This is the Way

This week’s Torah portion is Behar Behukotai. At the start of Behukotai we read:

If you walk in My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit. ( Leviticus 26:3-4)

It seems clear enough that the Torah instructing us to keep the rules. What is the differences between walking and observing them? What are the differences between laws and commandments?

Sforno explains this:

laws- chukkot are like Royal decrees, something person has to be guided by if he expects his endeavors in life to prosper. The Hebrew expression describing the fact that one abides by them is called הליכה, “walking.”…The thrust of our verse then is as follows: “if you will conduct yourselves in accordance with the practical part of My Torah, i.e. the performance of commandments requiring deeds, and you will study these laws in order to understand their purpose and in order to give meaning to your performance of these laws, you will accomplish that you will deserve the description of being a creature which reflects “God’s image.” ( Sforno on Levitius 26:3)

We are instructed to study and try to understand the rules and also to just do what needs to be done. This resonates for me as to the very nature of הלכה, Jewish law- the way we walk.

This was elegantly written about by Deirdre Sullivan in her iconic This I Believe essay, ” Always Go to the Funeral“. There she wrote:

“Always go to the funeral” means that I have to do the right thing when I really, really don’t feel like it. I have to remind myself of it when I could make some small gesture, but I don’t really have to and I definitely don’t want to. I’m talking about those things that represent only inconvenience to me, but the world to the other guy. You know, the painfully under-attended birthday party. The hospital visit during happy hour. The Shiva call for one of my ex’s uncles. In my humdrum life, the daily battle hasn’t been good versus evil. It’s hardly so epic. Most days, my real battle is doing good versus doing nothing.

I really enjoyed how this idea has been explored in Disney’s Mandalorian. Beginning five years after the events of Return of the Jedi  and the fall of the Galactic EmpireThe Mandalorian follows Din Djarin, a lone Mandalorian bounty hunter in the outer reaches of the galaxy. He is hired by remnant Imperial forces to retrieve the child Grogu, but instead goes on the run to protect the infant and reunite Grogu with his kind. One of the things I love about the series is how it explores the creed of the Mandalorians. They are an exilic people trying make stay safe away from Madalor and make meaning in the universe. I relate to the way that they live in service of their duty. They do what needs to be done because, ” This is the Way”.

While it is not my favorite show I do relate to the ideas of walking Behukotai and the Mandalorian way. We too are an exilic people trying make stay safe in diaspora and make meaning in the universe. Just as some of the Mandalorians are devoted to keeping on their helmets, I always wear a Kippah to remind me of my duties. That is enough for now. I need to cook for Shabbat, because this is the way.

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