In our parsha this week, God says to Israel ‘If you walk in my statutes and are sure to obey my commandments… I will walk among you and I will be your God and you will be my people.” But does this mean that if we obey His commands that He will just walk in our midst while we go about our daily lives? This could be viewed as rather distant. Yes, in our midst, but not really interacting with us. Or could there be more to this?
Rashi was a prominent rabbi in Northern France around the year 1100 and is one of Judaism’s greatest scholars. In his commentary on Leviticus 26:12 he writes “I [speaking of God] will, as it were, walk with you in the Garden of Eden as though I were one of you and you will not be frightened of Me.”
Why the reference to the Gan Eden? He is connecting verse 12 of this passage with Genesis 3:8 where it says “Then the man and his wife hear the sound of Adonai walking in the garden in the cool of the evening…” This is after they have sinned and they hide from him and are afraid. Sin has caused a disruption in their relationship.
Rashi is making a connection between these two verses based on grammar, which is a common hermeneutical principle of our Sages. Both verses use the verb, halach, which means to walk, and they are conjugated the same way. It usually means to make oneself do something like “he dressed himself” or “she wrote herself a note”.
In Leviticus God says ve-hit-ha-lach-ti, literally meaning, I will cause myself to walk among you.
In Genesis it says mit-ha-laych, Adonai caused Himself to walk in the garden in the cool of the evening.
But there is another possible usage for this form of the verb. It can also mean mutual action between two or more people. For example, in Genesis 25 it says that Jacob and Esau struggled with each other inside of Rebecca’s womb. In Genesis 42, Jacob says to his sons, why are you looking at each other?
This informs God’s statement in Leviticus. He isn’t just saying that He will walk in our midst, but if we keep His commands, He will walk together with us. He is not just present, walking around us while we go about our daily lives, He is living our daily lives with us!
And this is the meaning in Genesis too. When God asks Adam and Eve where they are at, He isn’t asking for their location, He knows that, He is God after all. Instead, He is saying, “Why aren’t you here walking with Me? I made an effort to show up, to walk with you, but where are you? After all, this is why I created you. To walk with you, to be with you, share our life together, to be your God and for you to be My people.”
In Genesis 6:9 it says “Noah was a godly man...He walked with God.” It uses this same form of the verb to walk. He made himself walk with God. In other words, he made the effort daily to walk with Hashem. And through this effort he became a godly man.
God makes Himself walk with us out of desire for us. To spend time with us. He reaches out. But for it to be mutual action, we have to respond. Like Noah, it is up to us to make the effort to join Him daily in that walk.
How do we do this?
We can do everything literally with awareness of Hashem and for the love of Him. Certainly we can do this by committing to our siddur, daily prayer. We can be mindful of Him when we eat by training ourselves to say a barucha before we eat. We can even include Him in our daily tasks. Let Him be a part of our work and play. The rabbis of old practiced living awareness of God by punctuating their day with phrases like “Ribbono shel olam”, Master of the Universe. Some would express intimacy by calling Him “Tattele”, Little Father. They also encourage us to put things in our homes that will remind us of His presence in our lives. There are so many things we could touch upon but don’t have time right now.
In the Talmud (Berachot 17a) it says that at the end of time the righteous will sit with crowns upon their heads and bask in God’s radiance. The Rambam, another prominent rabbi of the Middle Ages, says that these crowns are made from our lives of living in God’s presence. We prepare ourselves to bask in God’s glory for eternity, by basking in it now, as best we are able!
Messiah Yeshua is our great model of this. He lived a life of making himself walk with God. He is the one greater than Noah, greater than Moses, greater than King David, who perfectly walked in God’s presence every day. This life of devotion strengthened him to be obedient to the Father, even to the point of death. And he now basks in the Father’s radiance while sitting at His right hand. As our eternal Kohen Gadol, our eternal High Priest, he intercedes for us. Seeks to empower us to live such a life. It is a life for which we were created from the very beginning.
May we train ourselves to live life in God’s presence.
May we make ourselves walk with Him daily.
May we bask in God’s presence daily
Then we will experience the peace and joy that comes from such a life and merit crowns to wear as we bask in His glory for eternity!