What is uncanny about our new president is how smoothly and easily he applies Judaic principles in governing. It is as if he were a modern iteration of a Jewish King, empowered by principles of Torah that channel the energy and drive of the ruler to do God's work. That means enabling people of all stripes and paths to become their best selves, in service to one another. President Obama is all of that, in word and deed, and in so being, challenges each of us to join the team.
President Obama is a once in a generation exemplar of the words of the Prophet Micah sharing God's Game Plan, and the roles we are expected to Play. It is considered by the Sages as among the best summaries of the Jewish understanding of the Meaning of Life: “God Told To You, Human Being, What is Good, And What God would Pull Out Of You (i.e. expects of you): Focus on ongoing Acts of Justness, manifest Love in ongoing Caring acts, and modestly... Humbly... Journey forward with Your God” (Micah chapter 5, verse 8; the capital letters indicate the Hebrew words translated).
Micah's prophecy (quoting God) is a formula for daily living. Doing what is right, even when it is unpopular or inconvenient, and prioritizing your day to do that, is where you access the “what is good" in Micah's formula. The doing leads to feeling good about life and finding love in how it feels to care. Caring is energy that translates as love, in Micah's formula. And, what makes the whole strategy work, the changing priorities to do something good and the overwhelm of love associated with caring, is the third principle, without which, the first two are not likely, if even possible: change your life agenda, and more substantively, your personal profile...that you go to Work for God in lowering your profile, your sense of importance, your insistence on Life going your way. It is discovering POWER not as POW resulting in OW , but as OWE, centered in WE.
Lacking living role models in positions of leadership, it is almost impossible to take Micah's formula and change your life today or tomorrow. It is difficult to believe that it could work, or that you would be as happy, or as in control, or as much yourself, as you are presently accustomed to being. Judaism’s agenda is to live by Micah’s formula, but lacking supporting infrastructures, synagogues and houses of Jewish community only achieve small measures of what is envisioned for Jewish community to be. Lacking such real models and examples, Judaism continues more as a fragment of someone’s life than as a system for encouraging living by the Micah formula. That may change.
In President Obama, we have a world leader who understands what is Good. He knows what God is asking of him, and of all humanity. He has embraced his authority to focus on doing justness in all areas of life. He is driven by the love of caring, going back to his work as a community organizer. Most impressive, most astonishing, and most encouraging, is that he is modest and humble in his essence. You see it in his family interactions, particularly Michelle's love and friendship, on display. You see it in his comfort with those who were his opponents. You see it in his commitment to listen and be accessible.
Most exciting of all, you see President Obama showing that governing by Micah's formula only strengthens him and those around him. He gains control by giving it to people who promise to carry out his vision, even if they are incapable of embracing the entirety of Micah's formula, especially the humble part.
When you choose to modestly walk with God, and thereby wholeheartedly accept God's mandate, you steep yourself in Vision, overall of a better world, and then, as you engage others who share the good work, you grow in your own Vision, of what is possible, and how you can do it.
I write these words a day after President Obama addressed his State Department team and introduced his foreign policy. How astonishing that, in addressing the Middle East conflict, he articulated more clearly than you will see in the Media, that Israel’s war in Gaza was grounded in thousands of missiles launched into southern Israel, and that conditions for moving for Peace in the region were predicated on Hamas recognizing Israel’s right to exist, cease all rocket launchings, and that there be assurances of all tunnels closed to transporting new weapons that could attack Israel. His commitment to the Arab world accepting Israel in the family of nations codifies a position of clarity of support for Israel that is inspiring and cause for hope for a solution that will vouchsafe Israel’s future.
Given that God works through people, it is very exciting to move into this new Era of American recovery and growth, and a promise of coming upon the means and the will to overcome the darkness we face, and emerge, with God's help, with a world restored and renewed. Such is the optimism engendered in Judaism as we envision every day, a brand new day, and move forward to make today good, and tomorrow, better.
Let me know what you think of Micah's formula and steps you think are possible to live by it:
"God has told to you, human being, what is good, and what God wants of you: focus on acts of justness, loving caring, and walking humbly with your God"
God be with President Obama and with each of us as we walk forward, together, toward better times.