Following in God’s Footsteps
יְקִימְךָ יְהֹוָה לוֹ לְעַם קָדוֹשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע־לָךְ כִּי תִשְׁמֹר אֶת־מִצְוׂת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו׃ Hashem will establish you as His holy people, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of Hashem your God and walk in His ways.
יְקִימְךָ יְהֹוָה לוֹ לְעַם קָדוֹשׁ כַּאֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּע־לָךְ כִּי תִשְׁמֹר אֶת־מִצְוׂת יְהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ וְהָלַכְתָּ בִּדְרָכָיו׃
Hashem will establish you as His holy people, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of Hashem your God and walk in His ways.
By Adam Eliyahu Berkowitz
Kids ask the craziest questions but sometimes they make you think. This is generally what happens when my youngest son learns Torah.
He asked me this morning, “What size shoes does God wear?”
I took a deep breath before responding. “Why do you ask?”
He opened his Bible and pointed to the verse.
Hashem will establish you as His holy people, as He swore to you, if you keep the commandments of Hashem your God and walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 28:9 The Israel Bible p. 505)
“How can I walk in God’s ways if he takes really big steps?” he asked.
I had to admit, he had me stumped.
In this verse, the Torah tells us to walk in God’s ways. According to Maimonides, the directive to walk in Hashem’s ways is one of the Torah’s positive commandments. That seems to be an impossible task. My son’s simple quandary was actually poignant. How can we hope to be like God or emulate His ways? How do you even begin to do so?
As I pondered this question, an image came to my mind. I remembered teaching my son to walk. I stood behind him, holding up his hands as he moved one foot ahead of the other.
When God commands us to walk in His ways, he does not expect us to take strides as big as His. But He is right there holding us up as we take baby steps, gently guiding us.
The sages teach us that walking in His ways means to mimic God’s behavior. Just as He is merciful, we are to be merciful. Just as God acts with compassion, so we are to conduct ourselves with compassion.
As daunting as it may seem to be expected to walk in God’s ways, it also has benefits. Modeling God’s behavior unlocks pathways and possibilities in our lives. In the Torah, we find countless examples of God’s patience and forgiveness. We are expected to be forgiving and patient towards others. God is slow to anger and we should be, as well.
As we work at bringing these traits into our lives, modeling God’s behavior, these elements come into our lives even more. People will reflect back to us the way we treat them.
When I was teaching my son to walk, I took bigger steps as he got steadier on his feet. As we grow, as we get better at following in God’s footsteps, He will take bigger steps, and His patience and forgiveness will increase accordingly.
The ideal strategy is to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone in the traits that we would like to see God and others reflect back towards us.
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