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Posted on May 11, 2023 (5783) By Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein | Series: | Level:

If you walk with my chukim and observe my commandments…

Taken as a whole, the mitzvah system corresponds to the human body. That is the meaning of Chazal’s teaching[2] that the 248 affirmative obligations correspond to the limbs of the body, and the 365 prohibitions correspond to the sinews that bind them together.

That is the meaning – but not the entire meaning. The correspondence is sourced in something more lofty than the parts of the human body. That body points to its heavenly analogue. The mitzvah system as a whole constitutes a spiritual form – a representation of a proto-Man, an avatar of Man’s spiritual potential.

What do we mean when we state[3] that Man was created b’tzelem Elokim/in the image of G-d? Does G-d have an image, a physical form that can be observed? Chas v’shalom! Rather, “Elokim” refers to Torah – the aspects of Himself that He contracted and then inscribed into the Torah. It is this “shrinking down” of Hashem’s presence that we can indeed attach ourselves to. Without this tzimtzum, it would be impossible to “cling” to Hashem, as the Torah commands.

When we say that Man was created b’tzelem Elokim, then, we really mean that he was created in the image of the Torah itself. As we stated above, the Torah as a whole can be seen as a spiritual structure. Places on that structure – individual mitzvos – have a point-to-point correspondence with the parts of the human body. Our physical selves therefore, are organically linked to the spiritual form of the model human being. When a person bestirs himself to move a part of the body in the performance of something good, he moves the corresponding part of the spiritual structure. When he fails to move it when he should (or worse yet, when he moves it in transgression of the commandments of the Torah), he diminishes that body part’s corresponding locus within his own spiritual structure.

We call chukim those mitzvos whose explanation remains hidden from us. When we perform other mitzvos, our emunah is not so much in evidence, since we might find their reasonableness appealing enough to do them. This is not so in regard to the chukim, through which we evince pure emunah.

Emunah is referred to as feet, because it is the support upon which Torah stands. Before there can be commandments, there must be belief that there is a Commander. The spiritual structure of a person would collapse if his emunah-feet could not hold up the rest of the body.

Now we are able to understand the opening of our parshah. “If you walk with my chukim…” One walks with his feet. The verse therefore means that if you can navigate life with your emunah (which is called into play specifically by the chukim), then your will be able to perform all the mitzvos of the Torah. The activity of your body in performing those mitzvos means completing your human spiritual structure above. The Torah continues. “I will provide gishmeichem/your rains in their time.” This can be read, “Everything that you do – all the actions that you perform with your gashmiyus – I will place within the structure of the perfect spiritual Man, completing it for you.

  1. Based on Meor Einayim by R. Menachem Nochum of Chernobyl
  2. Zohar1 170b
  3. Bereishis 1:26