupying your rightful space , where “space” can be physical, verbal, emotional, financial, and so on”. On eof the challenges that occupy us as we transition into this new world of aging is finding our proper “space”. A search, guided by Micah’s text of justice, love and humility seems to be a formula for a life of shalom.
Rabbi Richard F Address.
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.