By Hanoch Shalev
Former Shaliach (Melbourne 2003-2004)
Currently Electo-optical System’s Technical Manager in Elbit
(Vayikra Rabbah 35)
The Midrash on our parasha recalls a verse from Psalms and elaborates upon King David’s inability to stick to his planned routes for he eventually arrives at the Beit Midrash and Synagogue instead.
And I wonder, how does King David’s incapability to stick to his planned routine answer the Midrash’s hidden question, which is – what does it mean to “Stride in the laws”.
Our personal learning route, starts off with the understanding that King David’s demonstration is ideal and the implications are the total and consistent preference of going to the Beit Midrash over the daily mundane routes and routine.
This interpretation, in itself, is disturbing. I always held King David to be a model of synergy and balance between the strength of sword and the sensitivity of the harp. It is hard for me to accept a total overriding of one’s earthly obligations for complete Torah study. This is why we must demand, לדרוש, from the Midrash a deeper understanding to lead us to a broader view of the psukim.
To ascend to the right height we must delve deeper down into the pasuk in Psalms. Notice, that the word used in our parasha is “תלכו”, based on the verb of “הליכה”, but the pasuk in Psalms uses “דרך” and “רגל”. It seems that the verb “הלך” is multi-interpretable and the Midrash is trying to break it down.
The word “דרך” – refers to a way or a route. This is a high level plan that is usually based on a desired destination and the means to get there. From this definition, the Midrash can imagine King David planning his desired destinations and required subsequent routes. On the other hand, the word “רגל” – refers to the particular step or stride. This is a very low level awareness of where to put your foot each step along the way. I think that this distinction has laid a pathway to resolve both sides of the pasuk in Psalms and with that resolve my high expectations from King David’s holy balance and from the Midrash.
Our new understanding has set two levels of awareness and obligation. There are the destination and daily goals that have to be reached and achieved. We shall focus and getting there and accomplish our earthly responsibilities. But along the way, we must stride and take many steps towards the final destination, and King David teaches us that we must take into consideration all that we have learnt in the Beit Midrash and all that we have prayed for in the Synagogue to decipher where and how we must put our foot every step of the way.
And so, with that in mind, we can start to clarify how the Midrash has answered its hidden question – How to stride in the laws. We now understand that we’re actually requested to consider the laws while we stride. Our “הליכה” can be for many practical reasons. But we are expected that when we walk, go the distance, we do so using the laws per each step. The route might be inevitable and set by constraints and an external agenda, but we must own our steps, and be responsible for the way we reach our destination.
Having that in mind opened my eyes to reading the psukim themselves. I realize now that this understanding is the pshat of the whole paragraph.
I will be ever present in your midst: I will be your God, and you shall be My people,I the LORD am your God who brought you out from the land of the Egyptians to be their slaves no more, who broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect”.
If, when you roam around, minding your own natural business, you take each step in accordance to my laws, than I too, when minding my own natural business of supervising and setting the laws of nature, will express myself through rain, produce and peace. You will walk through using my laws and I will walk amongst you through a healthy natural course. This relationship, in itself will show the world that I am your G-d, because you demonstrate every step of the way that you choose to be my people.
And FYI, that is exactly why I took you out of Egypt…
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