Ken Brodkin
Ken Brodkin

Learning How To Walk

Growing up in a small New England city, I learned to go on long walks. Along backroads, cornfields or woods, or looking at the night sky. I took this skill with me as a young man and went for walks when I faced crossroads in life.

Walking is engrained in our life as Jews. Avraham was called upon in his journey to walk: “Lech Lecha—go for yourself…to the land I will show you.”

In a later generation, Ruth closely paralleled Avraham’s path, as she traversed with Naomi the road from Moav to Beit Lechem, in Yehuda.

Walking is not only a means of travel; it is a path of discovery. Avraham was the man who discovered HaShem. But how did this happen? Apparently, he went for long walks.

The Rambam (Mishneh Torah, Avoda Zara) remarks that when Avraham was weaned, he began to wander in his mind and think day and night: how is it possible for the world to turn without a leader?

The Rambam emphasizes multiple times that Avraham wandered in his mind, probing, until he found this inner awareness of G-d. But if Avraham wandered incessantly in his mind, how did he do this? It is apparent that, even before the command of Lech Lecha, he walked.

Generations later, Moshe started his career as a shepherd. The Torah remarks that Moshe “led” his flock into the wilderness and arrived at the mountain of G-d. Eliyahu too walked for 40 days to reach the mountain of HaShem.

The Kli Yakar remarks (Shemot 3, 1) that Moshe and the Avot were shepherds for this very reason. Going into the wilderness, they touched upon the spirit of G-d in a way that is uncommon for a person sitting in their home. The shepherds of Israel stepped outside and looked to the heavens, contemplating the Creator.

Walking and wandering is a time we allow our mind to run, a time we see past the horizon. It’s a time we live beyond the fleeting moment.

We all yearn deeply for the word of G-d, so we strive in the Torah, and we pray for wisdom. But before reach the mountain of G-d, we must learn how to walk.

About the Author
Rabbi Ken Brodkin is the rabbi of Congregation Kesser Israel, in Portland, Oregon, where he lives with his wife and children.
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