A Comprehensive Program to Maximize The High Holy Days

Category: Week Two

2.04 Week 2-Developing A Relationship With G-d: Pathways to G-d-Part 2

2.04 DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH G-D: PATHWWAYS TO G-D Part 2

INTRODUCTION

In yesterday’s Sheet, we discussed some pathways to G-d. Most of the pathways discussed in yesterday’s sheet dealt with ways to get close to G-d through the avenue of learning. Today’s suggestions focus mainly on pathways to G-d through tools in our daily life.

REMINDER

It is not beneficial to try all of the pathways at once. The purpose of all these options is to offer you a choice so that you can choose the pathway most suitable to your personality. So choose the one that motivates you the most and start experimenting to see if it works.

PATHWAY NUMBER 1-USE THE POWER OF BLESSINGS TO GET CLOSE TO G-D

People seldom realize the power of the brachos (blessings) they say all day long. An Aish HaTorah student once went to HaRav Shach, zatsal, for some personal advice. At the end of their meeting the student asked HaRav Shach for a piece of advice on how to get close to G-d. The advice he received was simple and yet very true:

A very powerful way to grow closer to G-d is to utilize the tool of brachos. In the course of the day, we say many blessings thanking G-d for all the great pleasures in the world; think how much more powerful they would be if we focused and concentrated on them. Rav Shach emphasized that if one wants to develop a relationship with Hashem this is one of the most powerful tools in all of the Torah. In addition, it has the benefit of not being time consuming either.

Practical Suggestions – Before you say each blessing take a few seconds to focus on the reason why you are saying the blessing. Therefore, before you bite into that slice of bread take a moment to work on truly feeling gratitude for the gift that Hashem has placed before you. Then the blessings that you say will really be a blessing thanking G-d and not a rote, mechanical expression.

PATHWAY NUMBER 2-MAKE PRAYER A MAJOR PRIORITY

“The earlier Chassidim waited an hour before their prayer’ (Brachos 32b). Before praying, It is advantageous to consider the objectives of T’filah (Prayer)… One of the main purposes of prayer is the yearning of the soul to speak to Hashem; to make contact with the Soul of the Universe from which the individual soul originated; and to feel His reality as much as is possible for one to feel in his life. (Praise My Soul, Rabbi Avigdor Miller, p. 7)

Praying to G-d in the proper way can be one of the most powerful ways to get close to G-d. In yesterday’s sheet we spoke about the need to learn the siddur and know it well. Today’s pathway refers to actual prayer itself. This pathway suggests making prayer a major priority in one’s life. Make a commitment once and for all to do it right. No more hasty davening or mumbling words. Make a commitment to prepare for prayer. Learn techniques on how to pray in a successful way.

Practical Suggestions –1. Aryeh Kaplan has an excellent article in the Aryeh Kaplan Reader on how to have cavanah (mindful understanding) in prayer. It is very worthwhile to read and gives many excellent suggestions.

2. Start with one blessing a week in the Shmoneh Esrei or one section of the prayer service and really work on your cavannah. Take a new blessing or section every week and work on your cavanah with that section.

3. Come to davening 5 minutes early and clear out your mind before you begin to pray.

With proper effort one can, through prayer, rise to a very strong connection to the Al-mighty.

PATHWAY NUMBER 3-TALK TO G-D

The Chofetz Chaim was known to separate himself from people for a few hours each day to be alone, in order to contemplate life and turn his gaze inward to take stock of himself. He was also known to talk to G-d during this period each day.

“At times, individuals managed to follow him surreptitiously, and from some place of hiding they were able to listen to his tearful words that could shake any soul to Its depths and evoke tears and thoughts of repentance.” He would speak In an audible voice, sharp and clear. . . He began as a rule by giving thanks and praise to the blessed Lord for the kindness He had bestowed on him; and he regarded everything as a great privilege and kindness that he did not deserve. So he expressed his gratitude for all the Divine goodness… (The Chofetz Chaim, Volume 2, Chapter 68, In the Attic, Artscroll Publications)

Of course, it goes without saying that we shouldn’t be taking a few hour a day out of our learning in order to talk to G-d. We are not the Chofetz Chaim who barely slept at all at night. Rather this pathway suggests taking out a few minutes everyday to talk to G-d from the depths of your heart.

