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Walking with Others, Walking with God

What does it mean to walk with others?

Moshe Cordervero, one of the greatest Jewish mystics, who lived in sixteenth century Safed, offered this advice. Go for long walks with friends. He and his friend, and fellow mystic, and brother-in-law, Shlomo Alkabetz, who authored one of our favorite Friday night prayers, Lecha Dodi, would go on walks in the fields surrounding Safed. Their goal was to see where their friendship led them. What truths could they uncover as they walked?

Cordevero offered this counsel: “One should desire the best for friends, view their good fortune favorably and cherish friends’ honor as your own.” What they discussed on those walks were recorded in a book called the “Book of Wanderings.” Go on an undetermined path with a friend. Go get lost with a friend.

Wander together and there you can be found. There you might discover some truth.

He offered practical suggestions about his spiritual practice. 1.Always walk with a friend. And 2. Only discuss matters of great importance. No discussions about the weather. Or what this person or that is doing or wearing or buying. Talk about the world. Argue about weighty matters. Discuss Torah.

Often, we think mysticism is about separating ourselves from the world. We imagine going on walks by ourselves in the woods or perhaps on the beach. There we are at one with nature. We commune with God’s creation and look within. But Cordervero suggests this is the wrong approach. Instead, we must walk in nature, with others.

The Torah offers this insight: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation; Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6). Only about Enoch, a descendant of Adam and Eve, do we also read that he walked with God. No other figure in the Bible is described in this manner.

It is fascinating to discover that the Bible does not write “walked with God” about any Jewish figure. Abraham is commanded to walk with God. He is not, however, judged as having walked with God. That is what he is supposed to do not what he has already done.

The Torah offers no evidence about Noah’s, and Enoch’s, walking. And that leaves plenty of room for rabbis to surmise and sermonize. They suggest it must mean that they performed deeds of lovingkindness. The medieval commentator, Ibn Ezra, offers the following insight: “He trained himself to walk with God.” His understanding is derived from the fact that the Hebrew is written in the reflexive, meaning that there is an inner-directed component to his walking.

Even though the Torah writes as if Noah is judged favorably for walking with God. In fact, the judgment is about his efforts to walk with God and stand by God’s side.

What does it mean to walk with God?

It means to work on your walking.

It means to saunter if not with others, then with God.

It means to never walk alone.