Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai
Volume 2: Number 6
November 7, 2005
Mitzvah #6: To Walk in G-d’s Ways
It is a positive commandment to walk in the ways of G-d with all of one’s ability.
Hafetz Hayim: This is based on Deut. 28:9. Our Sages learned (Sifre Devarim, 11:22) That this commandment means: As the Holy One is called gracious, you also be gracious. As the Holy One is called compassionate, you also be compassionate. As the Holy One is described as merciful, you also be merciful. And so with all the qualities by which the Holy One is described: a person needs to model himself after Him and walk in His ways. It applies everywhere, at every time for both men and women.
The Rabbis of the Talmud were very aware of the differences between the divine G-d and the very finite nature of humanity. Is it possible for human beings to be G-d like? Can we walk in the same way that G-d “walks”? We know that this is impossible. We know that as human beings we cannot aspire to be a G-d. So what does this Mitzvah mean?
At the very beginning of the Torah, G-d performs an act of kindness. G-d makes clothing for the naked Adam and Eve before they leave the Garden of Eden. We learn from this that just as G-d makes the effort to clothe the naked, so too we must make the effort to be kind to others by clothing the naked. At the very end of the Torah G-d performs another act of kindness. G-d buries Moses after he has died. There is no one else there to perform this Mitzvah on Moses’ behalf, so G-d buries this great man. Just as G-d makes the effort to bury the dead, so too we must make the effort to see to it that all people have a proper burial regardless of ability to pay.
I can even take this a step further. In the book of Genesis, G-d reveals to Abraham and Sarah that by this time next year, they will be the parents of a baby boy. Abraham and Sarah are not in the same room when this is announced. Sarah hears the announcement and laughs and says to herself, “Not that I am withered, am I to have enjoyment with my husband so old?” While she did not say it aloud, G-d hears her anyway and asks Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I in truth bear a child, old as I am?” Sarah, of course, is mortified that G-d has heard her laughter and her slight against her husband, but G-d has deliberately misquoted Sarah’s words so that Abraham will not be embarrassed or hurt by Sarah’s laughter. Just as G-d misquotes (lies?) to create harmony and peace in a home, so too we should be careful to not cause discord between a husband or wife or between parents and children.
We study the Torah, we study the Bible to understand how G-d operates in this finite world, and use G-d’s actions as a template for how we are supposed to act in the world. When we imitate the actions of G-d we show our loyalty and support for G-d. When we make G-d our mentor in life, we will live better, kinder and fuller lives.
Next week: Mitzvah 7: To Pray to G-d