Practical Suggestions –1. You can do this every day during the prayer service at the proper place in the service, you can go down to the Kotel once a week between seder hour to do this, or you take some of your free time also between seder hours to do this.

Talking to G-d for a few minutes a day can be a very powerful tool in helping develop a strong relationship with Him.

PATHWAY NUMBER 4-WRITE YOUR OWN PRAYERS

It was always a custom of great Rabbis to compose their own prayers to help open up their hearts. This pathway suggests that a person sit down and write out a prayer that will move his heart to be inspired in an area that he wants to grow in. For example, many yeshiva students have a custom of saying a prayer at the beginning and ending of their day’s studies. Let’s say you are working on an area you want to correct in your learning, like not talking so much during seder hours or learning stronger, why not write out a 2 or 3 line addition to that prayer asking G-d for the strength to learn harder and stronger without interruptions. Or maybe you are working on not speaking Loshon Hora, why not write out a prayer that will inspire you not to speak it and say it after every davening.

Practical Suggestions –1. Choose an area that you really want to improve in and are motivated to pray for.

2. Then sit down a write a prayer that will stir your emotions to conquer the thing you are trying to beat.

3. Figure out a proper time to say it when you know you will have cavanah (mindful intention).

PATHWAY NUMBER 5-REFLECT ON NATURE

How does one achieve love of the Creator and reverence for Him? When a person contemplates His great acts and wondrous creations, seeing In them an Infinite and timeless wisdom, he immediately loves, praises and glorifies the Creator, yearning eagerly to know His grandeur. (Rambam, Yesodei HaTorah 2.2)

The heavens relate the glory of G-d, and the firmament declares His handiwork (Tehillim 19.1).

Lift up your eyes on high and see Who created these Who brings you their host by number, Who calls them all by names.” (Isaiah 40.26)

The phenomena of the physical world are to be compared to lighted signs on the highway at night which constantly flash the message “Keep awake! Keep awake! This message is of such urgency that it must continuously be reiterated, or else the results would be disastrous. We too are urged not to fall asleep at the wheel on the highway of life; because the recognition of the Creator’s greatness is not merely an achievement in our lives, but is life itself and is the sole justification of life. Therefore the Creator fashioned the world in such a manner that the message Is being flashed to us from all sides. (Awake My Glory, Avigdor Miller, P. 283)

This pathway suggests spending a certain amount of time each week when you are not learning to contemplate the wondrous creations of G-d. If one learns how to see the amazing wonders of creation, this can be a tremendous inspiration to growing in your relationship to G-d.

Practical Suggestions –1. Read the works of Rabbi Avigdor Miller, which, in general, are filled with many examples of the wonders of creation. See “Awake My Glory”, Chapter 17 or ‘Sing You Righteous” Chapter 7 for just a few great examples.


2. Pay attention to startling natural phenomena, such as electrical storms, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and tornadoes. These powerful phenomena can lead one to powerful awe of the Al-mighty.

3. When you are taking a walk on Shabbat take the time to contemplate the wonderful natural world that surrounds you.

PATHWAY #6-DO ONE MITZVAH RIGHT

We are commanded to love G-d, as it is stated, “And you shall love the L-rd your G-d.” The substance of the precept Is that we should consider and reflect on His commandments . . . until we attain a concept of Him according to our ability, and we can then feel joy In perceiving Him with the utmost delight. (Sefer HaChinuch, mitzvah 418)

Did you ever sometimes get the feeling that you are overwhelmed by doing so many mitzvos and not really doing any of them with excellence. This pathway suggests taking one mitzvah that you do frequently and become an expert in it. By learning about one mitzvah on a very deep level, and then really trying to perfect yourself in its service, you will come to appreciate the power of a mitzvah and the One that gave it.

