By Rabbi Avraham
Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour
J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center
August 24, 2002
After his discourse on the commandments, which concludes with
the opening section of KI TAVO, Moshe begins his final discourse on the
consequences of obedience and of disobedience to the will of Hashem. In the
section of blessing, Moshe says:
Hashem shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be
smitten before you: on one road will they come out against you, and on seven
roads will they flee before you. Hashem will command the blessing to be with you
in your storehouses and in all you put your hand to, and He shall bless you in
the land which Hashem, your G-d, gives you. Hashem shall establish you for
Himself as a holy people as He swore to you, if (KI) you will keep the
commandments of Hashem, your G-d, and you will walk in His ways (V’HALACHTA
BIDRACHAV) (Devarim 28:7-9).
The material blessings are dependent upon (if KI) fulfilling
all the commandments (you will keep the commandments of Hashem, your G-d).
But, as R. Avraham ben HaRambam (1186-1237) points out (Responsum 63),
V’HALACHTA BIDRACHAV must delineate a separate commandment, rather than
an extension of the blanket exhortation to keep the commandments, for otherwise
the text would have read “if you will keep the commandments of Hashem, your G-d,
to walk (LALECHET) in His ways.”
If so, what mitzvah is added by V’HALACHTA BIDRACHAV ?
According to Rambam (Book of the Commandments, Positive commandment no. 8), the
Torah here enjoins us, above and beyond complying with the other mitzvot, to
perfect our personality traits in imitation of Hashem’s ways:
To emulate Him, may He be exalted, according to our ability . .
. that is to say, emulating His benevolent actions and esteemed qualities with
which G-d, may He be exalted, is described . . .
This is a reference to the Rabbinic teaching (Sifri 49; Sotah
14a; Shabbat 133b; etc.) that one must strive to mirror, in the human arena, all
of Hashem’s attributes.
What does “walking in Hashem’s ways” mean? How is it possible for a human being
to imitate Hashem?
While Rambam uniquely regards our verse as the source of this commandment, this
idea is also found elsewhere:
And now, Israel, what does Hashem, your G-d, demand of you?
Only to fear Hashem, your G-d, to walk in all His ways and to love Him
with all your heart and with all your soul (10:12).
For if you will surely observe all this commandment that I
command you to do, to love Hashem, your G-d, to walk in all His ways
and to cleave to Him . . . (11:22). [According to Sifri 49, this is the source
for the commandment to emulate Hashem.]
After Hashem, your G-d, shall you walk, and Him shall
you fear, and His commandments shall you observe, and to His voice shall you
listen, and Him shall you serve, and to Him shall you cleave (13:5).
The Torah opens with an act of Hashem’s kindness clothing Adam and Eve (Bereishit
3:21) and ends with an act of His kindness burying Moshe (Devarim 34:6).
We also see that Hashem visits the sick i.e. Avraham (Bereishit 18:1). These
are acts we too can perform, as Avraham taught by his example of hospitality (Bereishit
In elaborating on this mitzvah in Mishneh Torah (Laws of Traits,
Ch. 1), Rambam says that it is to pursue “the middle path” the mean between
such extremes as haughtiness and submissiveness, voluptuousness and asceticism,
lavishness and miserliness. Furthermore,
6 Just as He is called gracious, so must you be gracious; just
as He is called compassionate, so must you be compassionate; just as He is
called holy, so must you be holy. In this way the prophets applied to G-d such
descriptions as slow to anger, benevolent, righteous, honest, pure, mighty,
strong and the like, in order to instruct that these are good and upright ways.
A person is obligated to follow them and to emulate Him, according to one’s
This is the “way of Hashem” that Avraham taught his descendants
In his Guide for the Perplexed (I:54), Rambam teaches that the commandment to
emulate Hashem entails the duty to contemplate His 13 Attributes (Shemot 34:6-7,
Rosh Hashanah 17b); which do not describe His Essence, but rather the ways in
which He interacts with the world.
In this vein, the Kabbalist, R. Moshe Cordovero (1522-1570) devoted the first
section of his book The Palm-Tree of Devorah to the application of Hashem’s 13
Attributes to our relations with others.
Sefer HaChinuch (ascribed to either R. Aharon HaLevi or R. Pinchas HaLevi of
Barcelona, mid-13th Century), lists this as Commandment no. 611, an
all-encompassing life duty:
To perform all our actions in a way of honesty and goodness with
all our power, and to direct all our matters that are between us and others in a
way of kindness and compassion as we know from our Torah that this is the way
of Hashem, and this is His desire from His creatures, in order that they should
merit His goodness, because He desires kindness.
This mitzvah, which is the final interpersonal (bein adam
lachavero) commandment in the Torah, challenges us to approximate Hashem’s
behavior and empowers us to become His partners in furthering His aims for
In addition, says Malbim (R. Meir Leib ben Yechiel Michael, 1809-1877) on 10:12,
aspiring to emulate Hashem will increase one’s love of Hashem. He likens this to
one of the king’s servants who closely observes the king’s actions, seeing that
he is a savior of the poor and guardian of the orphaned. This causes him to
appreciate the king’s benevolence and modesty. In attempting to emulate the
king’s behavior himself, his affection for the king increases.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah, when we will proclaim Hashem as King, it is
inspiring for us to realize that this is what it means to come close to the