This small book is the first in a series of books detailing practical steps on how to attain the state of feeling attached to Hashem at all times. The Hebrew title – Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh – “In my heart, I will build a Sanctuary” sums up the three elements of the method. The goal is to create in oneself a sanctuary within which the Divine Presence will rest. The method is “building” – step by step in a concrete way that is both simple and profound. The tool is “my heart”. The author guides the reader on how to arouse his inner feelings using the medium of directed thought (and speech as well, for extra effect.) The author of this sefer, who prefers to remain anonymous, has studied the full spectrum of sefarim in Torah literature that discuss how to best serve Hashem. Using an eclectic approach, he has developed a method that speaks to the hearts of Jews from all walks of life. As a book-store owner in Yerushalayim put it, “His sefarim are lapped up by the entire spectrum, from modern Orthodox youths to Mea Shaarim chassidim!” To present his ideas, he does not delve into philosophical discussions, nor does he quote many sources. He just shows how by constantly repeating basic fundamentals of emunah one can gain a different perspective on life in this world. The style may appear at first to be over-repetitive. This is done deliberately, since most people will read something once and then read on. The author therefore does the repetition for you, showing how, by restating the apparently obvious, the ideas penetrate from the mind to the heart. The translation is fairly literal with an attempt to retain the direct style of the original, presented in readable English. This translation includes some additional paragraphs not included in either the original Hebrew or the Yiddish, Spanish or Russian editions. These were taken (with the author’s permission) from cassette recordings of the shiurim on which this sefer is based. [We have marked them off with square brackets]. The author refers to Hashem most often as “Haboreh Yisbarach” – the Creator, blessed be He. This term is used very commonly in sefarim hakedoshim. It is extremely germane to the topic being discussed, namely the awareness that Hashem’s presence permeates all of creation. We have used the terms “Hashem” and “the Creator” interchangeably so that the reader will feel comfortable with the mode of reference. It is our sincere hope that this work will help prepare our generation for the much awaited times of Moshiach when “the earth will be filled with knowledge of Hashem…”
Yerushalayim, Shevat 5768
Section 1 Clarifying the Purpose of Life
The primary task of a person’s service of Hashem is to clearly identify the purpose of his life.
Let us begin with a brief introduction.
Every Jew knows as a matter of course that there is a Creator Who created the world, including oneself. He also sustains the entire world, including oneself.
The Creator of the world tells each person what He expects of him. The root of the problem, however, lies in the fact that the person does not have a clear idea of what Hashem wants from him. What exactly does Hashem ask and expect him to do in his life?
One might ask, “Are we dealing with someone who does not know that we have a Torah given to us from Heaven? We have already received the Torah, which explains that man’s purpose throughout his life is to fulfill the 613 mitzvos!”
However, the truth is that the world is called olam, which relates to the word he’elem, concealment, because here, in this world, there is tremendous confusion. It is Hashem’s will that as long as one does not yearn and work very hard to ascertain precisely, “What does Hashem, your G-d, seek from you,” he will not know it. His life will progress with confusion and obscurity, and he will not have a method of how to serve the Creator.
The point is that although undoubtedly, a person knows that he must keep the 613 mitzvos, service of Hashem is not merely the fulfillment of unrelated mitzvos whenever they present themselves. Rather, the 613 mitzvos must be fulfilled as if one is building an edifice, so that the mitzvos will build a person properly. Therefore, there needs to be a clearly defined method of fulfilling the mitzvos in an organized, structured form. One must know what is to be the beginning of the structure, its continuation, and what is the goal of fulfilling all the mitzvos. In other words, a person must clarify how fulfilling mitzvos builds his soul, and what process to follow in order to achieve this.
There are six hundred and thirteen mitzvos given to man, but he must identify and choose with which of these mitzvos to begin. (Obviously, there are mitzvos that apply daily, and those that apply at specific times, and we know when to fulfill them. We are not discussing these.) There is a mitzvah to love Hashem, and a mitzvah to fear Him, and another mitzvah to cleave to Him, and many such mitzvos. One must put them into a set order. Not knowing the correct order is a state of he’elem, confusion. When there is he’elem, it is difficult to attain the goal of the mitzvos.
First of all, before attempting to clarify these issues, there must exist a true desire to gain clarity in these matters. One must view life in a correct manner, understanding what our situation is in this world, namely, that our entire life is only for the purpose of serving Hashem. It is our obligation, as well as our privilege, to clarify the meaning of our life here. We must understand and appreciate that the place for our ultimate rest and pleasure is the world of reward, Gan Eden, Olam Haba. Our entire purpose here in this world is to serve Hashem. We must identify a clear, stable path which we will follow in order to serve Him.
The matters we will deal with here are not abstract ideas or the like, but a way of life in the most literal sense – a program of how to live a true life on earth, a life that brings a person to the desired goal. We will attempt to clarify the issues ascending from easier levels to more difficult ones, step by step, presenting a ladder of growth that is as clear to understand as possible. In this way, we will see before us a well established path for serving Hashem.
If we were to ask people – considering your present state, what would you regard as the most worthwhile and appropriate area in which to start your avodas Hashem? One person might respond that it seems to him that his weak point is diligence in Torah study, and, that is the area he must start working on to rectify. Another will reply that upon self-introspection he finds lashon hara to be his vulnerable point. He feels that he is not careful enough about guarding his tongue. Here and there words that are improper or forbidden escape his lips. A third would say that the issue he must begin with is shalom bayis. He feels that this is something that demands his immediate attention. He does not have enough patience with his family members. He does not include them sufficiently in his decision making process, and he does not provide adequate emotional support. And so, we would find many varied responses among people. It would seem, therefore, that each person would require his own custom-designed response as to what is the correct path for him to follow, depending on his unique situation. However, the truth is not quite so. Rather, there is one point that everyone, almost without exception, must begin with.
Every one of us has been sent from the higher world down to this world. Those who were worthy were sent here from Gan Eden, and those were not, were sent here from Gehinnom. The common denominator is that we all returned to this world to serve the Creator, blessed be He. Why did we return to this world? Some people are familiar with the sefarim hakedoshim and have seen in them that each person has returned in order to rectify at least one sin. That sin is his greatest challenge, and is the main deficiency he must repair over the course of his life in this world. But the truth is that even if a person is sent to rectify a particular sin, his work does not begin with the correction of that sin, but much prior to that. (This is generally the case, although there are some exceptions.) One can talk about fixing something when, for example, there is a house that has something damaged, such as a wall, a door, or the like. Then, one can say that the damage must be repaired. But if there isn’t even a house, there is no need to fix anything. First, there must be a house, and then, there can be a need to fix it.
This is also the case with our avodah of the Creator in this world. Even if in fact, a person has come here to rectify a particular sin, that does not mean that his entire task is limited to rectifying that sin, and that his work begins and ends there. Rather, each person must first develop himself, building in his soul a well-founded structure of avodas Hashem. Only after he has built himself in a true way, will the focal point of his avodah be to rectify the sin for which he was sent into this world. But, he first needs a well-founded structure in the soul, a sound framework of avodas Hashem which is properly set up and well-defined.
Furthermore, there are cases when a person rectifies the sin of his previous incarnation in a few minutes. Is the rest of his life, then, a waste? Definitely not! Rather, it is clear that each person must build up his soul from beginning to end, and in addition, pay special attention to the sin for which he was sent back into this world. If so, we see that that particular detail is not his main work at all times. Rather, there is a general reason as to why all people come down to this world. One must first clarify what this reason is, and when that becomes clear, it must be forever present in his mind, and kept in sight at all times. This is necessary so that every moment he is alive, the reason why he is alive at that moment must guide his life. One must therefore live with this purpose in mind day after day, hour after hour, literally attending to it each moment. That is to say, that the knowledge of the reason for our existence is not merely a piece of information, but rather, an understanding and awareness to which one’s entire life must be attuned. Therefore, each moment, one must adapt his thoughts, feelings, and deeds to this reason. When a person knows and understands the reason for his existence, he will understand that even his personal rectification is connected to this general reason and is really part of it.
We will provide an example: a carpenter takes a saw in one hand and a board in the other and begins to saw. If, while sawing the board, his thoughts are preoccupied with other matters and he does not put his mind to the task, it is likely that the cut will be faulty, the board will slip out of his hand, or he might, G-d forbid, even cut his hand. This may happen even though when he took the saw in hand, he knew clearly what he was doing and why he was doing it, and he knows how to use this saw. Nevertheless, when he is actually sawing, all this escapes his mind, and he is thinking about something else completely.
The same applies to our discussion. Chazal have said that a judge must imagine that a sword is placed between his thighs (and a small error would be dangerous). Rav Yisrael Salanter zt”l has said that this applies to each person, for everyone is a judge over himself. Our work in this world is comparable to the case of the carpenter. If, chas veshalom, one is distracted from the purpose and goal of life, he is in constant danger. Thus, after one clarifies the purpose of his life, he must live with this knowledge on a daily basis, hour by hour, literally “tested moment by moment.” The knowledge of the purpose of life is not just a fact that one hears about, writes down, and then files away for the record, cleaning off the dust once a year before Pesach. This knowledge must be experienced, lived, and breathed, so that one is totally attuned to it.
