Walking in the Path of God

In memory of our friend and neighbor Mr. Richard Lakin who was murdered while riding the 78 bus in Jerusalem

In Breisheet 18:18-19 we read: “Avraham is indeed to become a great and mighty nation and through him shall be blessed all of the nations of the world. For I have given him special attention because he commands his children and his household after him and they will preserve the way of God, doing righteousness and justice (tzedaka umishpat) so that God will bring upon Avraham all that which He has spoken of him.”

The way of God is the way of righteousness and justice. Avraham and his descendents are commanded to emulate God by doing righteousness and justice.

Avraham was a role model in the area of Kvod HaBriyot, respect for all of God’s creations. Avraham welcomed strangers into his home, sought to save the people of Sdom even though they were corrupt and was distressed when Yishmael had to be sent away.

In Yirmiyahu 9:22-23 we see the importance of righteousness and justice: “Thus says the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who does kindness, justice and righteousness in the land: for in these things I delight says the Lord.”

According to Radak, to know God is to imitate His ways by dealing with others with kindness, justice and righteousness.

Righteousness and justice are also found in Amos 5:24: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

The Ramchal, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (1707-1746) wrote a famous book of musar called Derech HaShem, The Way of God. He chose that title because “it speaks of God’s ways as revealed by His prophets and taught in His Torah. These are the ways in which God directs both ourselves and everything else He created.”

This past Tuesday we received the horrible news that our neighbor, Mr. Richard Lakin passed away. Mr. Lakin had been in critical condition for two weeks after being shot and stabbed by two terrorists on our local 78 bus. Mr. Lakin was a man who walked in God’s path. He lived on the main floor of our apartment building in the Talpiot/Arnona section of Jerusalem. I saw him when entering or leaving the building almost every day. He always had a kind word to say. I even ran into him outside of our building on the afternoon before the 78 bus was attacked by two terrorists. He was a humble person that would never hurt anyone.

A few years ago Mr. Lakin gave me a copy of the book that he wrote: Teaching as an Act of Love. It was interesting to learn more about this man who I always saw around but didn’t know much about. In his book, one can see what a wonderful principal he was in a Connecticut elementary school before making Aliya in the 1980s. He was careful to teach every child in the way that they would learn best. In one story, a student who couldn’t handle the new math curriculum was totally lost so Mr. Lakin pulled old math books out of the closet and taught the student the more traditional methods which were easier to grasp. When students were asked to bring gifts to exchange with their friends, Mr. Lakin didn’t embarrass the poor student who brought a live chicken to school but rather accepted the gift graciously and took the chicken home with him. Just like Avraham, Mr. Lakin was a role model who cared about every human being.

At the end of his introduction, the Ramchal writes: “And now, fellow seekers of God, go on your way. May God be with you, giving you eyes to see and ears to hear the wonders of His Torah.”

 Using the Torah as our guidebook, we must follow the path that God outlines for us and bring more kindness, justice and righteousness to the world.