Wandering Aimfully (Bechukotai)
It is the first of all problems for a man to find out what kind of work he is to do in this universe. -Thomas Carlyle
The beginning of the Torah reading of Bechukotai has God declaring that if we walk in His ways, in His laws, He will bless us with plenty. The Chidushei HaRim on Leviticus 26:3 focuses on the verb of walking and draws our attention to a Midrash about King David and walking.
King David is quoted as saying “God, every day I would say to myself I’m going to walk to such and such place, but my legs would take me to synagogues and study halls.”
The Chidushei HaRim provides two different homiletical explanations for the message of the Midrash. The first explanation is that every day, every person has a different mission to accomplish. Our missions are not static. It’s not the same mission every day, rather every day presents a new challenge, a new task, a new twist, even a new nuance we are meant to undertake. Related to the point of our missions, is that every mission is unique to each person and no person can accomplish or do someone else’s mission for them. Our legs are what take us to our missions. While we might have thought we were going to one place, in fact, we’re being led to confront, deal, help, intervene, say a kind word, or do whatever it is that our personal unique mission for the day is.
The second explanation is geared towards introverts, or those who don’t like crowds or public gatherings. The Chidushei HaRim explains that King David is talking about how his original intent was to perform some commandment or to study Torah on his own, but his feet would take him to the synagogue or the study hall to perform the commandments in a group, with the community, to pray and study Torah with people as opposed to on his own. While of course there is a value and often a need to perform things on one’s own, there is a much higher value when we perform these things in a group.
May we let our feet take us to good things and places as well as to wander with purpose.
To Congregation Agudath Sholom of Stamford, CT, for their warm hosting, and to Howard and Eileen Spielman of Sharon, MA, for knowing how to wonderfully surprise.