Walking Into the Unknown

We are entering a time of great upheaval and concern. The world is being stirred by unusual weather phenomenon and revolutions and unrest on every continent. There was a time we would measure the state of the world in terms of decades. The 60’s decade of “flower power” .Then came the  70’s defined  by campus unrest and political changes, followed by  the “Me” decade of the 80’s. We then found that we began to focus on years and marveled how quickly the world had changed from one year to the next.

We are now in a period wherein the world is going through dramatic changes in a week!. The world this week is unlike the world that existed a mere week ago. Clearly the world next week will go through its own dramatic changes. How can one find balance in a life fraught with such upheaval? How can one find direction in the midst of this time of the birth pangs of destiny?

We are assured in the torah portion of Bechukotai the following:

“If you walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit…” (Vayikra/Leviticus 26:3.4).

In addition to all of the physical blessings, we read that the result of such a walk will also be”

“And I will place My dwelling in your midst, and My Spirit will not reject you; I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. (ibid 26:11-12)

The words “If you walk in my statutes,” is such an unusual formulation. It could or should have said “ If you fulfill or if you obey My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them..etc” What can we learn from the words ” If you walk in my statutes”?

Rashi explains “It (this formulation) cannot simply mean, the practical observance of the Torah’s commandments, for that is stated immediately afterwards (“and observe My commandments”).” The Torah does not add extra words or arbitrarily use superfluous phrases Therefore Rashi explains that the words “walk in torah” means “to labor in the study of Torah”
Perhaps there is more.Why is this concept of “walking”: related to the Statutes, the supra rational decrees and not to the more comprehensible Commandments. Furthermore one cannot avoid the repetitive use of the word “to walk ” in Torah. What then can be understood regarding this “walking” ?

When Abraham describes his concerns about being childless to G-d, he receives the following Divine response: “And He brought him forth abroad, and said: ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars, though you cannot be able to count them,’ and He said unto him: ‘So shall thy seed be.'” ( Genesis 15:4 6 )

The simple understanding is that G-d says to Abraham to go out and count the stars and, just as you cannot count the stars, so will it be impossible to count your children. The deeper level, discussed in Hassidic books, describes a more powerful message. It focuses on the words “and He said unto him” and asks the question why would the biblical text tell us that Gd spoke to him? Hashem was already in the midst of speaking . Obviously there was a pause after Hashem explained that the counting of the stars was an impossible task. What did Avraham do during that pause ?
Avraham goes out and begins to count. He does so even though he knows it is an impossible task. He goes out to count because that is what G-d told him to do. It is at that point that G-d declares, “So shall thy seed be.” His descendants would have the same quality of going forward and attempting  the impossible because that is what Divine destiny demands of them.

When Abraham was 99 years old , G-d appeared to him and said”…’I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be thou wholehearted. …. ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be the father of a multitude of nations. ( Genesis 17:1-4). One would expect Hashem to ask of Avraham to walk with Him. That is what Noah and Enosh did. Yet here Abraham is asked to walk “before” HaShem. He is asked to walk into the unknown with the faith that HaShem is standing right behind him.

That is the type of faith and courage that changes the world. Avraham’s  descendants will wander persecuted from nation to nation and will never lose hope or lose sight of their direction, because that is what they were commanded to do. They will struggle out of the ovens of Auschwitz and build a land overflowing with produce. They will face a growingly hostile world and an increasingly unsympathetic American President because Destiny will guide them. They will learn to face a world fraught with dramatic upheaval  and unexpected reversals with resolve and faith. They will understand that the key is to walk forward

On the seventh day of Passover the Israelites stood at the edge of the Reed Sea. When the Egyptians were coming from the back and the desert was closing in on the sides, they cried out in fear.  “And Moshe said unto the people: Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of HaShem, which He will work for you today; for whereas ye have seen the Egyptians today, ye shall see them again no more forever. HaShem will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” (Exodus14:13-14)

Yet HaShem wanted and expected more from them: “And HaShem said unto Moshe: Why are you crying out to Me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” ( ibid 14:15) The spiritual ingredient which heralded the miracle and tore the sea apart was the fact that the people simply “went forward”.

We are a people that is constantly learning that lesson and attempting to master the art of “If you walk in my statutes “. As a result we are assured that we will experience the incredible Divine promise of  “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be My people. “( ibid 26:12)

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