Jerusalem, hills enfold it, and Adonai enfolds God’s people now and forever. (125:2)

Jerusalem is not built on the largest of mountains and Israel is not the largest of peoples. Yet God protects both, which accords with a Biblical theme that the largest and the strongest are not necessarily the most important. In the story of Israel, it is the small and the second-born rather than the powerful or the first-born, the mild shepherd rather than the mighty hunter, who deserves God’s covenantal promise.

Living a modest life is a primary Jewish value. We know that we do not have to make a big splash in order to have a lasting impact on the world. A modest person can raise similarly modest children who live lives of faith and raise modest children of their own. One’s values pass from generation to generation through one’s children and one’s students. It is not necessary to be rich and famous in order to seed the world with goodness. In fact wealth and fame may very well may make it more difficult to live a covenanted life. Not impossible, but more difficult, because the power that comes from success nudges one in the direction of immodest and arrogant behavior. It is an additional obstacle that a powerful person must overcome, while a modest person does not. Thank God for the wealthy people who not only generously support institutions in their communities, but also do so with modesty. Thank God for the people of modest means who live humble lives enfolded in the arms of God.

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