Practical Suggestions – 1. Choose a mitzvah that you always wanted to perform and know well. Options might be shma, shmoneh esreh, t’fillin, birchat cohanim (if you are a cohen), mezuzah.

2. Learn the halachos of that mitzvah well. Really take the time to get clear on all its confusing aspects.

3. After you have learned the halachos start researching what the commentaries have to say about the meaning behind the mitzvah. Look up the verse associated with that mitzvah in the Chumash and start hunting down what the commentaries have to say about it. See if there is a book that comments on this subject in depth. Take good notes on the subject.

4. Make goals for improving your performance of the mitzvah. For example, if you are working on the mitzvah of saying the shma, then write down that you want to have deep cavannah initially on the first paragraph and then try to improve your performance.

5. After you have achieved your goal in the knowledge and performance of this mitzvah, take a moment to reflect how good you feel now that you have perfected aspects of the mitzvah. Reflect on the power of having a mitzvah known and performed well.

6. Finally, reflect on the goodness of G-d that gave you the mitzvah in the first place to grow and achieve your potential.

The amazing power of doing a mitzvah and perfecting your service in it, can show you the power of mitzvahs in general. When a person contemplates the wondrous aspects of a mitzvah that help him reach perfection, it will lead him to a powerful love of G-d.

PATHWAY NUMBER 7-HAVE A TIME TO RELATE TO G-D DIRECTLY BEFORE YOU GO TO SLEEP

Master of the World, Behold I forgive anyone that angered me or provoked me or that sinned against me whether to my body or my money or my honor or in anyway having to do anything with me… May It be your will L-rd my G-d and G-d of my fathers that I won’t sin again and that I won’t return to my sins. (The confession before Krias Shma Al HaMita)

It has always been a custom of the Jewish People to speak to G-d directly before we go to sleep telling
Him that we that forgive others and doing teshuva for anything that one has done wrong on that day. This is a perfect time to reflect and introspect on your relationship to G-d in general and to see if you have fulfilled your purpose on this earth. This is the time to evaluate if you have fulfilled your goals in relating to
G-d.

SUMMARY

Everyone has their own way to get close to G-d. And everyone has a different pathway. The purpose of this set of suggestions is for someone to choose a direction or two in his Avodas Hashem (Service of G-d), and start to actively work on doing something that will bring him closeto G-d in a very practical and substantial way. So now is the time. Take a pathway and choose the direction in which you want to go.

TAKING STOCK OF WHERE WE ARE IN THE MONTH OF ELUL

We have almost completed the second week of the month of Elul. And now we have to ask ourselves:Where are we holding with respect to the overall purpose of Elul?

Are we waking up to the power of the High Holy Days?

Are we preparing for the upcoming days of judgement?

Do we feel that we are waking up to what life is supposed to be all about?

If you find that the answer is no to all or most of the above questions, the time has come to get to work.

Any intelligent person who is scheduled for trial before a mortal king of flesh and blood will surely spend sleepless nights and days preparing his case. He will seek the advice of every knowledgeable person he knows that can help him prepare his case. He will go to great lengths to attain a favorable verdict, even if all that is at stake is but a small part of his fortune and he faces no personal risk. Should he not do so as well when he is brought to judgement before the Supreme King of Kings, the Holy Blessed One, when he himself, his children, and his fortune all hang in the balance?…Therefore, it is important to begin preparing for Rosh HaShana at least thirty days earlier, from Rosh Chodesh of the month of Elul. This is the minimum time required to rouse oneself fully from one’s yearlong stupor. (Menoras HaMeor-The Ten Days of Teshuva, Rabbeinu Yitchak Abohav)

If you haven’t yet begun to get started on the work of Elul, then now is the time to get to work. There is not too much time left.

Next week, with the help of G-d, we will be exploring the world of teshuva and Slichos.

2.03 Week 2-Developing A Relationship With G-d: Pathways to G-d-Part 1

2.03 DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH G-D: PATHWWAYS TO G-D Part 1

NTRODUCTION

Yesterday we spoke about the need to make G-d the major priority in our lives. We also spoke about the importance of studying every day the things that will bring us close to Him. The following are a few suggestions for long and short term projects that one can undertake to develop a greater relationship to G-d.

