The Prophet Micah conveyed to us the following Divine message:
“He has told you, O human being, what is good! What does Hashem require of you but to do justice, love lovingkindness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
The Talmud teaches that the above statement of Micah provides us with the three central principles underlying our path of 613 mitzvos – Divine mandates (Makos 24a).
After we received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Educating One did not cause us to spread out among the peoples and preach to them; instead, we were brought to the Promised Land so that we could be “a people that will dwell apart and not be reckoned among the nations” (Numbers 23:9). In this way, we could develop a separate and new society that could serve as an ethical and spiritual model for all the nations through fulfilling the mitzvos of the Torah. Underlying this separation is a spirit of humility, and a source for this idea can be found in the following message from the Prophet Micah regarding the underlying principles of the path of mitzvos given to us by the Educating One: “What does Hashem require of you but to do justice, love lovingkindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
“To walk humbly with your God” – It is not enough to follow a path of justice and love; one must also walk on that path with humility. It is a principle which can apply to both an individual and a people. And if we, the People of Israel, have something to offer humanity, then the most humble way to make that contribution is not through preaching to others, but through the power of our own example. In this spirit, the Educating One proclaimed to us at Mount Sinai:
“And you shall be to Me a kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6).
What does it mean to be a “kingdom of Kohanim”? The word “kohen” can connote service. For example, this word appears as a verb in a Divine mandate that was conveyed to Moses: “They shall make vestments of sanctity for Aaron your brother and his sons, le-kahan li - to serve Me” (Exodus 28:4). A Kohen is therefore a person who dedicates every aspect of life to the service of Hashem. In this way, people will view him as a messenger of Hashem, and they will be attracted to his teachings. This idea is expressed in the following statement of the Prophet Malachi:
“For the lips of the Kohen should safeguard knowledge, and people should seek Torah from his mouth; for he is a messenger of Hashem, God of all the hosts of creation.” (Malachi 2:7)
Just as people will seek Torah from the mouth of the Kohen who serves as a living example of the Divine Teaching, so too, the nations of the world will seek Torah from the “kingdom of Kohanim,” when they see that this society has become a living example of the Divine Teaching. The People of Israel must therefore strive to become a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6), and when they achieve this goal, they will merit the fulfillment of the Divine promise that “nations will walk to your light, and sovereigns to the glow of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:3).
Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch has a creative insight as to how we become a living example of the Torah. He suggests that the word “Torah” is derived from the word “harah” – to receive a seed within oneself, to become pregnant. Rabbi Hirsch adds:
“Torah therefore means a seed put by God into the womb of a nation from which the whole life of that nation in all its personal and collective aspects is to develop; it is a Divine seed whose product we call ‘Yisrael’ (Collected Writings, Vol. 1, page 194).”
Our Divine assignment is to nurture the seed of the Divine Teaching implanted within ourselves. In this way, we can become an ethical and spiritual model that will inspire the nations to study and fulfill those teachings and precepts of the Torah which apply to all humankind. Zion – the home of our people – will then become the unifying spiritual center for all humanity, as it is written:
“Many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek out Hashem in Jerusalem” (Zechariah 8:22).
This era is described as, “the day of Hashem, neither day nor night, and it will happen towards evening that there will be light” (Zechariah 14:7). As a result of this light, all creation will be elevated, as it is written:
“The wolf will live with the sheep, and the leopard will lie down with the kid; and a calf, a lion whelp and a fatling together, and a young child will lead them. A cow and bear will graze and their young will lie down together; and a lion, like cattle, will eat hay. A suckling will play by a viper’s hole; and a newly weaned child will stretch his hand towards an adder’s lair. They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed.” (Isaiah 11:6-9)
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen (See Below)
1. We proclaim twice a day, evening and morning, “Hear O Israel, Hashem is our God, Hashem is One!” Why do we address our own people, Israel, before proclaiming the universal vision, “Hashem is One”? We realize that we must first remind our own people that the Compassionate One is our God, so that we can become a model of the Divine Unity through our words and deeds. And through the spiritual power of our example, all the peoples will be inspired to join us in proclaiming “Hashem is One!”
2. “The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Israel: My beloved children! Is there anything I lack that I should have to ask of you? All I ask of you is that you love one another, that you honor one another, that you respect one another. In this way, no sin, robbery, or based deed will be found among you, so that you will remain undefiled forever. Thus it is written (Micah 6:8): ‘He has told you, O human being, what is good! What does Hashem require of you but to do justice, love lovingkindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ ” (Tanna Dvei Eliyahu 28)