Parshat Bechukotai details one of the two Tochachot recorded in the Torah. Bnei Yisrael are collectively warned of the consequences of not following Hashem’s Mitzvot, but are also told of the reward waiting for them if they listen to the Torah. Among the promises that lay at the end of the tunnel for a loyal nation is the guarantee that “VeHit’halachti BeTochechem” (26:12), that Hashem will “walk” amongst his people.
However, in Parshat Terumah Hashem tells Bnei Yisrael that if they are good, “VeShachanti BeTocham,” “I will dwell in your midst.” Why does Hashem suddenly change the nature of His promise? Why does He choose walking as the verb to describe such a shift?
Seforno reminds us that Parshat Terumah talks about the building of the Mishkan and the processes that take place within it. Therefore, Hashem says that He will dwell among Bnei Yisrael, since, in the Midbar, His presence is restricted to a specific location, that being where Bnei Yisrael are presently camped. However, Bechukotai prepares Bnei Yisrael for what will occur in Eretz Yisrael, where they will be spread out over the entire country. Thus, in order to compensate for that, Hashem must change His “element” and “walk” across the land to be amongst all of his chosen people.
Many things are out of our control in life, such as our lifespan and our livelihood. But one of the things we can control is our physical actions, such as walking. Not only can we control where or when we walk, but we can also control the speed and effort of the movement. To that effect, the Netziv writes that the degree of Hashem’s presence is dependent on the individual as well. One can “control” the amount of Hashem’s presence depending on one’s Zerizut, eagerness, for Mitzvot. The more righteous a person is, the more Shechinah will be recognizable to him.
Furthermore, walking has more of a humanistic feel to it than dwelling, as the Ramban points out. The Ramban consequently posits that Hashem is reminding Bnei Yisrael that he is “Melech Malchei HaMelachim,” King of Kings. A king walks among his people at times to obtain feedback, along with supplying them with their daily needs. So too, Hashem, being our King, supplies us with everything we need and watches over us as he makes his rounds as king.
We can learn an important lesson from Hashem’s dedication to us by changing how His presence is felt throughout the nation based on the situation at hand (spread out in Israel as opposed to the Midbar). We too must learn to make smooth adaptations based on our surroundings and do what is best for the common good. This aspect of life is under our control, and we must make use of this opportunity granted to us by Hashem to our great advantage.