Justice, mercy, humility

Posted on 26 January 2012 by admin

By Laura Seymour

In discussing God and faith with our children, they sometimes ask questions we can’t answer. There is a good reason for this: Judaism is a religion with a lot of guidelines. There are, for example, 613 commandments we’re required to follow. That’s a great many things to do.

Fortunately, throughout our history, prophets, judges and rabbis have offered advice to help us lead good lives while helping others. One of those prophets, Micah, discusses this as follows:

“And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly[a] with your God.”

— Micah 6:8

These seem like simple tasks, but they can be incredibly difficult. In carefully examining the above biblical quote, think and talk about these questions with your family:

  • What does it mean to “do justly?” What is the definition of “just” and how to we behave in a “just” manner? What does it mean to be fair to others? What is considered unfair? Many times, fairness and being just aren’t the same thing. For example, if your child wants to go to a birthday party, but instead must visit her grandparent because she made the date with her grandparent first, the child may not think that’s fair – but it is just.
  • What is mercy? How do we act with mercy? Why does Micah say to “love mercy?” Is that different that treating people with mercy? Sometimes showing mercy to someone else (especially someone who doesn’t behave in a very good way) can be difficult. How might Micah react to such a challenge?
  • Being humble, showing humility is a very important Jewish value. But what does showing humility mean? Does it mean being a doormat and letting people walk all over you? What does it look like? Why does Micah say to “walk humbly?” How, specifically, do we walk with God?
  • And finally, why just these three things? How do they relate to everything else we should be doing? Is this really enough?

As mentioned above, Micah simplifies this advice, but in simplifying it, more questions arise. This is good, though. Part of the importance of understanding the Bible and Torah is to question what’s written. By questioning and working through answers, we can come to a better understanding of appropriate behavior we need to follow as Jews and human beings. When it comes to the above questions, there is no right or wrong answer. What’s important is the discussion and conclusions, all of which help us become better human beings.

Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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