2.01 DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH G-D: CLEAVING TO G-D
According to the Harav Noach Weinberg, the purpose of the first week of Elul, was to do the things that would wake us up to the responsibiiities of the upcoming High Holy Days. Those who followed the advice should be feeling more energized and motivated to approach the coming weeks of Elul.
If you haven’t seen a copy of Sheet 1, or even if you have, but haven’t done the things suggested in it, please take a minute to read it. It is very important to realize that the sheets in the upcoming weeks are based on the assumption that you have done some of the suggestions from Sheet 1.
The theme of the second week according the Rosh Yeshiva’s system is called “Developing and Strengthening Your Relationship With G-d.” After a one week period of waking ourselves up, the next priority is to do the things that will inspire and strengthen a true relationship with G-d. Often when we begin to examine our relationship with G-d we seem to get stuck. Where do we begin and what do we shoot for? Today’s general introduction is designed to help us examine aspects of our life that might need improvement in our relationship to G-d. At the end of the week we will be bringing practical tools on how to achieve many of the ideas suggested.
2. GIVE ME YOUR HEART
One of the major purposes of Elul should be to examine where our hearts are at. It is the time of the year that we must get to the very root of our souls. Are we living for the right reason or are we living for the false illusions of life? Now is the time to examine and correct any difficulties that we see. And of course, the main area to examine is our relationship with G-d.
G-d said, (Mishle 23.26), “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe My ways. “ If you give Me your heart and eyes, I will know that you are Mine.” (Yerushalml Brachos)
Where is your heart? Is it dedicated to being with the Al-mighty? And are your eyes open to see His ways? These are some of the most basic questions to begin to ask at the beginning of the Elul season.
3. ARE WE REALLY PRAYING TO G-D?
One of the true ways to measure our dedication to Hashem is to examine our prayers. Prayer is one of the most powerful expressions of our love and commitment. Now that Elul has arrived we should seriously and honestly ask ourselves, “If I really cared about G-d with all my heart, then why do I often think about so many other things during prayer other than Him?”
The verse states (Devarim 26.16), ‘You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” At the time that you pray before the Holy One, you should not divide your heart, giving one part to the Holy One, and one part to other matters. (Tanchuma Tavo, Ot Aleph)
4. EVERYBODY HAS THEIR OWN PATH
The purpose of Elul is to gain an awareness of the areas that are holding us back from complete dedication to G-d and to rededicate ourselves in that area. It is important to realize that each individual has their own special areas to rededicate in their Avodas Hashem and one persons path may be unlike anyone else’s. From the following Gemora we can see that there are different paths to get to a single goal.
‘You shall love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Devarim 26.16), “R. Eliezar says: “If the Torah already states ‘with all your soul,’ why was It necessary to state ‘with all your might’? And if It stated ‘with all your might,’ why was it necessary to state ‘with all your soul’? But this Is to teach you that if there is a man to whom his existence (I.e. soul) Is more precious to him than his money (might), we are told (that one must love G-d) “with all your soul.’ On the other hand, if there Is a man whose money is more precious than his existence, we are told, (that one must love G-d) ‘with all your might.”’ (Pesachim 25a)
Certain people need to dedicate to G-d with their money and certain people need to dedicate with their willingness to die for G-d. No one can reach levels of love in the same way. Everyone must sit down and rededicate in Elul to conquering those things that are particularly holding him back.
5. THE ULTIMATE AIM IS TO STUDY TORAH FOR THE LOVE OF G-D ALONE
One of the objectives of Elul is to examine our motivation even for the good things we do during the day:
We find that whoever studies Torah out of love (of G-d) and performs the commandments of his Creator out of love, will eventually reach the level of (Devarim 30.6) “to cleave to Him.” We have learned: What is meant by (Devarim 30.6) “To love the L-rd your G-d, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave to Him?” This teaches us that a person should not say, “I will study so that I will be called a Torah scholar,” “I will learn so that I will be called “Rabbi,” “I will learn so that I will be considered an elder and have a seat in the study hall” (among the elders). Instead, study out of love (for G-d), and honor will come in the end. (Nedarim 62a)
Even the good things we do in life should be done with the proper motivation. Even though we are told to learn torah even if it isn’t necessarily with the highest motivations, the goal is ultimately to to correct it. One of the purposes of Elul is to examine the motives even behind the good things that we do and slowly start to begin to correct it.
6. KNOW G-D IN EVERYTHING YOU DO
Another goal of Elul is to examine how much your life is integrated with a true perspective of the Almighty. The most powerful example of this is from King David, one of the most successful men of all time, whose life was always a shining example of knowing his place in relation to G-d:
What Is meant by (Mishle 3.6), “In all your ways, you shall know Him (G-d)?.” It means place Him in your heart wherever you may go, Just as David would do: He was a king, yet he said, “I am not a king. Only He is the King, and He anointed me.”… King David was a mighty man, and yet he said “I am not mighty.” He was rich, and yet he said,” I am not rich,” as in the verse (Tehillim 102.1), “A prayer of the destitute.” So too did he proclaim ‘Yours, 0 L-rd, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty.” He went to war and emerged victorious, and claimed, “It was not because of my valor that I was victorious, but because G-d helped me and made me emerge victorious, and it was He who taught me how to wage war.” (Midrash Shochar Tov-Mizmor 144)
7. THE REWARDS OF CLINGING TO G-D
If you are with G-d in all your endeavors in life, things will run smoothly for you:
Shlomo exclaimed (Mishle 3.6), “In all your ways, you shall know Him.” If you recognize the Holy One in all your actions, He will make straight the way for you in life. (Midrash Shochar Toy, Appendix Mizmor 119.5)
Not only does being with G-d make things run more smoothly, but you will be protected from harm.
Happy are the righteous and those who cling to them! What does it say about Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah? … (When they came out of the fiery furnace) “The fire had no power over their bodies, nor was a hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor had the smell of fire passed them” (Dan. 3.27). Why were their clothes not harmed? It is because they were attached to them. And If the clothes which were attached to the righteous passed through fire without being harmed, then how much more will those who cleave to the Righteous One of the Universe remain unharmed, as it states (Devarim 4.4), “And you, who have cleaved to the L-rd, are all alive today.” (Yalkut Shmone, Vaeschanan 824)
Here we are in Elul, struggling to get clarity as to our future direction in life. But before we do anything we must ask ourselves the most basic question in life. Where am I holding with my relationship to G-d? This is the time of year to get clear and focused on this issue. If we could figure out how to fully commit to Him and His ways, then everything else would fall into line. May we gain the courage and strength to fully dedicate ourselves to a relationship with G-d before the Day of Judgement comes around.