Between the Lines—Behukkotai

Weekly Midrash Learning with Rabbi Abigail Treu

ויקרא רבה (וילנא) פרשה לה

אם בחקותי תלכו הה"ד (תהלים קיט) חשבתי דרכי ואשיבה רגלי אל עדותיך אמר דוד רבש"ע בכל יום ויום הייתי מחשב ואומר למקום פלוני ולבית דירה פלונית אני הולך והיו רגלי מביאות אותי לבתי כנסיות ולבתי מדרשות הה"ד ואשיבה רגלי אל עדותיך.

Leviticus Rabbah 35:1

"If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments" (Leviticus 26:3). This bears on the text, "I considered my ways, and turned back to Your decrees" (Psalms 119:59). David said: "Sovereign of the Universe! Every day I used to plan and decide that I would go to a particular place or to a particular dwelling-house, but my feet always brought me to synagogues and houses of study." Hence it is written, "And turned back to Your decrees."

I have such good intentions when I start off my day or my week. I carefully plot out which errands I will do when, which items on the to-do list to take care of, which friends and family I will get to spend time with or at least call back. It is thoughtful planning: "considered," to use David's phrase in the midrash.

But then life intervenes. One of the kids gets sick, or the babysitter quits (again), or there's a crisis at work, and the whole plan goes out the window. "I used to plan and decide," as David says, how I would spend my time—but in the end, my feet took me where they would. In the end, as David declares, I learned to go with the flow and see the out-of-control march through daily life as part of a Divine plan. I turned back to You.

"If you follow My laws," there will be a reward, our parashah tells us. We will reap some benefit that we would not experience if we were to choose a different lifestyle or set of beliefs. I do not understand the reward as something Divinely given; I think it is a reward we create for ourselves. We who choose a life of faith are "rewarded" with a sense of calm and assurance as we walk through our days—something that those who hold other beliefs cannot experience in the same way. One of the rewards of faith is the sense that wherever we end up—and I'm guessing it's not always as lofty as the synagogues and houses of study that the midrash envisions David frequenting—it was the place where God meant us to be.