Next Video Playing In ×
Video 33 of 52
I want to suggest to you it wasn't a 'gotcha' question at all, it was something much deeper, much more poignant than this, and the clues to seeing this lie in this week's Parsha. In the video I did last year on Parshat Bechukotai I discussed with you a strange but fascinating connection between this week's Parshat Bechukotai and the original story of the Garden of Eden. I urge you to go back, take a look at this. Now one of those connections that we talked about last year might just be the key to answering the question why G-d asks where are you way back in the Garden of Eden. In this week's Parsha G-d says that if you keep my laws; Vehit'halachti betochechem - I will walk amongst you. Now that language too appears all the way back in Eden; in the original Garden of Eden story Adam and Eve hear the voice of G-d walking through the garden in the afternoon - Kol Hashem Elokim mit'halech ba'gan leru'ach hayom. It's actually the same grammatical formulation. So Rashi here in Bechukotai quotes this very strange Medrash that says that if you keep My commands; Atayel imochem b'Gan Eden - I'm going to stroll with you in the garden.
It seems that the Sages were aware of these copious parallels between the garden story and the Bechukotai story and they seem to be saying that we're getting a second crack at the bat, we're getting a chance to succeed where we once failed. Way back in the original garden things didn't work out so well, we didn't really get a chance to stroll with G-d lovingly, with a great sense of togetherness in the garden, instead we were crouching and hiding after having eaten from the forbidden fruit. We heard G-d walking alone in the garden. But it doesn't have to be that way, G-d doesn't have to walk alone in the garden, He can walk with us. That's; Vehit'halachti betochechem - we'll stroll together in the garden. We have a chance to do it right this time around.
Okay so I want to stop and explore this idea a little bit more with you. Last year when we talked about this idea we talked about it in terms of the Garden of Eden story shedding light on what's happening over here in Parshat Bechukotai. But the truth is when the Torah actually links to text like this the implications of that linkage, I think, go both ways. It's not just that you can understand Bechukotai better by looking back at the garden, you can understand the garden better by looking at Bechukotai. That's what I want to do with you now. I want to actually say, how is Bechukotai shedding light for us on the meaning of the story of the Garden of Eden?
So with this in mind let's focus a little bit more carefully on this Hitpa'el form of the word Halach. We were talking about these words; Vehit'halachti betochechem. Back in the Garden of Eden that matches up with the words; Kol Hashem Elokim mit'halech ba'gan leru'ach hayom. Both of those are the Hitpa'el form of the word Halach, what does it mean to conjugate Halach in Hitpa'el form? Usually when you take a verb and you put it in the Hitpa'el form it makes the verb reflexive, which means to say that the subject is doing it doing it to himself. If you take the verb Lavash which means to dress, if you make it Lehitlabesh - put it in Hitpa'el form - then all of a sudden it's going to mean to get oneself dressed. So now let's play that little game with Halach. If Halach means to walk what would Lehithalech mean? At face value it seems to mean to take yourself for a walk. When G-d was Mit'halech in the garden, maybe He was taking Himself for a walk?
But there is another intriguing possibility. You see it turns that grammatically Hitpa'el form of verbs is actually used to connote something other than just reflexive action, sometimes Hitpa'el connotes action that two people or two beings take with one another. Let me give you an example. Yaakov and Eisav in the womb; Vayitrotzetzu habanim bekirbah - the two ran at each other. Well they were doing something mutual and that's the Hitpa'el form of Ratz - to run. In Modern Hebrew, Lehitkatev means to correspond, Lehitkasher to call someone on the phone, two people calling each other.
It's not just that it happens to be that Hitpa'el can be used for reflexive action or Hitpa'el can also be used for mutual action, they might just be the same thing. When two people act together mutually, you know one way of viewing it is that there's one person here and there's one person there and they happen to be doing something together. But the other way of looking at it is that when they do something together there's a kind of unit that's formed between the two of them. So when you and I interact the we is acting on itself. If that's so it would make perfect sense why Hitpa'el is used for both reflexive and mutual action. When you and I do something together the we is doing it reflexively to itself.
So now let's talk about the implications of this, what now does Vehit'halachti mean? It doesn't just mean that you'll be over there and I'm going to come and I'll walk in between you, it means that you and I are going to be walking together. G-d and the People of Israel are going to stroll together in the land. Now let's go back to the garden, we'll sense a hint of tragedy in the words. Because right before we hear about G-d being Mit'halech in the garden something had gone wrong, the people had eaten from the forbidden fruit and they were hiding from G-d. How do we understand the Hitpa'el? It wasn't that G-d was taking Himself on a walk, it would seem to imply mutual action, but it wasn't mutual. When G-d was walking Adam and Eve were hiding, and that's the tragedy. It's like a broken form of Hitpa'el here, it's like G-d was inviting them, here I am, I'm ready to stroll with you, but where are you, you're not here? Now we understand the question Ayecha - where are you, weren't we supposed to be walking now?
