Rabbi Dr. Yossi Feintuch was born in Afula and holds a Ph.D. in American history from Emory University in Atlanta. He taught American history at Ben-Gurion University.
Author of the book US Policy on Jerusalem (JCCO).
He now serves as rabbi at the Jewish Center in central Oregon. (JCCO).
* * *
This weekly Torah portion Ekev calls upon us to walk in all God’s ’’ways, and to cleave unto Him’’ (Deuteronomy 11: 22). But how is it possible to do so if only because ‘’God is a devouring fire, a jealous God’’ (Deuteronomy 4:24)? And yet, the challenge to imitate God would be feasible and practical by trying earnestly to live up to this divine demand by manifesting in our own actions His being ‘’merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth’’ (Exodus 34:6), as Moses (and later Jonah) encapsulates God’s foremost modus operandi.
More specifically, God’s way is found in ''walking the talking''; a resolve to fulfil by deed what we pledge to d0 by word. Hence, ''God said, 'Let there be... so God made the...'' (Genesis 1). To walk in God's way means, therefore, to mean what we say and do it. Clothing the naked is another example of imitatio dei -- imitating God; it derives from ‘’and the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments [to cover their] skin, and He clothed them’’ (Genesis 3:21). Isaiah, thus, applies this iconic divine action by instructing: ‘’When you see a naked person you must cover him'’ (58:7).
One walks in God’s way when visiting the sick even as God visited Abraham following his ‘’do-it-yourself’’ circumcision – ‘’And the Lord appeared unto him … as he sat in the tent door’’ (Genesis 18:1). One would emulate God when visiting the bereaved even as ‘’after the death of Abraham God blessed Isaac his son’’ [i.e., visited him for the purpose of comforting the mourners as in Genesis 25:11].
One imitates God when rebuking only those who need to be reproached without any additional audience to hear the admonition as we read: ‘’and the Lord …called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forth out of the Tent of Meeting’’ (Numbers 12:5), where Moses stayed unsummoned by God to hear His rebuke to his two siblings for their gossip about and slander against him. God’s ways would also be followed in funeral participation for the purpose of actually burying the dead as ‘’God buried him [Moses] in the valley in the land of Moab’’ (Deuteronomy 34:5). We further walk in God’s ways when manifesting compassion ‘’over all that He has made’’ (Psalm 145:9) which covers the whole spectrum of animals, i.e., not only pets, even as God ‘’save[s] humans and animals alike, O Lord’’ (Psalm 36:6) – we too are called to do alike.
Last but not least, we walk in God’s ways when we, like God, extend a hand to those who have transgressed, as ‘’Your right hand is stretched out to receive all* who return’’ in contrition (from the final confession at the concluding service on Yom Kippurim; *the original Hebrew uses the term ‘’those who committed a crime’’ –פושעים ). And those who were hurt and stung by another person would duly emulate God’s ways by forgiving the person who wronged them but is seeking to atone for his misdeeds. Jonah, the ‘’fleeing prophet’’, did his utmost to run away from a forgiving God and from the concept of forgiveness telling God: ‘’…for I knew You are a gracious and forgiving God, slow to be angry, and abundant in Your love, and likely to repent of the evil’’ (4:2). Indeed, a person should not hold off forgiveness from those who truly ask for it. For by forgiving fully the one who seeks to be forgiven and pledges to cease and desist from his past misconducts we follow in God’s way even as this week’s Torah portion summons us to do.