photo of muddy boots
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Your Own Two Feet

God helps those who help themselves.

For God brought about the victory. Once Beowulf had struggled to his feet, the holy and omniscient ruler of the sky easily settled the issue in favor of the right.

What is striking about those lines from the renowned medieval poem Beowulf is how they embody the idea that God helps Beowulf once the warrior struggles to his feet. Beowulf must initiate his own salvation. God responds to human self-assertion.

That same idea is beautifully expressed 1,000 years before in God’s message to the prophet Ezekiel. When in the beginning of the book, Ezekiel begins to prophecy, God says to him: “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak to you.” (Ezekiel 2:1)

For Ezekiel to prophecy, he must rise to his full height as a man.

Deep faith always involves an element of submission — rampant egos block relationship. But it does not demand dissolution of the self. One can stand strong without arrogance and bow without being broken. 

Rabbi David Wolpe’s musings are shared in My Jewish Learning’s Shabbat newsletter, Recharge, a weekly collection of readings to refresh your soul. Sign up to receive the newsletter.

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