THE NEED TO EXPERIMENT

When trying to build a relationship with G-d it is essential to realize that your soul is a complicated puzzle. Your goal is to try to solve it. No one knows the way to get you close to G-d. Only you can discover the secret. It requires a certain amount of experimentation on your part. It also requires a realization that it might take a few unsuccessful attempts until you find a methodology that works. So take one of these pathways and get to work. Choose the one that is most appropriate to who you are and get started.

WARNING

It must be clearly understood that these projects should not interfere with any of your other Yeshiva obligations. They should be done in the unscheduled free time of your day. Please consult with your Rebbe or Program Director on any decisions that you make.

PATHWAY NUMBER 1-LEARN THE SIX CONSTANT MITZVOS

The Sefer HaChinuch, the famous work on the 613 mitzvos, wrote in his “Author’s Note” about the different types of mitzvos that we are required to fulfill. He writes about a series of mitzvos that are different from all the other ones:

The obligation to observe most of the other mitzvos does not apply constantly, but only for certain times of the year or day. The following six precepts, though, are an exception; their obligation is constant; it is not interrupted or removed from a person for even one moment in all his days. These are:

1. To believe in G-d
2. Not to believe in anything other than Him
3. To Know He is One
4. To Love Him
5. To Fear Him
6. Not to turn after the thoughts of the heart or the sight of the eyes

The Six Constant Mitzvos are the backbone of all of Judaism. Without a proper awareness of what they are and how to do them, one is truly missing the most powerful tools that exist to get to G-d. If one hasn’t had a class on them or hasn’t studied them, now is the time to resolve to understand them once and for all.

Practical Suggestions — 1. Find an older student who has learned the material and ask him to teach them to you.

2. Aish HaTorah has a pamphlet called ‘The Six Constant Mitzvos.” It can be very helpful for a beginner to the subject.

3. Study the Six Constant Mitzvos in the Sefer HaChinuch. For those who can’t read about them in Hebrew, Feldheim Publishers has an excellent English translation.

4. Listen to some of the tapes in the library on the subject.

With the High Holy Days fast approaching, and people making various resolutions to become close to G-d, make a commitment to learn this very important topic.

PATHWAY NUMBER 2-STUDY THE SIDDUR AND KNOW IT WELL

The Siddur, constitutes a major Torah compendium which includes a large portion of the Holy Scriptures. It includes also the compositions of Ezra and the Men of the Great Assembly, including a number of the last prophets, who were the authors of the Brachos (including the Shmoneh Esrei). The use of the Siddur is therefore a means of learning and it is the study of the fundamentals of Torah ideology in their most abstract and generalized form. By proper use of the regular prayers they can serve as a table of contents and an index to almost all of the general principles of the Torah and the duties of the Heart and the ways of Love and Fear of Hashem. Thus the study of the siddur is an important form of Torah learning, and is also a major method of gaining greatness of soul and acquiring the True Knowledge. (Praise My Soul, R. Avigdor Miller, p. 8)

R. Avigdor Miller is telling us about a second pathway to G-d. When one considers that he spends close to two hours a day in prayer, the obvious conclusion should be that one should know its meaning. R. Avigdor Miller is emphasizing that the Siddur can add for us tremendous insights about how to get close to G-d.

Practical Suggestions  1. Since we are now in the month of Elul, the obvious place to begin is to learn the Machzor of the High Holy Days. Look at an Artscroll or Metzudah Machzor and begin to study the Shmoneh Esrei of the Shacharis and Musaf Services.

2. For those who know Hebrew, try Sifse Chaim by R. Chaim Freidlander. In the back of the sefer there is an excellent supplement called Rinas Chaim which gives beautiful explanations of the holiday prayers. You can also try the Otser HaTfillos . For those who need an English text, try The Shemoneh Esrei: Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur by R. Aaron Werner. Another possibility is the Hirsch Siddur or the World of Prayer by Rabbi Munk.

