When I was young I enjoyed taking long walks. It all started in High School when I had a four mile round trip trek to my school. There was something special about walking one mile to my close friend’s home and then continuing to walk together with him to school. I also enjoyed taking walks along a trail in a forest near my home. My journey to becoming more Jewishly observant began around the age of 13 prior to my Bar Mitzvah, when I began to walk to my synagogue rather than drive to synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath. Over the past 12 years, after I moved into my “new” home about a mile from the synagogue, I have genuinely enjoyed walking to services with my wife. The aerobic exercise left me exhilarated and inhaling the clear air gave me added strength and vitality. I and my golden retriever enjoy our daily walks, and the opportunity to check out the neighborhood and all the new sights and smells. I even prefer to take the steps rather than the elevator when I make my pastoral ronds at hospitals and nursing homes.
In the area where I live there are few sidewalks, and therefore few walkers. Despite this lack, I marvel at several people in my neighborhood who over the years have continued to make walking part of their daily routines. I see them at about the same time each day whenever I drive past them on a relatively busy street on my way to meetings or errands. There is a gentleman with a cane who takes a long walk to the local library, a husband and wife who walk each day (he with a long beard and pony tail and she dressed as if she were going to the Woodstock festival) and another couple who always don safari type hats as one walks behind the other.
Every parent knows that a child’s first step is a landmark event. After quite a number of months that halting step develops into a sturdier gait. Toddlers eventually become walkers, opening the door to more independence.
Strange as it seems, modern people (especially in the suburbs) seem to walk as little as possible. Few would choose to walk even a half mile to a friend’s house. Moving walkways now whisk us through airports and elevators and escalators lure us away from stairways. Walking still doesn’t get the respect it deserves, either for its health benefits or its role in recreation and mental health. There are lots of health benefits to walking, including improvement of mood, strengthening bones, improving balance, and affording time for contemplation and seeing the sites.
The first time that walking is mentioned in the Bible is with reference to Enoch and Noah. Both Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Noah (Genesis 6:9) “walked with God.” This phrase is often interpreted to mean that they were God’s partners and that both Noah and Enoch shared God’s values. The term is also expressive of a life that each spent in full accord with God’s will and in closest intimacy with God.
As I write my Thoughts we are less than one week away from celebrating our New Year of Rosh Hashanah. I wish you a year filled with joy, blessing, peace, fulfillment and good health. I hope that you will step forward into the New Year with hope and optimism, and that you will walk on paths that bring you exhilaration, strength and vitality.