‘You have all been shown’ – its music and meaning

Music and recording © Alexander Massey 19 May 2016

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“You have all been shown what is good, and what God seeks from you.

Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)

הִגִּיד לְךָ אָדָם, מַה-טּוֹב; וּמָה-יְהוָה דּוֹרֵשׁ מִמְּךָ, כִּי אִם-עֲשׂוֹת מִשְׁפָּט וְאַהֲבַת חֶסֶד, וְהַצְנֵעַ לֶכֶת, עִם-אֱלֹהֶיךָ

Higid l’cha adam mah tov, u’mah Adonai doreish mim’cha;

Ki im asot mishpat, v’ahavat chesed, v’hatzneia lechet, im elohecha. 

Only by meditating on and living with – and living out – this multi-layered text, can we sense its possible meanings. [1] Higid, the opening word of the original Hebrew text, shows that God teaches and guides us through stories (aggadah). God also gives us all (adam, ‘humanity’) a mind that can interpret, have insight, and make moral choices. Clearly, God hopes that we will seek and grow toward goodness. Mishpat represents the whole process of defining laws, passing judgment, and carrying out the judgement to punish or acquit. It is not enough to think about or decide what is right – integrity means taking a stand, holding a boundary, and acting (asot) – doing what is right and fair. To ‘love kindness’ (ahavat chesed), is to act as God the ‘king’ [2] would – generously, applying one’s resources, learning, insight, skills, and good fortune for the benefit of others, our own ‘kind/kin’ (i.e. all humanity). Lechet links us to halachah, the vast body of Jewish thinking and guidance developed over many centuries (and continuously even now), on how to ‘walk’ well through life. A person with tzana (humility) has a healthy sense of self – neither diminished or inflated. They are ‘earthed’ as a personality. (‘Humble’ comes from the Latin, humus, meaning ‘earth’.) Im eloheicha – staying close to God, and nourishing that relationship, and our God-awareness are crucial to leading a life that is good for others and ourselves.

The melody first emphasises the word ‘all’, the translation for adam, ‘humanity’. It then rises, to highlight, with the longest note in the piece, the word ‘good’, the core concept of the text. The music for ‘only do justice’ is square and deliberate. ‘Love kindness’ is more lyrical and heart-opening, reaching the highest note of the piece on ‘kindness’; action should tip more towards chesed than mishpat. ‘Humbly with your God’ falls gently towards graceful surrender. When sung as a round, key concepts chime with each other: ‘good’ and ‘kindness’, ‘God’ and ‘humbly’. Finally, ‘you’ and ‘God’ coincide; the human surrenders to be aligned with God, and we become One with each other, and with God.

[1] For a much longer, more detailed commentary go to: www.alexandermassey.com/you-have-all-been-shown-what-is-good/.

[2] The word ‘king’ is etymologically related to ‘kin’ and ‘kind’.

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