3. For the rest of the year, try to make a commitment to study the meanings of the prayers. For practical suggestions on how to do this, see the Tisha B’av Series, Sheet number 15, page 2.

PATHWAY NUMBER 3-LEARN AGADA

One of the greatest ways to get close to is from the study of the Agadic literature is spread out all over the Torah:

Is it your desire to know the One that spoke and the world came into being? Learn Agada. (Sifre, Ekev 49.11.22)

The Sifre is telling us that the Agada as a form of learning has the power to bring us to know G-d in a very powerful way.

Practical Suggestions — Unfortunately, Agada can be very difficult. It is not always easy to understand its true meaning. Therefore one should study it with someone who is knowledgeable enough in Torah to give you the correct understanding.

1. Remember all those fascinating Agadas that when you studied in your Gemora Shiur you studied the “Pshat” (the basic meaning) and you always wanted to go back to understand them more in depth? Hunt around during Bein HaZman (yeshiva intercession) for a Rav that has some spare time. Then have him teach it to you. See in a deeper way what the piece is trying to tell you. Pull out an Ein Yaakov (the classic set of commentaries on the Agada) and try to gain even deeper insights into it.

2. For those who don’t have access to a Ray, try to find a book that will take the place of the Ray so that you won’t make a mistake in understanding its meaning. An excellent example of this is The Juggler and the King by Rabbi Aaron Feldman.

If you do this over a period of time, you will realize the power of the Agada to bring a greater and more powerful understanding of who G-d is and how to get close to Him.

PATHWAY NUMBER 4-LEARN A PIECE OF TORAH VERY DEEPLY AND APPRECIATE IT AS AN AMAZING GIFT FROM G-D

It is stated, “You shall Love the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and all your soul and your might.” While it is stated, “and you shall love” this does not tell me how a man is to love G-d. Therefore the Torah states, “And these words which I command you today shall be on your heart (Dvarim 6.6): for as a result of this you- will “recognize” the One who spoke and the world came into existence. (Sifre, Dvarim #33)~ In other words, by reflecting (hitbonneut) on the Torah, the love of G-d settles in your heart.(The Sefer Hachinuch Mitzvah 418):

This pathway suggests that you take a topic that has always interested you in Torah and then study it on a very deep level. Take a topic, verse, or mitzvah and study it from many different angles. Research it as deep as you can, and just when you think you have gone as deep as you possibly can, go even a little more in depth. When you do this you will see the beauty of the Torah. If you enjoy this, just imagine the tens of thousands of other topics like this in the Torah.

Now take a moment to reflect on the beauty and genius of the Torah. In every area of life, there are so many ingenious and wonderful things that the Torah has to offer. This is precisely the moment to sit down and realize the greatness of G-d who gave you such a present. It is also the time to realize that the giving of the Torah is a sign of G-d’s total love for us. With these thoughts according to the Sefer HaChinuch you will come to ”recognize” G-d.

PATHWAY NUMBER 5-TAKE EACH ONE OF THE 613 MITZVOS AND SEE WHAT IT TEACHES YOU ABOUT A RELATIONSHIP WITH G-D

The 613 Mitzvos seem like a vast and endless ocean and many times we don’t understand how they relate to a greater understanding of G-d and life. What does the Beis HaMikdash teach me about G-d? What does Tuma and Tahara (purity and impurity) teach me about G-d? Why not explore the world of the 613 and see how they enable you to reach and understand G-d in a powerful and exciting way.

Practical Suggestions — Take a piece of paper or an index card and write down on the top the mitzvah name and number. Research the meaning of each mitvah in the various different mitvahs books and develop a workable pshat as to how each mitvah brings you closer to G-d or teaches about G-d in one fashion or another. This method has been proven successful to help people to see G-d and how He relates to everything in every aspect of one’s life.

