Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God

In the Haftara for Parshat Balak (Micha 5:6-6:8), we read the prophecy of Micha which recalls some of the ways in which God protected B’nai Yisrael during the forty years that they spent in the wilderness. One of the incidents mentioned is Balak’s plot to have Bilam curse B’nai Yisrael, a clear link to the Torah reading.

The Haftara ends with what God requires from us: “to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly (hatznea lechet) with God.”

The mitzvot of doing justice and loving kindness are “mitzvot ben adam l’chavero”, commandments between a person and their fellow person while the mitzvah of walking humbly with God seems like a “mitzvah ben adam l’makom”, a commandment between a person and God. However, The Talmud, Makkot 24a states that “walk humbly with God” is also a “mitzvah ben adam l’chavero” as it refers to funerals and weddings.

What does “walk humbly” have to do with funerals and weddings?

According to Rivan, the Talmud chose these two examples due to their associations with the word “lechet”, “to go” in Kohelet 7:2, “It is better to go (lalechet) to the house of mourning than to go (milechet) to a house of feasting, for that is the end of all people and the living should take it to heart.”

One way to look at this:

It is humbling to go to a funeral or shiva house where eulogies stimulate one to think about the beauty of life and focus on the fact that only a good reputation has lasting value.

Parties where there is a lot of eating and drinking and playing around can become distasteful if not conducted properly and modestly. Unfortunately, in many different cultures there are instances of people getting drunk at weddings and acting inappropriately.

Another way to look at this:

Funerals and weddings should be conducted in a modest and tasteful manner.

Burial outside of Israel should be done with a simple coffin, in Israel no coffin is used at all. Shrouds, the simplest of clothing are used for the burial.

Weddings should be within the range of what the families can afford. It is not helpful for newlyweds to start their married lives in debt.

What is interesting about our Haftara is that the concept of being humble which is related in Hoshea and in the Talmud is not directed specifically at women and is not about women’s clothing. Rather it is about being humble in the way that we conduct our lives especially during our happiest and saddest moments.

About the Author
Sharona holds a BA in Judaic Studies from Stern College and an MS in Jewish Education from Azrieli Graduate School, Yeshiva University. Sharona was the first Congregational Intern and Madricha Ruchanit at the Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, NY. After making aliya in 2004, Sharona founded Torat Reva Yerushalayim, a non profit organization based in Jerusalem which provides Torah study groups for students of all ages and backgrounds.
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