Desert Island Texts

Desert Island Texts

If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?

This week Rabbi Esther Hugenholtz from Sinai Synagogue in Leeds selects: Micah Chapter 6, verse 8

We live in a 140-character world. If it fits in a tweet, a billboard or a 15-second advertisement, we gladly reduce the world’s wisdom to something pithy and possibly trite. But great things come in small packages and the dilemma of bite-sized Torah is not new to the Twitter age.

In the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Makkot 23b, the Rabbis pose a similar question: is there any way we can distill the essentials of Judaism in, say, 140 characters?

I like the suggestion offered by the prophet Micah (6:8) best: “Higid lecha adam, mah tov, u’mah doresh Adonai mim’cha? Ki im asot mishpat, v’ahavat chesed, v’hatzne’ah lechet im Elohecha” – “It has been told to you, oh human, what is it that the Eternal seeks from you? That you do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.”

There’s so much to say about so short a verse. There’s a balance between the structures of sacred obligation (“it has been told to you”) and the freedoms of audacious enquiry (“that the Eternal seeks from you”).

We cannot live an authentically religious life as (Progressive) Jews without both the commitment and choice that Judaism gives us. Then there’s the deceptively simple moral code: act righteously and temper that ethical imperative by compassion and reflection. Seek to re-establish your relationship to God, others and self. Body, mind and soul are deeply integrated but what matters most as Jews is how we move through the world.

Micah gives us both a self-help manual towards personal integrity and a redemptive vision of global transformation in the space of a tweet! With every encounter at work, home, in the market, through what we say, eat and spend, we can walk the walk. Pretty modern, right?