PATHWAY NUMBER 6-STUDY THE MEANINGS BEHIND ALL THE HOLIDAYS

Every holiday is a phenomenal opportunity to get closer to G-d. Each of the mitzvahs of the holiday period is a tool to accomplish what is the purpose of the holiday. This pathway suggest to have a set time in understanding the holidays all year round, for a half hour a day. Start at the most upcoming holiday and spend a month on researching all the pertinent aspects of the Holiday including the mitvahs, the scroll relating to the Holiday (i.e. Eichah, Ruth, Shir HaShirim), the customs, the halachos etc.

If a person does this all year around, he will find that he will be prepared for all the holidays that come around. One won’t have that sinking feeling of having to cram in all the aspect of a holiday just a few days before it begins.

SUMMARY

Now is the time to take practical steps to get close to G-d. Try one of the options presented, then refine it and make it more powerful to you. If it doesn’t work, then choose another and try again. The main thing is to – make the attempt and then Hashem will surely open up the avenues to help you find the answer. Tommorow we will be discuss ing more Pathways to grow to a relationship to G-d.

2.02 Developing A Relationship With G-d : The Greatest Priority

2.02 DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH G-D: THE GREATEST PRIORITY

When Elul and the High Holy Days come around, we normally make very deep and profound resolutions that this year will be different and we will truly work on getting close to G-d. Then the year zooms past us and we somehow don’t seem to achieve what we claimed was our top priority.

Why does that happen? And what can we do in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again? Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, the Ramchal, (1707-1746) in the introduction to his classic work the “Mesilas Yesharim’ (The Path of the Just) deals with this question extensively.

The following sheet is a condensed presentation of the Introduction to the “Mesillas Yesharim.” It offers no novel insights. But there is no greater and more powerful message for the month of Elul than to get into one’s heart what the Ramchal wrote in his Introduction over 250 years ago to the people of his generation.

G-D ASKS ONLY ONE THING FROM YOU: DO THE THINGS THAT BRING YOU CLOSE TO HIM

The most important goal of our lives should be to develop a deep relationship with G-d:

And now Israel, what does the L-rd your G-d ask of you, but that you fear the L-rd your G-d to walk in all His ways, and to love Him and serve the L-rd your G-d with all your heart and all your soul, to observe the mitzvos of G-d and His statutes…(Devarim 10.12)

THERE ARE NOT THAT MANY ROLE MODELS IN THE AREA OF RELATING TO G-D

The Ramchal wrote that in his generation the majority of capable individuals were not involved in the pursuit of a relationship with G-d:

A consideration of the general state of affairs will reveal that the majority of men of quick intelligence and keen mentality devote most of their thought and speculation to the subtleties of wisdom and the depths of analysis each according to the Inclination of his intelligence and his natural bent. There are some who expend a great deal of effort in studying the creation and nature. Others devote all of their thoughts to astronomy and mathematics, and others to the arts. There are those who go more deeply into sacred studies, into the study of the holy Torah, some occupying themselves with Halachic discussions, others with Midrash and others with legal decisions. There are few, however, who devote thought and study to perfections of Divine service — to love of G-d. fear of G-d. cleaving to G-d and all of the other aspects of piety.

This Elul we have to ask ourselves which of these groups do we belong to: to those who devote their time and energy to perfecting their relationship to C­d, or to those who do not.(see Note Below)

EVERYONE ADMITS THAT GETTING CLOSE TO G-D IS THE TOP PRIORITY, BUT THEY STILL DON’T WORK ON IT

What happens when you ask people why they don’t spend the proper amount of time on the study of how to get close to G-d? The Ramchal answers this question:

It is not that they consider this knowledge unessential; if questioned each one will maintain that it is of para­mount importance and that one who is not clearly versed in it cannot be deemed truly wise.

Their failure to devote more attention to it stems rather from it being so manifest and so obvious to them that they see no need for spending much time upon it.

Now we have the answer as to why people neglect this subject. It is too obvious to them. And since it is so simple to them, they move on to more complicated matters and then totally forget about this important subject:

PEOPLE DON’T SUCCEED IN THEIR DIVINE SERVICE BECAUSE IT DOESN’T REALLY OCCUPY A PLACE IN THEIR MIND

As a result of the fact that people don’t spend much time learning about G-d, their minds are not occupied with the service of G-d.

