Taking A Walk
When my father zt”l would walk up from behind, gently grab my arm and say, “Let’s walk,” I always felt a special warmth and connection. Most of those walks did not have an agenda, and, in fact, were usually silent. We simply walked. They differed from our walks to Yeshiva or Shul. Those walks had a different quality than our walk home. The walk to was always a form of preparation. The walk home was a review. I still treasure my walk to synagogue, as I do the walk home. The walk itself is special. I never understand people who simply “go” to or from prayers to get from one place to another without appreciating the walk.
The walk from his home to the Bais Midrash for my father’s funeral was weighed down with deep, crushing, sadness. The walk from his grave to the car, while thousands of people were reciting the formula, “May the Omnipresent comfort you…,” was surreal. The walk to conclude Shiva was reentering life; a new life, one without my father to call every day with my questions.
The walk to my Chupah was different from the walk from the marriage ceremony, as it was different from walking my children to their Chupah.
My morning walks are a form of meditation. My walks with my wife are a form of connection.
I once walked three hours on Shabbat, in a blinding blizzard through deep snow to participate in the Brit Milah of a child born to one of my congregants. I was determined to enjoy the walk and not simply forge ahead to get where I needed to be. On my first Shabbat as rabbi of Lincoln Square I had to walk across Central Park to Mt. Sinai hospital where the mother of a congregant was about to be placed on life support and numerous Halachic issues demanded my presence. That walk was a prayer for wisdom, insight, clarity, sensitivity, and, most of all, God’s guidance.
My walk up 42 flights of stairs to participate in a Shalom Zachor was a dance of appreciation for the opportunity to so honor Shabbat.
I especially appreciate walking after having lived so many years unable to walk at all. A walk is never just a walk, which leads me to wonder, when God said to Abraham, “Walk for yourself,” how did Abraham walk? Was it an adventure? Was it more like my walks to Yeshiva with my father or the walk that ended Shivah? After all, Abraham was leaving his, “Land, birthplace and his father’s home.” It too, was a walk into a new life; one without his past, without the familiar, without his father. How did Abraham walk when, “He walked on his journeys?” (13:3)
Did Lot walk the same way as did his uncle when it says, “Also Lot who walked with Abraham?” (Verse 5)
How did Abraham walk when God instructed him to. “Arise, walk about the land through its length and breadth?” (Verse 17)
Why does it matter? “Walk before Me and be perfect.” (17:1) Abraham had to first learn how to walk before he could walk “before God.”
Jewish law is Halachah: “How To Walk.” Halacha guides our walking. It teaches us how to treasure each step of our lives so that we too, can “Walk before Me and be perfect.”
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