There are two Hebrew words for where. The normal word for where is Eifo. Eifo is an ordinary kind of where, when I actually want to know where you are. But the other Hebrew word for where - Ayei, it doesn't mean that. If you look carefully at how Ayei is used in the Torah it's never actually a request for location, it means what happened to you? How come you're not here? In the Binding of Isaac they're going up the mountain, Isaac says, I see the wood, I see the fire; Ayei haseh l'olah - where is the lamb for the offering? Doesn't mean where is the lamb, I want to know exactly where the lamb is, did we leave it by the woodshed. It wasn't Eifo, it was Ayei. I see the wood, I see the fire, there's no lamb - that question is, am I the lamb? It's a whole different conversation now.
I'll give you another example from the Book of Psalms; Ayei Elokeihem - why should people say about G-d where is your G-d? Doesn't mean what's the location of your G-d, it means why should people say about You G-d how come You're not here? You're supposed to be involved with us and You're not here, where did You go?
It's the same thing back in the garden with the original Ayei. G-d wasn't saying, where are you, I can't figure out where you are. No, it was a poignant cry. We were supposed to go walking together how come you're not here with Me? It is the original lament in the Torah. How do you spell those words Ayecha as they're first spelled in the garden? Aleph, Yud, Chaf, Hei. You know what else those words spell? Those are the classic words for lament - Eicha. Those words later on become a Megillah. A Megillah devoted to lament. In English its name is Lamentations. The tragedy of sin in the garden is the tragedy of Ayei, where did you go? It's the tragedy of missing a joyful moment of togetherness with G-d, the chance to stroll with Him, a chance - G-d promises - that will be re-created in Israel, where one more time we will have that opportunity, if we can only muster the strength to avoid hiding and to seize the opportunity of companionship with the Divine being offered to us.
1. Bereishit: Thank You, God...For Not Making Me A Woman?
2. Noach: Why Aren't Dinosaurs In the Torah?
3. Lech Lecha: The Battle For Abraham's Legacy
4. Vayeira: Abram, Sarai, Hagar, Ishmael and...Exodus?
5. Vayeira: Epilogue
6. Chayei Sarah: Eliezer and Samuel's Surprising Connection
7. Toldot: What Is Isaac's Legacy?
8. Vayishlach: From Jacob to Israel
9. Vayeishev: Does God Speak To Us Today?
10. Miketz: Reversing the Sale of Joseph
11. Vayigash: Understanding Pharaoh's Dream
12. Vayechi: A Tap On The Shoulder
13. Shmot: Does God Really "Love" Us?
14. Va'era: Seeing God in Science
15. Bo: God's Justice In Action
16. Beshalach: Fruit Trees In the Sea?
17. Beshalach: Epilogue
18. Yitro: Seeing Ten Commandments in the Burning Bush
19. Mishpatim: Does Our History Become Laws?
20. Mishpatim: Epilogue
21. Terumah: Angels In the Tabernacle? Part I/2
22. Tetzaveh: Angels In the Tabernacle?- Part 2/2
23. Ki Tisa: A Closer Look At Kiddush
24. Vayakhel-Pekudei: God In Space, God In Time
25. Pekudei: A Giant Chiasm In Sefer Shmot
26. Vayikra: How Can We Relate To Sacrifices Today?
27. Tzav: A Deeper Look At The Priestly Role
28. Tzav: Epilogue
29. Shemini: What Does Aaron Teach Us About Loss?
30. Tazria-Metzora: Rejoining the Community
31. Acharei Mot-Kedoshim: Social Justice...and Sacrifices?
32. Emor: An Epic View of Jewish Holidays
33. Behar-Bechukotai: Walking With God
34. Bamidbar: Why We Count
35. Beha'alotecha: Where It All Went Wrong
36. Shelach: How Can We Relate To Such a Vengeful God?
37. Korach: Why Did Korach Rebel?
38. Chukat: Why Did Moses Hit The Rock?
39. Balak: What Is Israel's Purpose In The World?
40. Pinchas: What Is True Leadership?
41. Matot-Masei: The Art of Negotiation
42. Devarim: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 1/2
43. Va'etchanan: What Did Moses Do Wrong?- Part 2/2
44. Eikev: Why Does The Nation Of Israel Merit The Land?
45. Re'eh: Why Do We Need Both Oral and Written Law?
46. Shoftim: The Significance of Saving Private Ryan
47. Ki Teitzei: How To Merit Long Life
48. Ki Tavo: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 1
49. Nitzavim: The Pursuit of Happiness- Part 2/2
50. Vayeilech: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 1/3
51. Ha'azinu: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 2/3
52. V'Zot Habracha: Moses' Farewell To Israel, Part 3/3
Are you a day school teacher?
We have an exciting scholarship account option for you!