What, in fact, is the purpose of man’s life in his world? The purpose of life is well-known, yet it is not really known. It is well-known, because one reads about it, hears about it, and so on. Yet in truth, it is not known. If one would know it properly (the Hebrew word for knowledge is yediah, which means connection), and would internalize this knowledge, his whole way of life would necessarily change. If a person would apply the entire weight of his spiritual energy toward this fact and have a burning commitment to the truth, he would take a paper and pen and record for himself the purpose of his life. He would place this paper in his pocket and take it out every quarter of an hour or so, in order to constantly remind himself about it, so that this fact will not be forgotten by him and he will live by it.
What, in truth, is the purpose of a man in his world? The words of the Mesillas Yesharim are known. He wrote, “The truth is that the only true perfection is deveikus to Hashem. This is what David Hamelech declared: “As for me, closeness to Hashem is my good… .” In other words, if one wants to know what makes a man fulfilled, he should consider what David HaMelech understood to be good for himself. If it was good for him, it is good for every single one of us. He said, “As for me, closeness to Hashem is my good.”
No one is interested in a broken table or chair. No one wants to sleep on a broken bed. All the more so, deep down, no one wants to be a broken person, but rather, a complete person. (There is a concept of a broken heart, but that is not relevant here.) What is a complete Jew? One who doesn’t lack hands? Who doesn’t lack legs? No, that is only superficial physical completeness. True perfection, namely, the inner completeness of the soul, is derived from closeness to Hashem. the Ramchal wrote in Mesillas Yesharim, “The truth is that the only true perfection (the true perfection of every single person without exception) is deveikus to Hashem.” And he concludes, “Anything else considered good by people is vanity and deceptive emptiness.”
This is all a Jew really has in life – closeness to and deveikus to Him. The entire essence of a Jew is to be close to Hashem and to cleave to Him. It is not only in the World to Come that a man’s ultimate purpose is to cleave to the Creator. Even here in this world, man’s task and purpose is to achieve deveikus. Any moment that a person does not cleave to the Creator, he is for that moment, an incomplete human being. He lacks true completeness, which is deveikus to Hashem.
A sincere person, who hears these words and truly accepts them in his soul, must take these words of the Ramchal and write them on a sheet of paper and place the sheet in his pocket. About every fifteen minutes he will remove the paper from his pocket, and contemplate its contents well, (so that these words will be before his eyes at all times). He will remind himself constantly: why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? The answer is – deveikus to Hashem. He will read the words again and again until they stand alive before his eyes and he no longer needs to look at the paper. He will live with a clear inner conviction of the purpose of life and will constantly seek ways to actualize the true objectives of his very existence.
The time during which a person recalls the purpose of his life is the time in which he is truly alive (other than the time in which he is learning Torah, as will be explained later, with the help of Hashem). Those times, during which he forgets the Creator, the individual cannot be considered fully alive. A person needs to be revived from this death-like existence at all times. The revival will be by remembering why he is alive and what his purpose is in this world. Even when a person fulfils mitzvos, he must remember that the essence of a mitzvah lies in its connection to the root – tzavta, companionship, as the sefarim hakedoshim explain. That is to say, the ultimate purpose of mitzvos is to become a companion (tzavta) to the Creator, to be close and attached to Him. Without this realization, the inner essence of the mitzvah is lacking, and it is like a body without a soul.
“Hashem, the Torah and Yisrael are one.” That is to say, the Torah – its learning, and the fulfillment of its mitzvos – must be kept in a manner that brings to unity, in a way that enables man to cleave to the Torah and to the Creator. This is the purpose of one’s life: attachment to the Torah and to Hashem.
“Closeness to Hashem is my good.” This is not merely a piece of information or a slogan; it is the reality of life. It does not merely apply to Pesach or Shavuos or Succos. It applies to every moment of one’s life, 365 days a year, 24 hours a day (for someone who merits cleaving to the Creator even in his sleep), 60 minutes an hour. This is the entire existence of man – to be close to the Creator and to cleave to Him, to feel that, “closeness to Hashem is my good.” Certainly, to live this way, one needs a clearly-defined method in his avodas Hashem in order to attain deveikus to the Creator literally every moment. But before we describe this method, the purpose of life must be absolutely clear to a person, beyond any shadow of a doubt. It must be clear to him that the purpose of life is to feel close and attached to the Creator literally every moment – an inner attachment with every fiber of one’s being. In other words, before we begin to describe the method, it must be absolutely clear which path we are in fact seeking, and where we want it to lead us. There must, therefore, be absolute clarity that the goal is “closeness to Hashem is my good.” This is the point that each individual must completely clarify to himself, until he really feels in his soul that this point, the purpose of life, is clear without any doubt.
Sometimes, while a person is clarifying for himself that the purpose of his life is closeness to Hashem, he may believe and entertain the thought that in order to cleave to the Creator, one must be removed from the world and be utterly detached from all worldly matters like Moshe Rabbeinu. He should know that such a thought is a product of the advice of the yetzer hara, who wants to distance a person from the truth and from the Creator. It tries, therefore, to portray closeness to Hashem in black colors, as something appropriate for only unique individuals but beyond the reach of an ordinary individual such as yourself.
Yet, the truth is that the Ramchal clearly states just the opposite. The Ramchal based his work Mesillas Yesharim on the teaching of Rav Pinchas ben Yair, who starts with the most basic level. He states that Torah study leads to watchfulness and progresses until the levels of Ruach Hakodesh and the ability to revive the dead. At the end of his work, after he directs the individual toward attaining these high and lofty levels, he writes as follows: “And you, pleasant reader, must realize as I do, that I have not completed in this work all the principles of saintliness…. It is obvious that each person, depending on his trade and his occupation, needs direction and guidance. The path of saintliness fitting for someone who is solely occupied with Torah study is not the path of saintliness appropriate for one who needs to hire himself out to work for another. And neither of these is the path of saintliness suited for someone who is engaged in commerce. And the same applies to all the details of a person’s involvement in the world. Each person, according to his situation, has aspects of saintliness suitable for him. It is not that the essence of saintliness changes, for it is certainly applicable to everyone, since it is nothing other than acting in a way that pleases the Creator.
However, since the conditions are different, it is impossible that the means leading to the goal will not change for each person according to his circumstances. One can be a complete saint if, due to necessity, he performs lowly work, just as much as one whose mouth does not pause from learning.” (This must be a real necessity, not laziness about learning Torah. This needs a true evaluation to ensure that he is not, chas veshalom, in the category of those who have forsaken the Torah. He must take counsel from a great man regarding this issue.) It is evident from his words that one can be a pious person who cleaves to his Creator to the extent that he will achieve Ruach Hakodesh and the ability to revive the dead, regardless of his occupation, be it Torah study or labor. This is provided that all his deeds are done truly for the sake of Heaven. He studies Torah to the extent that his time and ability allow, and he works only as much as is absolutely necessary and that too for the sake of Heaven. We see from this that anyone can cleave to the Creator, and this is not limited to rare individuals who are removed from all worldly matters.
We have learned, then, that first a person must fully clarify for himself that the purpose of life is to achieve closeness to Hashem. After that, he must be convinced that this is fully relevant to him, and that he is fit and qualified for this, beyond any shadow of a doubt.
Before we clarified the obligation and purpose of a person in his world, we introduced an idea and wrote that when the nature of one’s obligation and purpose becomes clear to a person, he must remember this purpose throughout the day. He must write for himself his purpose, and about every quarter of an hour, he should take it out of his pocket and read it, so that his purpose will always stand before him. If so, now that we have clarified that the purpose of a person in his world is closeness to Hashem and deveikus to Him, one must write on a sheet of paper that his purpose is to be close to the Creator, and try to remember it throughout the day, as we said above.
This is knowledge about life itself, about the essence of life, not just another piece of information. The following parable will help clarify what we mean: A person climbs a tree, and sits on one of the branches. Suddenly, the branch breaks and falls to the ground. The person immediately grabs onto the trunk of the tree. He senses that he must hold on to it constantly, lest he fall and die, chas veshalom. Hence, the knowledge that he must grasp the tree is not a mere piece of information. The person understands that his very life depends on it. If he would forget that fact, he would not naturally exert himself to hold on to the tree, and he would thereby endanger his entire life.
The very same is true with the issue at hand. A person must understand that his very life depends on this. He must constantly keep in sight the basic knowledge that the purpose of one’s life is to be close to the Creator. This must not be an ordinary kind of knowledge, rather, one must understand that his entire life depends on this, and if he forgets this knowledge, he places his whole life in jeopardy. Even before one knows how to cleave to his Creator, he must first set before his eyes the clear knowledge that man’s entire life depends on the awareness that his only goal is to be close and attached to the Creator.
The Ramchal teaches that the “Tree of Life” is named so based on the passuk: “And you, who cleave to Hashem, your G-d, are all alive today.” The essence of life is, “And you who cleave to Hashem….” That is called life. When, chas veshalom, a person does not cleave to his Creator, he is in a state akin to what Chazal say: “The wicked are called dead even when alive.” Even though outwardly and physically, such people are living, they lack the true vitality, which is deveikus to the Creator. Since they lack this, they are described as dead. The passuk states: “And you, who cleave to Hashem, your G-d, are all alive today.” When there is a fulfillment of “And you, who cleave to Hashem, your G-d,” there is life. If this is not present, then life is not being truly lived, chas veshalom.