The real, desired piety that we are looking for, is very far from our mind for It Is obvious that a person does not concern himself with what does not occupy a place In his mind.

IF YOU DON’T MAKE GETTING CLOSE TO G-D A MAJOR PRIORITY IN YOUR LIFE YOU WILL LOSE COUNTLESS OPPORTUNITIES TO DRAW CLOSE TO HIM

As a result of not having the service of G-d in our minds, we miss many opportunities to draw close to Him:

And though the beginnings and foundations of piety are implanted in every person’s heart, if he does not occupy himself with them, he will witness details of piety without recognizing them, and he will pass them up without feeling or perceiving that he is doing so.

WE NEED TO MAKE THIS STUDY OUR MAIN PRIORITY IN THE DAY

The conclusion that we should draw this Elul is that our biggest priority for the upcoming year must be the study of how to draw close to G-d. Nothing should budge us from this resolution:(see Note Below)

How, then, is it conceivable that is not be necessary to expend time upon this study in order to know these truths and the manner in which they may be acquired and fulfilled? How will this wisdom enter a person’s heart if he will not seek It… What will we answer in the day of reproof If we weaken In this study and forsake that which Is so incumbent upon us as to be the very essence of what the L-rd our G-d asks of us? Is it fitting that our Intelligence exert itself and labor in speculations which are not binding upon us, in fruitless argumentation, In laws which have no application to us, while we leave to habit and abandon to mechanical observance our great debt to our Creator … If we analyzed the matter honestly, would we not extract the truth and thereby benefit ourselves, and also be of benefit to others by Instructing them In it.

YOU MUST STUDY THIS SUBJECT IN DEPTH IN ORDER TO SUCCEED

When you study this subject, the only way to really integrate it is to study it slowly and in depth:

Fear of G-d and only Fear of G-d is considered wisdom. And there is no doubt that what entails no analysis is not considered wisdom. The truth of the matter is that all these things require deep study If they are to be known In truth and not through imagination and false logic. How much more so if they are to be acquired and attained.

YOU MUST SEARCH FOR THIS IN THE SAME WAY AS YOU HAVE GONE AFTER MONEY IN YOUR LIFE

One of the best ways to judge to what extent you should be motivated in this area is to ask yourself what you have done for money in the past and then apply that knowledge to your pursuit of G-d:

As stated by Shlomo, (Mishle 2.4), If you seek it as silver and search for it as a treasure, then you will understand the fear of G-d.” He does not say, ‘Then you will understand philosophy; then you will understand astronomy; then you will understand medicine; then you will understand legal judgements and decisions. We see, then, that for fear of G-d to be understood, it must be sought after as silver and searched for as a treasure. All this is part of our heritage and is accepted in substance by every devout individual.

The only way to succeed is to go after the pursuit of G-d the same way the rest of the world goes after money.

CONCLUSION

Now is the time to commit for the rest of the year to set aside time every day to work on how to get close to G-d:

Is it conceivable that we should find time for all other branches of study and none for thIs study? Why should a man not at least set aside for himself certain times for this speculation if he is obliged In the remainder of his time to turn to other studies and undertakings… That which the earthliness of nature seeks to remove from our hearts, reading and contemplation will summon to our consciousness and will awaken us to what is incumbent upon us.


*NOTE: It must be clearly understood that just because something is the major priority in your life, you don’t necessarily spend all of your day on it. Past experi­ence has shown that it just isn’t productive. The pur­pose of this sheet is to encourage setting the proper time aside to work on these subjects, not to reject all other priorities in learning. We mentioned in sheet three, that the Rosh Yeshiva suggested spending be­tween 30-60 minutes a day on these subjects, de­pending on your personality.

2.01 Week 2 – Developing A Relationship With G-d: Cleaving to G-d

2.01 DEVELOPING A RELATIONSHIP WITH G-D:  CLEAVING TO G-D

1. INTRODUCTION

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)

8. SUMMARY

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.

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