Balak

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Micah 5:6-6:8

At the twilight of the Northern Kingdom, during the rise of the Assyrian Empire, Micha appeared as a powerful prophet alongside Isaiah, Hosea, and Amos. He spoke to the kingdoms of Judah and Israel regarding political and spiritual matters, with a strong focus on societal flaws.

The Haftarah’s opening section is about a “Remnant of Jacob among many nations”, but Micha’s exact subject is unclear. Broadly, commentators offer two approaches. The first identifies the Remnant as those exiled from the Northern Kingdom in the later part of Micha’s life who live amidst other nations. The second places this passage at the End of Days, during the apocalyptic war of Gog and Magog: the Remnant, in Jerusalem, is besieged by foreign nations. In either case, similar to the Parashah’s account of His saving the people from Bilaam, God will intervene. The Remnant will overcome and destroy its seemingly ascendant enemies. God will also destroy the Remnant’s idolatry and military power so that it relies only on Him.

The Haftarah’s second section, beginning at 6:1, presents a dispute between God and His people, whom He rebukes for being “weary” of Him. God has provided them with righteous leaders and saved them from enemies - including Balak and Bilaam. The people propose atoning for their sins through sacrificial service, but God demands service through societal justice, lovingkindness, and humility.

Haftarah Breakdown

Verses 5:6-8: The “Remnant” (see above for details) will be blessed by God and powerful, and will overcome its enemies.

Micah 5:8

Your [the Remnant’s] hand shall be lifted up upon your adversaries, and all your enemies shall be cut off.

 תָּרֹ֥ם יָדְךָ֖ עַל־צָרֶ֑יךָ וְכָל־אֹיְבֶ֖יךָ יִכָּרֵֽתוּ׃

Verses 5:9-14: Even as God avenges the Remnant’s enemies, God also will eliminate all other powers it relies upon- military power, cities and their fortifications, and idolatry- so that it relies solely on Him.

Micah 5:12

I [God] will cut off your carved idols and your pillars from your midst [so that] you shall no longer prostrate to the work of your hands.

וְהִכְרַתִּ֧י פְסִילֶ֛יךָ וּמַצֵּבוֹתֶ֖יךָ מִקִּרְבֶּ֑ךָ וְלֹֽא־תִשְׁתַּחֲוֶ֥ה ע֖וֹד לְמַעֲשֵׂ֥ה יָדֶֽיךָ׃

Verses 6:1-5: God contends with His people for their misdeeds, reminding them of His kindnesses and righteous victories on their behalf- including saving them from Balak and Balaam.

Micah 6:3

O My people, what have I done to you? How have I wearied you? Testify against Me!

עַמִּ֛י מֶה־עָשִׂ֥יתִי לְךָ֖ וּמָ֣ה הֶלְאֵתִ֑יךָ עֲנֵ֥ה בִּֽי׃

Verses 6:6-7: The people reply, asking whether sacrifices express proper submission to God and satisfy His demands.

Micah 6:6

With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow low before the high God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with year-old calves?

בַּמָּה֙ אֲקַדֵּ֣ם ה' אִכַּ֖ף לֵאלֹקי מָר֑וֹם הַאֲקַדְּמֶ֣נּוּ בְעוֹל֔וֹת בַּעֲגָלִ֖ים בְּנֵ֥י שָׁנָֽה׃

Verse 6:8: God responds that Man must serve Him through justice, kindness, and humility.

Micah 6:8

He has told you, O Man, what is good. What does the Lord require of you? - Doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with your God.

הִגִּ֥יד לְךָ֛ אָדָ֖ם מַה־טּ֑וֹב וּמָֽה־ה' דּוֹרֵ֣שׁ מִמְּךָ֗ כִּ֣י אִם־עֲשׂ֤וֹת מִשְׁפָּט֙ וְאַ֣הֲבַת חֶ֔סֶד וְהַצְנֵ֥עַ לֶ֖כֶת עִם־אֱלֹקיךָ׃ (פ)

Connections

The Talmud presents the Haftarah’s final line as a “reestablishment”, or summary, of all the Torah’s precepts, emphasizing that even public matters must be done modestly.

Makkot 24a

Micah came and established [the 613] commandments upon three, as it is written: “He has told you, O Man, what is good. What does the Lord require of you? - Doing justice, loving-kindness, and walking humbly with you God” (Micah 6:8).

“Doing justice” – this is [adjudicating] law.

“Loving kindness” – this is bestowing kindnesses [to others.]

“Walking humbly with your God” – this is taking the dead out [for burial] and accompanying a bride [to her wedding canopy], [which should be done without glorifying the doer.]

And aren’t these matters inferred a fortiori? [Yes!] If regarding matters that are not done privately the Torah states, “walking humbly”, then regarding matters done privately, all the more so!

בא מיכה והעמידן על שלש דכתיב (מיכה ו, ח) הגיד לך אדם מה טוב ומה ה' דורש ממך כי אם עשות משפט ואהבת חסד והצנע לכת עם (ה') אלהיך

עשות משפט זה הדין

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והצנע לכת זה הוצאת המת והכנסת כלה

והלא דברים קל וחומר ומה דברים שאין דרכן לעשותן בצנעא אמרה תורה והצנע לכת דברים שדרכן לעשותן בצנעא על אחת כמה וכמה

With emendations, all translations are from Sefaria.org. To dedicate, comment, or subscribe, email haftarahhelper@gmail.com.