We must contemplate these words and understand them well, impressing them deeply into our hearts. We are dealing with the entire essence and purpose of man. The purpose of man is, “And you, who cleave to Hashem, your G-d, are all alive today.” That is the entire essence of man, as the Ramchal wrote, “‘As for me, closeness to Hashem is my good.’ Anything else deemed good by people is vanity and deceptive emptiness.” Let us internalize this idea, that in fact there is nothing else meaningful in life besides closeness and deveikus to Hashem, and that all of the 613 mitzvos are only means to reach this goal. Undoubtedly, one needs a method by which to take these words to heart. Nonetheless, we will first clarify the matter in our minds with absolute clarity. It must become perfectly clear that the essence of life is closeness and deveikus to Hashem, and nothing else. All our actions, whether physical or spiritual, are only means to becoming attached to the Creator, and the most powerful means is the Torah Hakedoshah.
The conclusion of all we have said is that one must have a clear desire to cleave to Hashem literally each moment, and to truthfully want it. Then, when he has this clear desire, his task is to seek a method by which to reach a state of deveikus to the Creator literally each moment. But first, one must maintain a clear awareness that this is in fact his purpose in life, and have a clear desire to achieve it. The greater one’s desire is to live with constant deveikus to Hashem, the greater will be his ability to toil and remove all the obstructions that prevent him from true attachment to his Creator. But if the desire and will are weak, any trivial, small hindrance will prevent him from achieving true deveikus to his Creator.
There is a well-known idiom that one “sees only the trees but not the forest.” Everything in the world serves a spiritual end, so we will use this saying for our purposes, to explain the proper lifestyle of deveikus to Hashem. There are 613 mitzvos, the main one being Torah study, as our Sages said, “Torah study is equal to all of them.” The 613 mitzvos are only the roots, the details are very numerous. The words of the Zohar, which describes the 613 mitzvos as 613 pieces of advice, are well-known. What is this advice for? The answer is that they direct us in how to cleave to the Creator!
That is to say, the mitzvos are not unrelated entities, but rather, a roadmap, indicators as to how to achieve deveikus to the Creator. The mitzvos, therefore, have two elements: there is the action or the speech specific to that mitzvah, and there is also the purpose of the mitzvah, which is to bring a person close to Hashem and achieve deveikus. The numerous details of the practical aspect of the mitzvos are the many trees of the forest. But we must not lose sight of the forest. From the standpoint of the inner essence and the ultimate goal, all the mitzvos have one end: closeness to Hashem and deveikus to Him.
Let us contemplate this with an example of one common mitzvah – donning a tallis. A man rises in the morning, goes to shul, and wraps himself in his tallis. He has fulfilled a Torah mitzvah. What is he thinking about as he does this? Actually, the first question should be not what he thinks about, but does he think at all. Quite possibly, his actions are done with virtually no thought (we refer to contemplative thought; there is, of course, some practical thought). But let us assume that he does think. Let us analyze his thoughts while wrapping himself in the tallis. If he is thinking properly, he should be thinking as follows: since the halachah is that a Torah mitzvah requires intent, I intend that by wrapping myself in the tallis I shall fulfill a Torah mitzvah.
Let us think about this. We mentioned above that the Zohar describes the 613 mitzvos as 613 pieces of advice on how to become close to Hashem. If so, since a person wears a tallis day after day, week after week, for many years, why doesn’t he sense the closeness to Hashem that should have developed from the many times he fulfilled this mitzvah? The words of the Zohar, after all, are true and factual. It ought to be that everyone who has in mind daily to fulfill the Torah commandment of wrapping himself with a tallis should gradually feel in his heart more and more closeness to Hashem. Why do we find that there are not that many people who have merited attaining palpable closeness to Hashem through their daily wearing of the tallis? There must be a deeper and truer way to fulfill this mitzvah. We must search for what is lacking in the way we put on our tallis, to discover why the inner goal, which is palpable closeness to Hashem, does not result from our performance of this mitzvah, even among many fine people.
Let us try to understand the issue. We have mentioned only one example, wrapping oneself in a tallis. But we also learn Torah and fulfill numerous other mitzvos. What is it that prevents us from feeling close to Hashem through these mitzvos? Perhaps we fulfill the external conditions of the mitzvos, but for many of us they lack their inner essence and purpose, which is closeness to Hashem. We need to clarify how does one learn Torah and perform the mitzvos in a way that will generate an inner sense of palpable closeness to Hashem? “In my heart I will build a sanctuary.” This sums up the responsibility of every Jew. The mitzvos must bring him to a state where Hashem will be with him and dwell in his heart, and he will really sense it.
That being the case, we must now clarify how a person can continue learning Torah and observing the mitzvos, putting his maximum effort into this, and simultaneously transforming them into a path toward experiencing in his heart real closeness to Hashem. That is to say, we shall seek a method how a person can bring himself closer to his Creator, and reveal within the deeds that he is already doing a great energy and strength that will bring him to a true closeness to his Creator. All that we are suggesting is included in the comment of the Mesillas Yesharim that there are two ways of assessing one’s actions: examining and scrutinizing. There are certain behaviors that simply must be stopped. but even the deeds that should be continued must be scrutinized and constantly evaluated, so as to perform them in a more meaningful and proper way.
Let us summarize the ideas we have written up to this point. We first established that the purpose of man in his world is to live in a state of deveikus with the Creator. What is this deveikus? It is feeling Hashem in the heart, literally sensing Him (we will explain this later in detail). How often does one need to be close to the Creator? Each day and each hour of the day (with the exception of the time one is immersed in Torah study). A person must feel that just as he cannot exist without air to breathe, because he would die, chas veshalom, so too, he must strive to sense that his whole vitality comes from feeling closeness to Hashem. Without it, he is considered dead.
We also wrote that we need to clarify why Torah study, with which we are very involved, and the many mitzvos we fulfill, do not generate in our hearts the simple feeling of closeness and deveikus to Hashem. What is lacking in our Torah study and mitzvah fulfillment that they do not generate within us palpable closeness to Hashem?
Let us begin to clarify in more detail the concept of closeness to Hashem.
Who is the Creator? Has anyone ever seen Him? The passuk clearly states, “No person can see Me and live”! Even concerning His Glory, which Moshe Rabbeinu asked to see – “Show me now Your Glory” – Hashem said to him, “You will see that which is behind Me, but my Countenance cannot be seen.” Hashem Himself certainly cannot be seen at all. This is clear and obvious.
What do we mean when we speak of being close to the Creator, as in the passuk, “As for me, closeness to Hashem is my good.” What does it mean to be close to Hashem? There is a well-known statement of Chazal, “No place is devoid of Him.” In other words, Hashem is literally everywhere. If so, if we try to understand the concept of closeness to the Creator in a physical sense, in the manner that a chair might be close to a table, then we would all be considered close to the Creator, because wherever we are, the Creator is also present. Why, then, does one need to toil his entire life to achieve closeness to Hashem? After all, the moment one is born, one is immediately close to the Creator. What, then, is his life’s work?
Obviously, this is not the meaning of closeness to Hashem. When I sit near a table, I am close to the table. When I sit on a chair, I am close to the chair. But this kind of closeness is not the closeness to the Creator that we seek.
Closeness to the Creator is a completely different concept. Once we have clarified to ourselves the principle demonstrated earlier – that the entire purpose of one’s life is to be close and attached to the Creator – we must develop a clear concept of what kind of closeness this is. If the nature of this closeness to Hashem is unclear and one does not know what kind of closeness is meant, how can one find the way to acquire this closeness? If the goal of closeness to Hashem is undefined, then the way to achieve it will perforce remain unclear. A person should be prepared to pay millions – his entire fortune – just in order to understand this one point. For without it he does not know what he is supposed to gain from his entire life. What point is there in life if one doesn’t understand what it is about, what its purpose is, and what is his task in life? Can a person achieve closeness to Hashem without any concept of what it is? Can it be achieved automatically, without needing to know its essence and the way to achieve it?
Only after a person knows clearly where exactly he needs to get, can he work to find out how to get there. Take for example a person who is traveling on the road from Yerushalayim to Bnei Brak. If he is not at all aware that he wants to reach Bnei Brak, how can he know which road to take? There is no point in his trying to work out the route, since he might not want to get to Bnei Brak, but to Tzfas, in which case, his task would be to ascertain the road to Tzfas. It follows that a person must first clarify where he needs to go, only then will his task be to ascertain the road that leads to the desired destination.
If we would consider that it is impossible to clarify this concept of closeness to Hashem, then we will have to conclude that Hashem expects us to do something that we cannot understand. Can this be? It must be that this is something that can be understood by anyone. Our task is, therefore, to clarify this concept of closeness to Hashem.
A person who has not yet reached a clear understanding of true closeness to Hashem is not just ignorant about a detail of a particular topic; he is ignorant about the very essence of life. Life in this world, and all human activity, whether it be Torah study, mitzvos, or worldly matters, exist only to enable one to attach himself to his Creator. If he doesn’t know what cleaving to Hashem means, he has no clear understanding of the purpose of life, and no clear knowledge of the essence and inner purpose of all his deeds. He might learn Torah and fulfill mitzvos, but he does not know where these acts should lead him.
