Walking in God’s ways

Rabbi Brad Horwitz

By Rabbi Brad Horwitz

When watching the local news or reading the headlines, it can be depressing to learn about all of the suffering and hardship in our community and in the world. Stories about crime, shootings, war and other acts of violence often dominate the top stories. Clearly we live in a world with much suffering, hate and despair. There are many people who have not found a blueprint to success, meaning, purpose and blessing in their lives. While there are no easy answers or fixes to solve these societal problems, that should not stop us from trying.  As the rabbis of the Mishnah teach, “It is not up to you to finish the work, but neither are you free from desist from it.” So, how can we make a difference and reduce this suffering in our world?

This week’s Parashah, Ekev, hints at one path to find blessing and meaning for ourselves and for our community: Loving God and walking in God’s ways. Moses instructs and reminds the Israelites how to gain favor and blessing in God’s eyes. He first says “And now, O Israel, what does the Lord God demand of you? Only this: to revere the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to love God and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and soul…” Moses also says , “If, then, you faithfully keep all this instruction that I command you, loving the Lord your God, walking in all His ways, the Lord will dislodge before you all these nations….”

In both instances, Moses uses the phrase “to walk in God’s ways” — lalechet b’chol d’rachav. The Sifrei teaches that this is done by imitating God, so to speak, through acts of compassion and kindness. I would add that when we treat others b’tzelem elohim, in God’s image, we are also walking in God’s ways. Either way, the more goodness and kindness we spread in the world, the more we accomplish this action.  Often I talk to children about not only “talking the talk” but also “walking the walk.” It is not enough to have good intentions and say the right thing. We must also behave and act in ways that back those words up.  Let this week’s parashah remind us all that in order to bring more peace into the world and to alleviate suffering, it starts with actions of kindness and goodness on all our parts.

Rabbi Brad Horwitz is Director of Jewish Engagement and Adult Programs at the Jewish Community Center.

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