The Sifra makes this observation: “This means that you should toil in the study of Torah”. The comment seems enigmatic. One does not usually associate walking with toil.
However, there are many ways to walk. One can stroll, one can stride, one can struggle. The Sifra is urging us to adopt the third method, especially since “walking in God’s statutes” is halachah – the word for Jewish law that derives from the verb “to walk”.
Engaging in halachah is never just a stroll in which one dawdles along without any real direction or design. It is far more serious than that. Nor is it always a stride, though that already indicates more determination and energy.
Halachah requires the passionate commitment of the whole being. It often doesn’t come overnight. A person reaches full engagement with halachah by stages.
Stage one is strolling – one tries it out. Stage two is striding – one moves more earnestly. Stage three is struggling – making an all-out effort. It’s not easy; that’s why it is a struggle.
An analogy might be the four sons on Seder night. We don’t have to read the list starting at the top (the wise son), and going down. Starting at the bottom of the list, a person can move from being someone who does not know how to ask, to a tam who is just beginning to get involved.
One can momentarily become a rasha, who has doubts and says, “What am I getting into?”, decide to struggle with the difficulties, and end up as a wise son who is fully committed and finds halachah an absorbing, exhilarating way of life.