We will give an example: A man needs to buy a house. Over a period of twenty years, he saves a certain amount each month, until at the end of the period, he has enough money to buy a house. However, he does not know where to go to actually acquire a house. He sits and thinks about it, but he cannot figure out where to turn to buy a house. He consults with friends, and they direct him to some real-estate agents. He ignores their advice, and instead, sits and tries to figure out how he can find a house for sale. He goes from place to place and accomplishes nothing. This man has all the money he needs to buy a house, but he ends up without one, because he does not know where to go to find what he is looking for.
This man’s predicament is very similar to that of many people who keep mitzvos and learn Torah. They possess Torah and mitzvos, but they do not know how to use them to acquire the state of “In my heart, I will build a sanctuary.” They are unsuccessful in creating within the recesses of their soul a place for the light of Hashem to rest and to have Hashem dwell in their hearts.
The yetzer hara allows a person to learn Torah and observe mitzvos, but he conceals from him one simple point: what is the purpose of all this? It does not even allow him to think about the purpose. Rather, it keeps the individual in a state of habit, in which he learns Torah and does mitzvos without giving any thought to the point of it all. That is the power of the yetzer hara. It is prepared to give a person everything but the main thing. The purpose of it all is lacking, chas veshalom. Even if it allows a person to think about the fact that the goal is closeness to Hashem, it conceals from him what this means. Alternatively, the yetzer hara portrays it in various guises, distancing the person from a true understanding of his life. It might also convince a person that closeness to Hashem can only be achieved in Gan Eden and Olam HaBa, but in this world, it is beyond our comprehension. It plants in a person’s mind the notion that there is no need to understand closeness to Hashem, and that it will come automatically to anyone who toils in Torah and fulfills the mitzvos. The person then imagines that when he leaves this world and ascends to Shamayim, he will immediately sense a great and wondrous closeness to Hashem, depending on his level; but this is not a matter to be occupied with in this world.
The yetzer hara convinces the person that there is no need to be concerned with these hidden matters of Heavenly affairs, which is tantamount to desiring to know the future and the unknown. It tells a person that instead of being curious and looking into the hidden future, he should better use his time serving the Creator through Torah study and mitzvos in a simple way, and not become preoccupied with the issue of closeness to Hashem. These and many such arguments are commonly used by the yetzer hara. They are innumerable, but the common denominator is that a person is kept away from the will and desire to understand closeness to Hashem, and from achieving in his heart a palpable sense of attachment to Him. May Hashem help us ignore these suggestions of the yetzer hara, and to commit ourselves to clarifying the nature of true closeness to Hashem and how each and every one of us can and must achieve it.
We shall now attempt to describe in simple words the essence of closeness to the Creator. What is this closeness of which David Hamelech said, “As for me, closeness to Hashem is my good”?
The first question that must be asked is: Where is Hashem? When I wish to become close to a person, I must first identify his whereabouts. When I know his location, I can go there, stay near him, and be close to him. Likewise, when a person seeks and wishes to be close to Hashem, he must first clarify where is He to be found. If a person does not know where to find Hashem, how can he become close to Him?
Our Sages have clearly stated, “There is no place devoid of Him.” That is to say, He is present everywhere, as we say, “You existed before the world was created, and you exist after creation” (Morning Prayers). Just as before the world was created, Hashem was everywhere, so too, even after He created the world, although there is a world and created beings, Hashem is literally everywhere, and nothing prevents Him from being everywhere. To become close to Him, there is no need to leave the country or the city, or to even travel within the city. “For the matter is very close to you.” Hashem is everywhere! Therefore, a person can find Him and be close to Him anywhere.
If one thinks about this, one may ask a simple question about David Hamelech’s statement, “As for me, closeness to Hashem is my good.” Why did he use the word “closeness”? After all, if Hashem is found everywhere, He is present wherever the person is, even where his body is standing. He is not only close to a person; Hashem and the person are completely together. The term “closeness” is relevant when one thing is next to another, but if they are completely together, it is not really appropriate to use the term “closeness.”
But the truth is that such questions come from an attempt to define intellectually where Hashem is. Then, one decides that the term “closeness” does not adequately express the closeness between Hashem and man from a spatial perspective. But since closeness to Hashem and deveikus to Him do not relate to physical space at all, the question is irrelevant. This idea will be explained later on. However the question itself ought to arouse a person to clarify the true nature of closeness to Hashem. After he clearly understands and his soul clearly grasps the essence of closeness to Hashem, it becomes possible to conceive and grasp the distinction between closeness to Hashem and unity with Hashem. May Hashem give us the privilege to genuinely grasp these concepts.
We have clarified that closeness to Hashem is not related to space, but is a deeper kind of closeness. Let us first think about the concept of closeness in this world, and thereby, try to understand more profoundly what closeness to Hashem is in the spiritual world. We shall begin with an example. A man is sitting in his house and speaking on the telephone. During his conversation, a friend enters the house. The host indicates to his guest that he should wait a moment until the telephone conversation is finished. After he finishes talking, he apologizes for having kept him waiting, explaining that he was talking to a close relative. The guest then asks, “Who is the close relative? Where does he live?” The host provides his full name, and adds that he lives abroad. The guest then asks in surprise, “If he lives so far away, how could you have called him a close relative?” The host answers, “I didn’t mean that he is close from a perspective of space, but rather that he is closely related, he is my cousin.” In the physical world there are two kinds of closeness, spatial closeness and familial closeness, such as a father, a son, an uncle, a cousin, and so on. The familial closeness of a cousin is totally unrelated to space. Rather, since they have a family connection, they have a deep bond based on their common ancestry, which makes them emotionally close. In other words, the closeness is more profound than spatial closeness, because it is a relationship based on their common source. Since they share a source, there is a deep emotional closeness.
Having clarified that there are two kinds of closeness, one spatial and one familial, which generates emotional closeness and bonding, we shall continue to contemplate whether the two kinds of closeness are in anyway dependent on one another. Clearly, spatial closeness does not guarantee familial closeness, and familial closeness does not guarantee spatial closeness. In other words, one could be standing next to another person and have no emotional bond with him. In fact, the spatial closeness might actually cause an emotional distance, due to differences of opinion that can create a rift between the two.
Conversely, familial closeness that causes an emotional bond, or emotional closeness by itself, does not necessarily come with spatial closeness. Sometimes, the people closest to you, such as your father, son, or best friend, are spatially very far away, and yet that does not conflict with their emotional closeness in any way. Hence, spatial closeness does not guarantee familial closeness, and familial closeness does not guarantee spatial closeness.
Now, there is a distinction between the two. When we say that two people are spatially close, it is a condition that exists in the present. However, with emotional closeness, even though there is closeness in their souls, it might not be evident each moment. One may love his relative or friend, and be very attached to him, but the feeling is not always in the forefront of his mind. At specific times, it comes to the fore, such as at times of celebration or, chas veshalom, the opposite, when a person shares a difficult or painful experience with people who are close to him.
Now that we have clarified the essence of closeness in this world, we shall return to consider closeness to Hashem. Is it in any way similar to the kinds of closeness we are familiar with in this world?
As far as spatial closeness is concerned, we have already pointed out that nothing is as close to a person as Hashem, since “There is no place devoid of Him.” If so, Hashem and a person are in truth constantly really together, and they do not separate at all from each other. There is nothing else in this world that a person is always so close to. Even in a situation where there is constant closeness between two individuals, they do not actually exist in the same place. But Hashem and the person are always close to each other with an unparalleled degree of spatial closeness.
With regard to familial closeness or friendship, the passuk states explicitly, “You are children to Hashem, your G-d.” The passuk, “Do not forsake your Friend and your father’s Friend,” refers to Hashem as a “friend”. Hence, we are both the children of Hashem and His friends.”
Consequently, a person is already close to Hashem from a spatial perspective (“There is no place devoid of Him”), from a familial perspective (“You are children to Hashem”), and from a perspective of friendship (“Do not forsake your Friend and your father’s Friend”).
In what way, then, do we lack closeness to Hashem?
The main point is missing! In this world, when someone is close to something, he senses that he is close to it. If one is related to someone by virtue of being his father, son, uncle, or cousin, he senses the closeness. If one has a dear friend, he senses it; the soul feels it clearly. But the crucial question about the various kinds of closeness with Hashem that we have – space, family, and friendship – is: Do we feel that Hashem is close to us through all these relationships? When we say that, “There is no place devoid of Him,” do we merely know this fact intellectually, or do we actually sense that Hashem is with us everywhere? If we would sense it, it would be a constant awareness, since He is constantly with us. As to familial closeness, do we merely know in our minds that we are His children, or do we clearly feel it in our hearts, with a deep, permanent love like that of a son to his father? Likewise, when a person considers that Hashem is referred to as “your Friend,” is this merely another fact that he knows or does this friendship live and breathe within him?
We have seen that we are already close to Hashem in every way, but the problem for most people is that this is merely a piece of information. The real feeling of closeness, the feeling that Hashem is always near us and within us, the feeling that we are really His children and His friends, is what is lacking. We are close, but we don’t sense it. When we are physically close to something, we sense it, but when the closeness is spiritual, we might know of it, but we rarely feel it.
To gain a better sense of this idea, we will explore the issue and see how even in this physical world, not every kind of closeness can be felt. We will provide examples of both spatial and familial closeness, showing how a person might not be aware of them.
