As the Dew Falls
Haftarat Balak, Micah 5:6–6:8
by Michael Hillel, Netanya, Israel
In the 21st century, with all of our technological and scientific advances, humankind occasionally gets the erroneous idea that we can control our destinies, that our own advancements allow us to fulfill the command of Hashem to rule over all of creation (Gen 1:28). Yet with all of our advancements, we cannot bring about even something as simple as the morning dew.
This week’s haftarah reading begins with an assurance of the care of Hashem for his people Israel, which is often overlooked due to the regularity of its occurrence.
Now the remnant of Jacob will be in the midst of many peoples, like dew from Adonai, like abundant showers on grass that does not wait for a man, nor lingers for the sons of men. (Micah 5:6, TLV)
Rashi comments on this verse:
Like dew sent by the Lord: which does not come to the world through man, and people do not ask for it, so Israel will not hope for the help of man, but for the Lord.
Trusting in our own achievements reminds me of the chutzpah exhibited in the following tale.
God was once approached by a scientist who said, “Listen God, we’ve decided we don’t need you anymore. These days we can clone people, transplant organs and do all sorts of things that used to be considered miraculous.”
God replied, “Don’t need me huh? How about we put your theory to the test. Why don’t we have a competition to see who can make a human being, say, a male human being?”
The scientist agrees, so God declares they should do it as he did in the good old days when he created Adam.
“Fine,” says the scientist as he bends down to scoop up a handful of dirt.
“Whoa!” says God, shaking his head in disapproval. “Not so fast. Get your own dirt!”
Micah wanted Israel of old, as well as each of us today, to realize that (1) this is Hashem’s world and (2) he provides not only for Israel but for all humankind. We acknowledge this fact daily as we recite the traditional prayer Ashrei, proclaiming, "You open your hand and satisfy every living thing with favor” (Psa 145:16).
We may not always immediately see the provision of Hashem; in fact there may be times when circumstances or situations seem to block his provision. But as sure as the dew falls in the morning and rain comes in its season, the provision and the care of Hashem will always be present. We even acknowledge this truth along with King David at the end of Birkat Hamazon (blessing after a meal) when we pray, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous one forsaken, nor his children begging for bread” (Psa 37:25).
Micah does not only deal with Hashem’s care and provision, but the haftarah ends by citing man’s as well as woman’s responsibility. The passage is perhaps better known than the beginning one.
He has told you, humanity, what is good,
and what Adonai is seeking from you:
Only to practice justice, to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
To truly understand what the prophet is saying here, one must look at the verse in context. In Micah 6:6, the prophet, speaking for all of Israel asks, “with what shall I come before Adonai?” He then continues with a collection of Toraic required offerings. At first reading, it appears that Hashem answers with an either/or statement, in which one is right and the other wrong. Offerings and sacrifices are not desired, justice, loving-kindness (mercy), and humility are all that is required. There are other passages in Scripture that have been interpreted in this manner, such as John 1:17: “Torah was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Yeshua the Messiah.”
It appears that Torah and grace and truth are juxtaposed against one another, but that contrast is not any more true than it is in Yeshua’s rebuke of the Pharisees, “You tithe mint and dill and cumin, yet you have neglected the weightier matters of Torah—justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matt 23:23a). Too often we stop reading at this point and do not finish the verse, “It is necessary to do these things without neglecting the others” (23:23b). It is not an either/or situation but more likely a kal v’chomer: if one is correct, how much more the other. Micah is not insinuating that justice supplants ritual observance, or that justice and ritual worship are mutually exclusive. Rather the focus of all of the Torah, with its rules, regulations, and ritual observances, is to bolster proper, responsible activity between one another as individuals and between the individual and his or her God.
There is another important thing to notice in Micah 6:8. Often, due to the context, it is thought that this verse is directed solely to Israel, to whom the Torah and the sacrifices were given. The word translated “humanity,” however, is adam אָדָם, the generic word for man that appears in Genesis 1:26 & 27. In other words, it is all of humankind’s responsibility “to practice justice, to love mercy” and hopefully, one day “to walk humbly” with the God of Israel, who set the standard (cf. Zech 14:9).
In the book From Within the Tent: The Haftarot, Rabbi Feldman summarizes Micah’s challenge:
Do good! Do justice! Perform acts of loving kindness! And do it all with a sense of humility and modesty befitting God-conscious and God-partnered people, so that your private space becomes God’s space and your world is transformed into His world. (Daniel Z. Feldman & Stuart W. Halpern, ed. From Within the Tent: The Haftarot [Jerusalem: Maggid Books, 2011], p. 372–73)
As disciples of Yeshua, can we do any less as we interact with friends, with family members, or with the stranger on the street? As the dew falls on the morning grass, so should our acts of justice and loving-kindness fall upon those Hashem brings across our path.