My time this summer at the Shalom Hartman Institute as a fellow in the 5th Cohort of the Rabbinic Leadership Initiative has been alive and inspired by the famous phrase by the prophet Micah in this week’s haftarah:
What does Adonai require of you?
עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד, וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת, עִם-אֱלֹהֶיךָ
Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.
What I appreciate most about Micah’s challenge to all of us is that he does not relegate doing God’s work to Temple life. The people could not fulfill their duties as Jews by simply bringing sacrifices to the Temple in his time (or paying Temple dues in ours). Instead, he lets us know that to fulfill our role and responsibility in the covenant as Jews, we must walk the walk of justice and mercy at all times.
Right now, 170 rabbis are gathered in Jerusalem learning Torah at the institute on the topic of justice. Our gathering opened with a shiur (lesson) by Rabbi Donniel Hartman that lifted the quintessential text of justice, Genesis 18. We explored Abraham’s brave and humble attempt to stand up to God in the name of tzedek umishpat (justice and righteousness) in the face of the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Inside and outside the walls of the institute, we have been called on to realize this pursuit of justice and righteousness in all facets of our lives. Ruth Calderon (Former Member of the Kenesset) led an especially poignant shiur today in which she challenged us to express the principle not only in the public sphere, but in one of the most private spheres—the bedroom.
Micah’s call reminds us that each interaction and our every intention must be infused with both justice and mercy. As Shabbat enters the sacred city of Jerusalem, I commit myself anew to try to answer his call. As you welcome Shabbat into our favorite city of Chicago, I invite you to do the same.