If, before the microscope was invented, we would have approached a person and asked him if there are any germs a few centimeters from his face, he would have categorically denied it. He would have been willing to swear to that effect without any feeling of guilt whatsoever. In truth, he would have been mistaken, and there certainly were germs all around him, but since they could not be seen by the human eye, he was convinced that they didn’t exist. We now know that he was certainly mistaken. So we see that one can be spatially close to something and yet be totally unaware of it.
Let us take another example in the realm of familial closeness. Many people arrived in Eretz Yisrael after the Holocaust with almost no relatives. The loneliness of being without family distressed them terribly. Some of them invested great effort to locate some kind of relative. Let’s imagine that a person is living in a building with a neighbor above him, and there is no bond of friendship between them, to say the least. Each of them has been searching for a relative for many years. After twenty years, they accidentally discover that they are cousins, and that they have no other relatives in the country, or anywhere in the whole world. Here we have a person who is living right next to his only relative, someone he knew well, but since he doesn’t know of their true relationship, he feels no emotional closeness to him whatsoever.
We now have two clear illustrations of spatial and familial closeness, in which a person can be very close to something or someone, yet feel far, because he is oblivious of the closeness.
The same is true with the various ways in which a person is close to Hashem. We mentioned that a person is spatially close to Hashem, but since he cannot see Him nearby, as it says, “No person can see Me and live,” he does not sense this closeness. He knows that Hashem is his Father, but he doesn’t feel it properly in his heart. He knows that Hashem is his Friend, but he doesn’t feel that in his heart. If a person would be informed that his father, whom he had long assumed to be dead, is still alive, and that he can see him, his whole heart would be filled with joy, since he can now see him and have a relationship with him. His original assumption that he would never again feel his father’s love turned out to be a complete mistake.
Anyone who has not toiled extensively to know Hashem, his true Father, does not truly know his Father. He might know that He exists, but he does not recognize Him. This is similar to someone who knows that he has a father who lives overseas, but has never seen him. Here too, a person who has not toiled much to recognize his Creator – not through mere intellectual analysis, but through the heart – might know that he has a Father, but he hardly recognizes Him. One who has truly toiled and has merited to recognize his Creator, his Father in Heaven, concedes that previously, not only didn’t he realize that Hashem was next to him, but he didn’t even understand the meaning of a Father in Heaven. He had no means with which to understand what Hashem is, what the words, “You are children to Hashem, your G-d,” express, and what is implied by the term “child of Hashem.”
This is not a matter of intellectual knowledge, but rather a perception of the soul. Even the example of the father-son relationship cannot accurately portray the depth of what it means to be a child of Hashem. It is beyond human thought and rational definitions; it is the soul’s recognition of its Father. You must understand that if a person takes literally the Torah’s saying, “You are children to Hashem, your G-d,” thinking, “Just as I have a physical father, I have a spiritual father” (and Hashem should give everyone the privilege to at least recognize that), he is only attempting to grasp an abstract point, not the true depth of the matter. The depth of this concept can only be grasped when one experiences it in his soul, not through attempts at abstract definitions.
Let us consider a meeting between a father and son described in the Torah, namely, the meeting of Yaakov and Yosef. When they met, it says, “And Yosef harnessed his chariot, and went up to meet his father, Yisrael, in Goshen, and he appeared to him and fell on his neck, and cried profusely on his neck.” Let us think: for how long did Yosef maintain this posture of “falling on his neck”? Chazal say that Yaakov did not fall on Yosef’s neck or kiss him, because he was reciting the Shema. For how long was Yaakov reciting the Shema? A half hour or an hour, perhaps somewhat longer. But after that reunion, even though they had not seen each other for a long time, the kind of bond described as “and he fell on his neck,” was not maintained. They did not spend the next seventeen years with this level of bonding. Yaakov remained very attached to Yosef and Yosef to Yaakov, but the strongest expression of their attachment was short-lived.
If one wants to get a sense of the nature of a son’s attachment to his Father in Heaven, he should learn from this example. However, in this case, the son can be in a state of “and he fell on his neck” at all times. In other words, he can achieve a state in which he is always attached and bound with Hashem (there may, of course, be setbacks, but this could be his general attitude in life). One cannot constantly embrace his physical father and fall on his neck, but one can be bound with Hashem, his Father in Heaven, literally at all times. When a person attains the level of, “I will dwell in their midst,” that is to say that he actually experiences that Hashem openly dwells in his heart, he is then bound with Hashem at all times to a degree analogous to the meeting of Yosef and Yaakov, and even more. This is the soul’s inner bond with Hashem. This is the condition of a Jew who is in touch with his true inner self.
Let us imagine that while Yosef was being reunited with his father, his cell phone would have rung. Would he answer it, or would nothing have interested him at that time? Yosef was in a foreign land, all alone for many years, and finally, the moment comes when he escapes this loneliness and meets his father. At that moment, would he have time to get involved in other things? Likewise, a true Jew lives in a state of being attached literally at all times to the Creator. Inevitably, he lives in a material world, and he must deal with it at least somewhat, but his soul is always tied to the Creator. Whether he is involved in spiritual or material pursuits, his soul will never be detached from the Creator. Even when answering the cell phone, he is attached to the Creator, and is never distracted or inwardly disconnected from Him.
This is the way a Jew must live. This is the one true bond a person has in the world. One day, he will leave his family and remain all alone. The only unseverable bond that one can sustain both in this world and in the next is the connection he has with Hashem. In Gan Eden, there is no guarantee that one will sit near his father, son, or uncle, but he will be close to Hashem. This is a bond one must develop in this world and the next. This bond with Hashem is eternal and unbreakable. If one desires a true friend, he should take Hashem as his friend, and He will be his friend everywhere – in this world, in Gan Eden, and in the World to Come, never abandoning him, even for a moment.
As long as a person is not truly attached to Hashem, in a way similar to the familial bond we described before, he cannot properly sense the spatial closeness either. Hashem is indeed spatially close to a person. But only to the extent that one is tied to Hashem from the depth of his heart can one really feel inwardly that Hashem is right next to him at all times, in each and every location. The greater the soul’s closeness with Hashem, and the more the person is tied to Him with the deepest fibers of his heart, the more will he sense that Hashem is next to him. The opposite is true as well, chas veshalom.
In our discussion so far it has become clear that the purpose of life is closeness to Hashem. We have also described (somewhat) the attitude toward life of a person attached to Hashem. This attachment is not some minor detail of his life, rather his entire life is a process of bonding with Hashem. A person must now decide if he wants to live that way. Perhaps it is easier to live in an illusion, in which one thinks he has a peaceful life without the trouble of deveikus, so to speak. Each person must decide for himself, if he really wants to be attached to Hashem all his life. If he has verified to himself that he does want this, he is fortunate that he has understood what has been said. Yet if he sees that he still doesn’t want it, he must pray to Hashem to help him want true life, so that he can escape the unbridled life that masquerades as life, and choose to a live true life, of which it says, “And you, who cleave to Hashem, your G-d, are all alive today.” (We are not yet discussing the method how to become close and attached to Hashem, only the will to be so.)
We will try to inspire the reader to want to truly seek deveikus and view it as life’s greatest aspiration.
Each of us knows that the day will come when he will take leave of this world, as it says, “Every man dies eventually.” Everyone wants to be spared from Gehinnom and to merit Gan Eden. What does one do in Gan Eden? The Ramchal writes in the beginning of Mesillas Yesharim, “Man is created solely to find delight in Hashem and enjoy the radiance of His Shechinah.” This is the primary enjoyment in Gan Eden. Consequently, if one does not become truly attached to Hashem, there will not be much for him to do in Gan Eden. “Gan Eden” in reality is a state of deveikus to Hashem. If a person, chas veshalom, does not want to cleave to Hashem, what will he do in Gan Eden? If a person claims that while alive, he wants to simply enjoy from this world, but when he leaves this world, he will want to cleave to Hashem, he must realize that this is absurd. The sefarim hakedoshim have written that the way a person thinks and feels in this world is the way he will be in the next world. Therefore, if in this world, a person’s mind and heart are not attached to Hashem, but to other matters, so too will they be in the World to Come. Even if in his mind he will want to cleave to the Creator there, he won’t be able to. Against his will he will continue to desire whatever he was attracted to in this world.
In other words, a person cannot create a dichotomy, to be detached from Hashem in this world, but cleave to Him in the next. Either he will cleave to Hashem both in this world and the next, or not in either one, chas veshalom. (Of course a person who has not used his life properly can be rectified eventually, but here is not the place for that discussion.) Hence, one must understand that if he is not attached to the Creator in this world, he will not be so in Gan Eden and the World to Come, his existence there will also be bereft of depth and meaning. One must consider deeply the fact that he is losing eternity by not achieving deveikus to Hashem in this world. The World to Come is called “the world which is completely good.” What is the goodness there? The Ramchal has written, “‘As for me, closeness to Hashem is my good.’ Anything else deemed good by people is vanity and deceptive emptiness.” You see that there is no goodness other than closeness to Hashem. So if a person is not attached to Hashem, he has no connection to the world that is completely good. Of necessity, to merit this good in Gan Eden and in Olam Haba one must live with deveikus to Hashem, an appreciation that “closeness to Hashem is my good” even in this world.
