Parashath Noah - Shema`ryahu
Esrael ban Avraham
"נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו את האלהים התהלך נח"
"Noah ish sadiq tamim hayah bedhorothaw ath ha'Aloqim hithhalakh Noah"-
"Noah was a righteous and perfect man in his generation: he walked with God"
From the order of the words in the above verse, we learn that Noah was righteous and perfect in his generation because he walked with God. We can infer additional meaning from the word "hithhalakh" (he walked) by examining the shoresh (root) of the word. The word "hithhalakh" is from the same root as the word "halakhah," which is the word used to refer to Jewish law. Jewish Law is something that encompasses every aspect of life-- from the acts of devotion in tefillah to a person's conduct during warfare or employer relations. That is why we why we refer to Jewish law in a manner that implies walking. It is the way of life and the path we walk from the day of our birth until the day of our death. The nature of this walk determines the level of Divine Presence (Shekhina) that dwells in our midst.
Jewish Law: How To Walk With G-D
Halakhah can generally be divided into two classes: mishpatim (ie: the rational laws) and huqqim (which are laws for which we are not able to discern a rational basis).
Ribi Yehudhah haLewi zs'l suggests the wrong and right way to "walk" in the following description of Jewish Law:
"Rational laws form the basis of, and the preamble to, Divine Law. They proceed the giving of the Torah, both in time and character, as they are indispensable to the maintenance of human society. Even a gang of thieves must accept some form of justice amongst themselves if their organization is to last...When the iniquity of the Jews reached a point where they neglected the rational and social laws which govern interpersonal relationships and are as indispensable for a person as the natural functions of eating and sleeping, even while upholding the Temple Service and other dogmatic laws, God spoke to them through His prophets saying, 'I would have preferred that you observe the laws which govern even the lowliest community of man: justice, moral conduct and the recognition of God's beneficence.
Divine Law is incomplete unless the socio-rational laws are first fulfilled. How can a person who does not uphold the laws which are rational and basic observe such statutes as sacrificial offerings, Shabath, and circumcision, which are beyond human understanding? These latter are special ordinances given exclusively to the Jews in addition to the rational laws. It is through these special ordinances that they merited having the Divine Presence associated with them exclusively. This is the light in which we can understand such verses as, 'I did not speak with your fathers, when I brought them out of Misrayim, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. I commanded them saying, "Obey Me and I will be your God and you will be My people; walk in the ways that I have commanded you"' (Yirmeyahu 7:22,23); 'What does God require of you but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before your God?' (Mikhah 6:8)." ( Kuzari -haTorah - baMiswoth haSikhliyot wehaShim`iyoth)
R. Yehudhah haLewi zs'l then describes the prerequisites needed to fulfill the huqqoth and
thus merit the Shekhinah (Divine Presence) in our lives. In other words,
he tells us how to walk. The great mussar work, Orhoth Sadiqqim, addresses many of these
"walking" traits in chapters referred to as gates:
"Humility is a noble trait and a good quality, the opposite of pride. One who possesses this trait has already spared his soul many kinds of evils, and one who has attained this honored state is performing a miswah and received reward to the extent of his humility. For humility is the root of Divine service, and a small deed of the humble man is a thousand times more acceptable to the Blessed One than a great deed of the proud man. And so did our Rabbis teach (Berakhoth 5b): 'Both he who does much and he who does little, so long as his heart is intent on the glory of God.'" (Orhoth Sadiqqim, Sha`ar ha`Anawah)
"Mercy is an extremely noble trait. It is one of the thirteen traits attributed to the Holy One Blessed be He, as it is written (Shemoth 34:6):
'Merciful and gracious.' All that one can do in cultivating this trait, he should exert himself to do. Just as one would want to be pitied in his time of need, so should he pity others who are in need, as it is written (Wayiqra 18:18): 'And you should love your fellow man as yourself.'" (Orhoth Sadiqqim, Sha`ar haRahamim)
"If one speaks the truth in his heart and does not want to think falsehood, even without intending to act upon it, all of his words and thoughts will be fulfilled, as it is written (Iyov 22:28): 'And you will decree a word, and it will be established for you.' And one who is a man of truth in all his dealings, both in trading and in lending, will always state his final figure in the very beginning, so that all those who deal with him will know that he will not change it, that he will not go up or down. The Sages have said: 'Always put the truth in front of you,' That is, one should make signs for himself in doing business to remember not to falsify. He should put this down in writing and produce what he has written and scan it before he enters upon his transactions. And he should do so likewise in his study hall upon his lectern, that he remember and not speak falsely, so that he not forget to speak the truth." (Orhoth Sadiqqim, Sha`ar ha'Amath)
How does one acclimate themselves to these midoth? HaRMb"M provides us with a fool-proof manner of rectifying our personalities so that we may grasp the basic traits necessary for a fulfillment of our halakhic obligations:
"Between each trait and the contrasting trait at the other extreme, there are intermediate points, each distant from the other." (Hilkhoth De`oth 1:2)
"Two extremes of each trait, which are at a distance from one another, do not reflect a proper path. It is not fitting that a man should behave in accordance with these extremes or teach them to himself." (Hilkhoth De`oth 1:3)
"The straight path: This involves discovering the midpoint temperament of each and every trait that man possesses. This refers to the trait which is equidistant from either of the extremes, without being close to either of them." (Hilkhoth De`oth 1:4)
"How can one train himself to follow these temperaments to the extent that they become a permanent fixture of his personality? He should perform - repeat - and perform a third time - the acts which conform to the standards of the middle road temperaments. He should do this constantly, until these acts are easy for him and do not present any difficulty. Then, these temperaments will become a fixed part of his personality...One who follows this path brings benefit and blessing to himself as: 'so that God will bring about for Avraham all that He promised.'" (Hilkhoth De`oth 1:7)
As we acclimate ourselves to these midoth, may we come to a deeper understanding of living life in the image of G-D. Through our actions, may we merit the affixation of the Divine Presence in our lives and our communities. And may it be the will of haQadosh Barukh Hu, that each of us are known as "Pilony ish sadiq tamim hayah bedhorothaw ath ha'Aloqim hithhalekh Pilony."
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