The Ashrei of Messiah 2

The second of five meditations on the Beatitudes based on my book DIVINE REVERSAL, given at the Hashivenu Forum, 2/1/10.

 

Happy are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Happy are those hungering and thirsting for justice, for they will be filled.

Messiah describes himself as meek, saying, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.” Then he recommends the same quality, with the same word in the original, to us and attaches the promise: “The meek shall inherit the earth.” I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “It’s not the earth that the meek shall inherit; it’s the dirt.” I imagine this was meant to convey some sort of warning—not just to give this unmeek driver wide berth—but a warning that this meekness, this piety that religious folk recommend (at least for others, I’m sure he would add), only perpetuates injustice and abuse. The driver may have been arguing with Yeshua, but he at least he got the irony of Yeshua’s statement, the reversal of the haves and have-nots, which would indeed sound merely pious if Yeshua had not lived out that reversal himself.

What is this meekness that Messiah commends? Each line of his Ashrei helps us understand the others more fully. So the meek or gentle are the poor in spirit and these are the ones who hunger and thirst for justice. And all of these, the first word of each line reminds us, are happy, in great shape.

Meekness, then, speaks of a spirituality of longing, of hungering and thirsting, looking toward God for his true riches and embracing poverty until those riches arrive. This discipline counters the spirituality of arrival, of triumph and riches, that is selling well enough in the religious market-place today.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz writes: “The Jewish approach to life considers the man who has stopped going – he who has a feeling of completion, of peace, of a great light from above that has brought him to rest – to be someone who has lost his way.” [1] Instead of arrival, we have the spirituality of longing, which Yeshua himself demonstrates to the fullest degree. He had already arrived, had already possessed all things, and he emptied himself to become poor of spirit. He abandoned his riches to become hungry and thirsty for righteousness, even though he was the righteous one. 

We practice the spirituality of longing, then, by sharing in the longing of Messiah. “That I may know him and the fellowship of his sufferings . . .” writes Rav Shaul, “not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Messiah Yeshua has also laid hold of me” (Phil. 3:10, 12).

We hunger not just for personal righteousness, our own right standing with God, essential as that is, but also for justice, the righteousness of God expressed upon the earth. And Messiah’s redemptive work brings this to pass. The meek will inherit, the hungry will be filled, in the renewal of all things, a renewal in which we are to participate here and now, as we draw near to Yeshua and share his longing for the kingdom of God.

© 2010, Russell Resnik


[1] From The Thirteen-Petalled Rose, cited in “Tranquility” from the Mussar Program by Alan Morinis, © 2007 JewishPathways.com.

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