In this world, a person running a business takes an inventory once a year. He closes the store for a day to take stock of what was sold and what wasn’t and assess his progress. A person must do the same with his life. This is not merely a brief self-accounting for fifteen minutes, a half hour, or even an hour. He must halt the whole course of his life and ask himself: Do I want to be attached to the Creator, or not? If I do, am I treading on the path that brings me closer to feeling this palpable closeness I seek? Or perhaps my path of learning Torah with the mind only and performing the mitzvos with minimal inspiration will not bring me to true closeness to Hashem. One should take as much time as he needs to reach this recognition, but he must emerge with an awareness and a clear will to live his life solely for the sake of closeness and deveikus to Hashem. Then, his task will be to identify a definite path that will bring him there. But again, first of all, it must be clear that this is the entire true purpose of life – closeness and deveikus to Hashem.
Once it has become absolutely clear that the sole purpose of life is true closeness to Hashem, and a person feels a real will to live that kind of life, the time is appropriate to try to understand and reflect upon the path that brings him to the destination he seeks. He might think that since he is immersed in Torah and mitzvos, the day will certainly come when he will suddenly feel closeness to Hashem in his heart. This, however, is an error that many have fallen into. They think that closeness to Hashem comes automatically to anyone who learns Torah and keeps the mitzvos, but this is not at all the case.
Chazal have said, “Even the emptiest of them the Jewish people are filled with mitzvos like a pomegranate.” The obvious question is: why, then, are they called “empty” if their mitzvos are as numerous as the seeds of a pomegranate? The Gaon HaRav Dovid Povarsky, zt”l gave a wonderful answer. He said that one might have many mitzvos to his credit: Torah, chessed, and many more. However, he will still be defined as empty. Why? Because a pomegranate has many seeds, but each one is distinct from the others. It is not like an apple or pear that is one unit. Rather, each seed stands alone. Similarly, a person can learn Torah and perform many mitzvos, but he will still be considered empty, because his deeds are separate from each other, with nothing unifying them.
Torah and mitzvos must be performed organically as parts of one unit, not as disconnected acts, chas veshalom. They must all participate in the building of one’s inner spiritual edifice. If he has not achieved the inner element that unites all his Torah and mitzvos, a person might learn Torah his entire life and fulfill many mitzvos, but still be among “the empty ones among them.”
What is this inner element? Deveikus to Hashem! The Torah must be studied in harmony, bearing in mind the principle that “Hashem, the Torah, and Yisrael are one.” Through the Torah, one must cleave to his Creator. The term mitzvos is based on the word tzavta, referring to a bond with Hashem, as mentioned above. Consequently, both Torah and the mitzvos have one inner goal, which is closeness and deveikus to Hashem. If one is working to reach this goal, all the Torah he studies and all the mitzvos he performs will be interconnected, for they all will bring him to a common goal. But if Torah and mitzvos are not performed in a way that brings a person to this closeness, and there is nothing to unite them, they will remain disconnected from each other. When one’s heart is empty of the Creator, and there is no realization of “I will dwell in their midst” in his heart, this unifying element is lacking. There may be Torah and mitzvos, but there is no unified heart devoted to our Father in Heaven. There is no inner element attaching him to Hashem.
Every person must take stock of his spiritual situation and ask himself: “Does my way of life, my Torah, prayer and mitzvos, bring me to palpable, true deveikus to Hashem, or perhaps, chas veshalom, my deeds are like those of “the emptiest of them,” lacking an inner element that unifies all the Torah and mitzvos I perform?
This point needs to be considered carefully. Many confidently think that their way is true, and that over a period of many years, they will merit closeness to Hashem. But this is not necessarily so. Instead, this reasoning could be an excuse to avoid adopting a more difficult and truthful path. It’s easy to believe that one’s path is correct and will bring one to palpable closeness to Hashem. But what will he do if at the end of his life, he discovers that his path was incorrect, and did not grant him the ability to experience closeness to Hashem? It will be too late. He will not be able to turn the wheel back and try to live his life differently. It is certainly difficult to prove to a person that his way will not necessarily lead to palpable closeness to Hashem. (Of course, there are many valid paths that achieve this goal. We are discussing those who mistakenly believe there is no need for any method.)
One must, therefore, examine oneself well and be very skeptical, whether his way is genuine or not. He should not rely on the fact that many others have done the same and succeeded. One must examine each approach closely with the aid of a person who has great understanding. Do not rely on hearsay from here and there. Every person must examine his way very carefully, and beseech Hashem at length that He help him and direct him to the true path that will bring him close to Hashem.
Even if one has a true approach, he must pray to have the privilege to understand it properly. Often, the approach is true, but it is not understood properly. Ultimately each person must choose a definite path that will bring him to a condition of deveikus to Hashem, and ask Hashem constantly to help him find the correct path that is suited for his needs.
Section 2 Belief in the Creator
We have so far clarified that a person’s purpose and obligation in this world is to be close and attached to Hashem, and that this must be his sole aspiration in life. We shall now attempt to describe the way of life that a person must live in this world in order to reach a state of closeness and deveikus to Hashem.
We shall set forth simple ideas, which the reader might already know. Yet, anyone who has seriously undertaken a project of self-improvement knows that a person’s main focus must remain on all that is simple and well known, as the Ramchal writes in the beginning of Mesillas Yesharim.
One point must be kept in mind as we progress. You must accept these ideas and fulfill them with simplicity. The more one accepts them with simplicity, the closer he will get to the truth, and to Hashem. But if a person adopts a critical approach and tries to argue the validity of each point, he will distance himself from the truth and from Hashem, chas veshalom.
You must understand that the secret of the inner life is simplicity of the soul, as it says, “My G-d, the soul you have placed in me is pure.” Just as a child who is still innocent understands things in a simple way, so too the inner soul of a person, the pure element inside him, requires simple ideas. To awaken the element of truth in the soul, the pure element, one must employ the power of simplicity. This is the key point of the entire path with which we will progress, with the help of Hashem.
What is the starting point of all avodas Hashem? It is the clear and simple awareness that there is a Creator! It would seem to most people that this fact needs to be impressed only on someone who has not yet merited to enter the threshold of Judaism. You need to inform him and prove to him through various proofs that the world has a Creator. But people raised in a home with a long-standing tradition of emunah, who observe the Torah meticulously and are always immersed in Torah and mitzvos, would seemingly not need to be informed about the Creator. Don’t they already know about Him? The basic assumption is that the fact that the Creator exists is not a point that requires work or effort, because it is simple and clear. They believe that one’s avodah begins at a much higher point. However, this is an error. The fact is that every person must work on this simple point, the almost obvious fact – that the world has a Creator!
However, this notion persists in a person’s mind: “What is lacking in my emunah? Must I learn the secrets of Providence and the ideas of the philosophers?” No, this is not our intent! We are speaking of very simple emunah – emunah that the world has a Creator. To understand why we must work on this, we will use a parable that will shed light on the subject and clarify it. A person won a twenty million dollar lottery. His thoughts are totally immersed in this new state. He thinks about it as he walks the street. He goes to sleep thinking about it. It is very difficult for him to stop thinking about his good fortune and what to do with the money. In contrast, someone else who didn’t win the lottery, and merely heard the name of the winner, doesn’t give it much thought. Let us consider the difference between the two. They both know clearly who won, but while the winner’s thoughts are completely absorbed by this fact, the other person is not so affected. It does not grip his entire mind and feelings.
With this example, we can get a better understanding of the case with emunah. We all know that there is a Creator, but the question is, does this knowledge affect us like the winner of the lottery in our example, or like the one who did not win? Does the knowledge of the existence of the Creator take complete hold of one’s mind and heart, or is it just a fact that he knows, but is not connected to at all times? We all know that there is a Creator, but how often do we think about that? To what extent are we attached to this thought? The belief that there is a Creator must be alive in one’s mind and heart literally at all times. This is not merely a kind of general knowledge that serves as a background to life; it must be the driving force of a person’s life every moment of every hour.
We wrote earlier that a person’s goal and purpose should be to be close and attached to the Creator. In order to be close and attached to something, one must sense that the thing exists. If the entity to which a person seeks closeness is non-existent, how is he supposed to connect to it? To feel close and connected to Hashem, one must feel clearly that He exists. If a person tries to come close to Hashem before his heart feels that there is a Creator, he lacks a real awareness of His existence. He is trying to approach something whose existence he doesn’t feel clearly in his heart. Therefore, the beginning of each Jew’s avodah is to feel with all his heart that the world has a Creator, and only after that, to work on becoming close to Him.
There are three kinds of awareness: chochmah, binah, and da’as. Chochmah exists when one knows facts on a basic level. Binah exists when one understands them well. Da’as is present when one is connected to the matter and totally attached to it. It says, “And with da’as, the chambers will be filled.” That it to say, the chambers of the heart are filled with this knowledge, and he is totally engaged with it. That is full and complete da’as. When a person knows something, but it does not fill his heart and mind, he only has partial da’as of it. Complete da’as exists only when a person is connected and attached to the knowledge at all times, with every fiber of his soul and heart.
With regard to knowledge of the Creator, there are also levels of chochmah, binah, and da’as. When a person knows there is a Creator, and it is clear to him that there is no other possibility, he has chochmah and binah. But da’as exists only when this knowledge grips his mind and heart. In order to recognize something with your soul, it is not enough to achieve chochmah and binah; you must possess da’as. The soul can only fully recognize something when the person is strongly bound to it and completely engaged in it.
