If you were cast away on an island with just one Jewish text for company, which would you choose?
This week, Bob Kamall, chairman of Woodford Liberal Synagogue, selects The Book of Micah – Chapter 6 v8.
I grew up in a non-Jewish and very secular household, converting to Judaism because my wife (or girlfriend as she then was) wanted to get married with all the traditions of her faith. My conversion took place under the auspices of the North London Progressive Synagogue at Amhurst Park, where across the wall above the Bimah was written “Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God”.
Intrigued by the quotation, I looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and then read Micah in an old copy of the King James Bible. It’s relatively short for a biblical text, and not always an easy read with its doom mongering and warnings. However, the redeeming feature is that Micah ends each warning with a statement of hope. Thus, in chapter 6, Micah asks questions about the burden of worship and sacrifice before reminding his audience that all that is required is that you behave justly, love mercy and walk humbly.
When it came to my barmitzvah, one of the suggested texts for the Haftarah reading was Micah, so it seemed an appropriate choice. Of course, the conspiracy theorist would argue that it’s more than just coincidence that the words above the Bimah where I was introduced to Judaism and the suggested text for my barmitzvah are the same. Maybe Micah is following me.
I cannot imagine any reason why I would volunteer to go a desert island; if circumstances forced me there, and provided basic needs like food and shelter are taken care of, I suspect that I would work my way through the five stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
No doubt my anger will be directed at God and I will try to bargain with Him.
My acceptance of the situation will come when I learn to walk humbly with God – perhaps with Micah by my side.