Abarbanel on the Parsha

For the week ending 29 August 2020 / 9 Elul 5780

The Morning Blessings: Blessing Eleven: Step in Time!

by Rabbi Reuven Lauffer
Library Library Library

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who firms man’s footsteps.”

Many years ago, during a summer break in England, I took my (then) young children to watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Possibly the most famous tourist attraction in London, it was replete with marching soldiers in their striking red uniforms and their imposing bearskin hats, a full military brass band and beautifully groomed horses ridden by exquisitely turned-out officers with gleaming breastplates and drawn sabres. On entering the palace grounds, the rows of marching soldiers started a convoluted series of maneuvers that were fascinating to watch. For well over half-an-hour they marched in a detailed and intricate fashion on the parade ground, never missing a step. Together with the thousands upon thousands of visitors, I was transfixed, until one of my sons innocently asked me where the soldiers were marching to. Momentarily flummoxed, I tried explaining to him that they weren’t actually going anywhere, and that what we were watching was all for the audience’s enjoyment. But, shrugging his shoulders, he failed to understand the point of it all. And, I must admit, after that it wasn’t really the same — regardless of how entertaining it was.

It is true that the soldiers at Buckingham Palace were spending an inordinate amount of time marching up and down the palace parade ground without going anywhere in particular. Nevertheless, they had not a moment’s doubt as to what was required of them. And how they were supposed to do execute it. Because, as soldiers, their whole essence was to do as they had been commanded. And the sound of their marching boots, all in perfect unison, reverberated around the parade grounds.

“Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the universe, Who firms man’s footsteps.” How does our blessing fit into the sequence of the Morning Blessings? What is the connection between the way I walk and my relationship with G-d? It is now that we have reached the moment within the blessings that we get to select where we are going to “walk” to in our journey through life. Which direction are we going to choose to take? Judaism teaches that there are two core possibilities. The first is the choice to walk along the path that has been given to us — and defined for us — by G-d through His Torah. And the second is to choose not to. It is really that simple. And, it is also, at the sane time, that complex. Our blessing comes to teach us that the person who walks with firm footsteps is an individual who has an unquestionable sense of purpose. Not just that, but because he is secure in the knowledge that the Torah and the mitzvahs are everything he needs for the correct direction in life, he also has a detailed strategy of how he is going to reach his objective. Such a person can stride through this world with confidence, because he knows that he is an integral component in G-d’s “honor guard” — devotedly marching to the beat of the true Commander in Chief.

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