This is a fundamental and powerful principle that our rabbis have written. A person who recognizes his Creator only with chochmah and binah, but does not think of Hashem at all times, is severely lacking in his soul’s inner recognition of the Creator. He does not properly recognize the Creator in his heart and feelings, although he might have an intellectual awareness of Him. The rule is that someone who wants to truly recognize the Creator, to really know that the world has a Creator, must have his thoughts firmly attached and bound with the Creator, and only then will his soul recognize the Creator.
If so, someone who is looking for the truth must first establish clearly within himself the basic emunah that the world has a Creator. At first, he must clarify to himself that he intellectually knows about the Creator. He will have this faith established as a tradition from his parents and ancestors (but not through philosophical analysis, which our rabbis have discouraged). After a person has verified his absolute belief in the Creator, his avodah is then to live with that fact at all times.
Obviously, a person can’t suddenly begin to live with this thought in his mind every moment. The first step is to have a desire to live every moment with an awareness of the Creator in his heart. Practically speaking, working towards achieving this goal is done in stages, as will be described later. With Hashem’s help, one will eventually be able to live all day with his heart constantly aware of the Creator. But before a person begins working on this, it must be clear to him that a person whose heart is constantly aware of the Creator is totally different from one who does not live this way. It is not merely another level, but an entirely different kind of life. He is in a different world. There is life with the Creator, and there is an (illusory) life without the Creator. One who lives with the Creator leaves one world to enter a totally different world. This cannot adequately be described in writing. But when a person merits the attainment of this level, he will feel like an entirely new creation, similar to what the Rambam writes that a penitent is not the same person at all as he was before.
Someone who constantly lives with the thought of the Creator in his mind, thinks of Him when he wakes up, when he washes his hands, when saying Birkas Hamazon, when he goes to sleep, and throughout the day. Even if he does not progress beyond this level (and Hashem should enable us all to progress further than this), this will change his whole life from one extreme to the other. He will have an inner sincerity and a deep sense of purpose. These in turn will generate an inner strength which will permeate his entire spiritual composition. He will not be the same person any more! Even outsiders will sense that he has undergone some kind of change in his soul.
A person must understand and internalize the idea that the required foundation of life is for Hashem to be in one’s mind and heart. This applies to every Jew, man or woman, with no difference whatsoever. In this way, one lives with the Creator, eats with the Creator, goes to sleep thinking of the Creator, and so on. All of life must be filled with thoughts of the Creator. To achieve this, one does not need to be a genius or especially gifted. All that is needed is a small measure of sincerity in the heart with which to seek truth and to seek Hashem. This is the purpose of life. Since it is well-known and clear that the purpose of life is to be close and attached to the Creator, the first thing one must work on is to remember at all times that this world has a Creator.
There are no words to express the value of the wondrous treasure of thinking about the Creator. All the silver and gold in the world do not equal the value of this knowledge. It is a precious and wondrous treasure with no equal. It is a treasure through which one can reach perfection, closeness to Hashem, and deveikus to Him. (That is to say, this kind of thought will enable one to properly fulfill the Torah and mitzvos.) If a person would know the greatness of this treasure, which is simply to live constantly with the thought that the world has a Creator, he would pursue it at all costs, ignoring the interests and vanities of this world. He would firmly attach himself to this thought at all times (except when learning Torah). But Hashem’s will is that before a person toils to acquire this awareness, he cannot sense how wondrous it is, and how happy he will be when his soul acquires it. Hashem’s will is that a person should toil with faith, and only afterwards will he experience what the passuk says, “Taste and see that Hashem is good.”
The Vilna Gaon writes that the greatest pain a soul undergoes is when a person passes on to the next world and realizes what he could have achieved in this world, but didn’t. This causes the soul terrible suffering. The difference between a person who reaches Gan Eden with the level of da’as described above and one who does not is like the difference between heaven and earth. One who has this deep knowledge and lives with it at all times has a higher place in Gan Eden because he is closer to Hashem. The inner essence of Gan Eden is closeness to Hashem. Therefore, the more a person thinks of Hashem and loves Him in the depths of his heart, the closer to Hashem will his place be in Gan Eden.
These concepts are so clear and obvious to anyone who recognizes the pnimius of life. But the yetzer hara causes a person to live superficially caught up with chitzonius, without understanding the greatness and depth of the insight that one must live with Hashem at all times. To the extent that knowledge of the Creator penetrates into deeper and deeper levels of the soul, until it fills the entire heart, the greater will his closeness to Hashem be in this world, in Gan Eden, and in the World to Come. The person will merit greater closeness to Hashem for all eternity.
The opposite is also true, chas veshalom. If in the depth of one’s heart, one is far from a connection to Hashem, engaged only in actions, but not in an inner connection, although he will certainly receive reward for all of his deeds, he will lose the primary aspect of the reward, which is “to delight in Hashem.” You must understand that the whole point of life is to be connected and attached to Hashem in all the inner recesses of the heart, through Torah study and fulfillment of the 613 mitzvos.
As much as this point seems so simple and clear, so are people far from realizing it. One can learn Torah most of the day, pursue many acts of kindness, and keep the mitzvos – the “minor” ones as carefully as the “major” ones – and yet, almost never think of Hashem and not realize with Whom he is involved. The Chazon Ish wrote at the end of a private letter of instruction that “the main thing is to remember before Whom you toil.” A person might work hard, using a specific method and structured guidance, yet he has missed the main point if he does not remember before Whom he toils.
One might say to himself, “Do I not keep in mind before Whom I toil? Of course I do! It’s clear to me that I toil before Hashem.” To understand the error behind this line of reasoning, we will provide a parable: Someone is sitting at a table, and before him are various foods, such as meat, potatoes, and rice. He sees the food, but when he tries to eat it, he is told that he has no permission to do so. When he tries again later, he is told, “What are you lacking? Why do you want to eat? You know there is food, and you see it, so what are you missing?” The obvious answer is that the knowledge that there is food and the sight of it are not satisfying. As long as a person only knows about the food, but it is still outside his body, he cannot be satisfied. Only when the food enters into the body and is digested does one feel full.
This example will somewhat explain the point at hand. “The main thing is to know before Whom you toil.” There is a kind of knowledge analogous to food that one sees but cannot consume. There is another kind of knowledge that enters the person, like food that enters the body. When the knowledge of “before Whom you toil” is just ordinary information, but is not constantly kept in mind, it is external to the person. One doesn’t live with it and doesn’t taste it. It is like food that you know exists but you don’t eat. Information that one does not contemplate and live with is only intellectual, not knowledge of the heart, and the main point is missing.
Our main avodah is to ensure that the awareness “before Whom you toil” becomes an inner knowledge that defines our life. To become inner knowledge, this remembrance of the fact that there is a Creator must be present every hour of the day. Then, if your thoughts are fixed and attached to this idea at all times, the message will gradually seep into the heart. It will no longer be merely intellectual knowledge, but heart knowledge. When it becomes heart knowledge, one lives with it, and it sustains him, as it says, “The righteous man lives with his emunah.” He receives vitality from his very emunah in the Creator. When the knowledge is only intellectual, it provides very little energy, but when it is in the heart, a person can draw vitality from the basic knowledge that there is a Creator.
The passuk says, “Taste and see that Hashem is good.” One must taste and see the goodness of Hashem, so to speak. How is this done? Is this food that can be tasted by the palate and felt in the throat? Clearly, ideas cannot be tasted, but when the heart “knows,” it can feel and taste the sweetness of this knowledge. Then, after “tasting” it, one appreciates the next stage of “and see.” That is to say, the perception of the emunah after it has been “tasted” is completely different from before it was “tasted.” One’s whole emunah takes on an entirely different character. When the emunah changes from plain intellectual knowledge to palpable heart knowledge, it becomes an entirely different kind of emunah.
“Taste and see that Hashem is good.” How do you taste that? Do you take it with a fork and put it in your mouth? One must taste it, but in a different way. You taste it with your heart and soul. The more a person thinks of the Creator, the closer he is to “Taste and see that Hashem is good.” When one reaches the point where he thinks about it very often, he will be able to literally taste each moment this “good taste,” and to delight in Hashem, even here in this world. But if a person merely knows the concept, but does not dwell upon it often, it is only intellectual knowledge, which cannot provide an inner delight and taste. The person will have wasted the opportunity to attain the experience of, “Taste and see that Hashem is good.”
As is well known, the purpose of creation is so that Hashem can bestow goodness upon His creations. What is that destined goodness? “Taste and see that Hashem is good.” As the Mesillas Yesharim says, “Anything else deemed good by people is vanity and deceptive emptiness.” The only goodness in the world is closeness to the Creator; feeling Him in the depth of one’s heart and tasting the sweetness. That is why the Torah is called “good,” as it says, “a good acquisition,” because through it, one can “taste” Hashem, so to speak.
You must realize that this issue, namely, thinking about the Creator, is the foundation of the inner life of the soul and the key to entering a truly spiritual life. Life without this kind of thought is shallow. One must continue to learn Torah and observe the mitzvos, but “the main thing is to know before Whom you toil” at all times. In this way, one’s Torah study will be the way it should be, and the mitzvos one fulfills will be as they should be. If one constantly bears in mind before Whom he toils, all his deeds will be done in the right way. With this key, one can unlock all the gates that block the way to closeness to Hashem. As a person penetrates more deeply into this frame of mind, he will sense more and more the state of, “Taste and see that Hashem is good.” He will experience, “Then you shall delight in Hashem,” even here, in this world.
