Many passages in the Torah appear at first glance to be repetitious. Often, each iteration has a unique and deep message. Rabbi Avigdor Miller, zt”l, finds such a case (in the passage of the Blessings and Curses) in the Torah’s instruction to keep Hashem’s commandments and walk in His ways.
Also in the passage of the Blessings and Curses, Rabbi Miller highlights the great blessing of a long life.
“And all these blessings shall come upon you, and they shall overtake you” (28:2). One of the greatest puzzles of the Torah is the lack of more open mention of the reward of the Afterlife. Rambam (Teshuvah 9:1) declares that the rewards foretold in the Torah for obeying the commandments are solely in this life, but the true reward is reserved for the Afterlife. But the reward of a long, peaceful life is bestowed for the purpose of being enabled to achieve more perfection by performing the commandments (“A mitzvah brings on a mitzvah” – Avos 4:2) and thereby becoming eligible for even greater happiness in the Afterlife.
The opportunity to achieve perfection is available solely in this physical existence; and though the happiness of the Afterlife is the end-purpose of Creation, that happiness is in proportion to the perfection achieved in this physical existence. Thus, a long life of peaceful and prosperous conditions is the supreme blessing, because in illness or poverty or with the tribulations of wartime, men cannot accomplish so readily the great achievements for which they would merit the higher status of the most virtuous in the life of eternal existence.
“If you will keep the commandments of Hashem your G-d, and you will walk in His ways” (28:9). This is not a rhetorical repetition, but two separate statements: keep His commandments and, in addition to keeping the commandments, study the ways of Hashem as demonstrated in the Torah or in the events of history or of the phenomena of Creation and emulate these ways by our own behavior.
One example of these ways is taught in the Torah when Moshe said, “Let me know Your ways” (Shemos 33:13) – at which time Hashem revealed His thirteen ways (ibid. 34:6-7). Also: “Behold, to Hashem your G-d belong the heavens and the heavens above the heavens.… Only in your Fathers did Hashem delight, to love them” (Devarim 10:14-15), which demonstrates that the ways of the fathers were pleasing in the eyes of Hashem. Thus we are obliged to love the ways of Abraham and Yitzchak and Yaakov, as described in the Torah, and we must walk in those ways.
We read, “He does justice for the orphan and the widow, and He loves a ger” (ibid. 10:18) and many similar instances of His ways. “Who is a G-d like You, that pardons iniquity and passes over the transgressions of the remnants of His heritage. He does not retain his anger forever, for He desires kindliness. He will again have compassion upon us, He will conceal our iniquities, and He will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. You will give faithfulness to Jacob, mercy to Abraham, as You swore to our fathers from the days of old” (Michah 7:18-20).
From these verses the Tomer Devorah has drawn up a list of character traits and attitudes, which we are obliged to learn and to emulate in accordance with this mitzvah of “You should walk in His ways.” These are not optional forms of piety or exceptional excellence; everyone is required to fulfill them because of the mitzvah “to walk in His ways.”
In addition to these examples of Hashem’s ways, we are required also to learn His ways that are demonstrated by the wonders of Hashem’s creation. The rain comes to supply water to drink and to cause the earth to produce food. The fruit trees produce attractive and luscious delicacies. The winds convey the rain clouds over the continents. Clothing is supplied by sheep’s’ wool and flax and cotton plants. Hundreds of remedies are derived from plants. The body heals itself in countless wondrous ways, most of us are born without any one of the thousands of birth defects that could have occurred.
Wherever we look, we see the kindliness of the Creator, which He showers upon man. Thus the attitude and the practice of kindness are “ways” of Hashem, which we must study and emulate. “Their G-d hates immorality” (Sanhedrin 93a); therefore we must hate immorality. “Hashem loves the righteous” (Tehillim 146:8) and Hashem loves Israel (10:15); we must emulate Him.Rabbi Avigdor Miller