We will now try to make these ideas relevant to one’s daily life. We will show how to live with simplicity with Hashem. As long as a person does not have a clear recognition that his whole life is only for the sake of seeking Hashem, finding Him, and becoming close to Him, this path will not be appealing to him, and he will not appreciate its true value. Only when a person thinks, understands, and feels in his heart that life is only for seeking and finding Hashem, will he accept these ideas in a correct way, relate to them appropriately, and understand that his whole life is dependent upon this matter.
Every path is fraught with difficulties, and generally speaking there are no short cuts. One must progress slowly, step by step. If a person senses and understands deep down that his entire life is only for the sake of seeking Hashem, he will not despair, even if there are obstacles and setbacks on the way. He realizes that ultimately there is no alternative and one must persevere and seek Hashem at all costs, because there is nothing else in life. This is all that life is about – seeking Hashem and becoming close to Him. Even if he has a setback, he will not entertain the thought of abandoning this quest, because it is absolutely clear to him that this is what life here is all about. Therefore, no failure will cause him to despair, and he will live with the conviction that, “A tzaddik falls seven times, and rises.”
The method that we will delineate will not provide immediate results. If a person has a proper perspective, he initially prepares himself for an investment of many years, with the understanding that these years are given to him only for this purpose. But if a person takes this avodah as a secondary issue in life, then he will only keep at it for a short time. After a while, he will feel that he does not want to invest so much time in a matter of less urgent, secondary importance. He will want to return and invest his energy in whatever undertaking he considers to be of greater importance.
Therefore, the essential foundation for anyone who wants to embark on the path that will soon be described is the clear recognition that this in fact is the essential path of life and this is why he is alive in this world, as we explained. Even if it will take many years, he will not see it as a waste of time. He will recognize that all the time allotted to him is for the sake of this avodah: the attainment of closeness to Hashem through the means of Torah and mitzvos.
We will expand upon this issue with practical examples. A person wakes up in the morning. It takes a minute or two until his mind is settled. What should his first thought be when he wakes up? That he has to run to shul? That he didn’t yet finish a task from on the previous day? That he has something important to take care of today? These thoughts and others like them should not be central to his mind. Some of them are pointless, while some are good and proper, but they are not the most important thought. What is the primary thought that should occupy one’s mind when he awakens?
One’s first thought on awakening should be that there is a Creator. One must start his day with the most basic and fundamental thought possible: that there is a Creator. If this fundamental principle is not firmly established in the soul in a way that the soul constantly feels it, one lacks a foundation for his avodah. This is the basis, and upon it, one must build the whole structure of his soul. With Hashem’s help, this will be explained later in detail.
After a person remembers that there is a Creator, he should reflect with simplicity: “Who woke me up from my sleep? Who gives me the strength to wake up? You, Hashem!” Then he should speak to Hashem with simplicity, “You got me up, out of bed, and I thank You for that. Why did You wake me up? So that I can serve You properly. Therefore, I want to fill this day with Your service.” When a person goes to the shul, what should he be thinking? “Before Whom am I going to daven? Before the Creator! I am going to speak with Him, to praise Him, to beseech Him,” and so on. This is all built on one definite foundation: the awareness that there is a Creator.
This is the foundation and root of all of a person’s avodah: the soul’s capability to sense literally at all times that there is a Creator. It should not just be mental knowledge, but rather, one’s life should be permeated by it, and his whole being should experience this simple and basic fact – the existence of the Creator. Throughout the day, a person must go around with the thought that there is a Creator. This is the simplest of thoughts, without any deep analysis. (For those who need deep study, there should be separate time devoted to that. But throughout the day, the main part of one’s avodah should be to go with this simple thought, which will in fact become stronger and clearer as he delves into the subject during the designated time.) One must live with this simple thought in his mind, and gradually bring it to life in his heart. It is the simplest non-complicated thought, the very clear knowledge that there is a Creator.
This is the beginning of avodah for anyone who wishes to build a solid inner world. One must remember this simple thought throughout the day. At first, he should devise external reminders to alert him approximately once an hour. After he has become accustomed to this, he should increase the rate to once in fifteen minutes, for example. Slowly, step after step, he should shorten the intervals until he thinks about the Creator every few minutes. He should advance slowly in a concrete manner. Only after a person feels he has acquired a particular level, and the thought comes to him almost automatically, should he progress and shorten the time interval. The day will come when Hashem will grant him the privilege to bear in mind at all times that there is a Creator.
The essence of the method that we will be using is that through quiet and simple thought, repeated time and again, the “foreskin of the heart” (insensitivity to holiness) will be removed, and the heart will sense things properly.
We find a similar concept in the story about Rabbi Akiva who witnessed a rock that had been hollowed out by water. Let us consider this. The water descended as plain drops. The first drop was no different from the second, the third, and so on. The lesson here is that despite their simplicity, simple, recurring drops can break through a rock.
The same is true with a person’s heart, which is called a “heart of stone.” If a person wants to break through his stone heart, he must repeat simple thoughts and simple words, again and again, a great many times, until the stoniness of his heart disappears and he merits a heart of flesh, a heart that senses and recognizes its Creator.
When a person takes this simple idea – the thought that there is a Creator – and the simple statement that there is a Creator, and repeats them many times, he gains the ability to break though the barrier of his heart. The rock-like hardness of his heart will melt and his heart will truly recognize the Creator.
In order for a person to apply our advice in a well-structured manner, he must first acknowledge in his mind and his heart a simple and basic truth: The Ramchal writes in the beginning of Mesillas Yesharim, “When you look further into the matter, you will see that true perfection is none other than deveikus to Hashem. This is what David said: ‘And as for me, closeness to Hashem is my good.’ He also said, ‘One thing I have requested from Hashem my entire life, that is what I seek: to sit in the house of Hashem all the days of my life and to visit His sanctuary.’ Only this is goodness, and anything else deemed good by people is vanity and deceptive emptiness.”
You must understand this basic fundamental of life. The only thing one really has throughout his existence, in this world and the next, for all eternity, is Hashem! One must recognize Him, become close to Him, and cleave to Him, “and anything else deemed good by people is vanity and deceptive emptiness.” Everything else is truly vanity. Except for awareness of the Creator, closeness and deveikus to Him, there is nothing else of value in any place or time. When a person understands this and contemplates it properly, he will absorb a basic and simple truth: One’s entire existence at all times must revolve around Hashem. His life must be lived in a way that Hashem is the center of everything in every situation, in every place and time. Hashem must be sought in each situation, every place, and at all times.
One should understand that, as the Zohar says, the 613 mitzvos are only forms of advice for achieving awareness of the Creator, and closeness and deveikus to Him. The Torah which is the root of all the mitzvos, was also given to us in order to attach ourselves to the Creator. Whether involved in mundane activities or sacred endeavors – the 613 mitzvos- one must always strive to come closer to Hashem. That is to say, one must not focus entirely on their superficial elements, but must remember that in all physical or spiritual matters it is essential to find a way to become close and connected to Hashem.
When one thinks in this manner, he will become very close to the path we are advocating. Our entire method is devoted to connecting a person to Hashem in all places and all situations. If this basic awareness is lacking, it will be very difficult for a person to progress. But when one recognizes the truth – that his entire life is about searching how to become close to Hashem – he will be able to adopt the method described in this work.
Section 3 Emunah, Man and his Creator
We have so far described the way to achieve the first stage – maintaining in one’s mind and heart the basic awareness that there is a Creator. Before we continue, it is important to remember an essential rule for success, both in physical and in spiritual matters.
Any achievement begins with an effort “from below,” (issarusa dilesato) which stimulates a corresponding blessing “from Above,” (issarusa dile’eila) which enables one to attain one’s goal. A person on his own can do nothing; he is feeble. Nevertheless, the rule is “If I do not do for myself, who will do for me, but if I am on my own, what am I?” If one focuses on “if I am on my own, what am I?” he will think that there is no point in trying. But the truth is that “If I do not do for myself, who will do for me?” In other words, a person must realize that he cannot accomplish anything on his own, yet he must nevertheless do his part. If one truly senses this, he will make the effort, with the knowledge that on his own he cannot achieve anything – because man’s ability is limited. One can start various projects and never finish a thing. “A task is accredited only to he who completes it,” and in fact, it is only Hashem who brings each thing to completion. Hence, nothing can really be attributed to man’s efforts. One can only put forth the effort “from below.”
“Man prepares his heart, but the expression of the tongue is from Hashem.” A person tries to prepare his heart, but the resulting words are only from Hashem. A person can never feel that he has started and completed a task by himself. Since this is the real truth, one must realize that all one does is to put forth the effort “from below,” but one must seek help from Hashem. Each time again, he will call upon the Master of the World and say to Him, “I have done my part. Now, Hashem help me. Otherwise, I will not be able to attain what I seek.”
No matter what area a person is working on, he must daven. If he is working on being aware of Hashem, he must recall that on his own, a person is forgetful. If he tries to remember by himself, and does not ask Hashem for help, he will never achieve true awareness. Hence, with regard to our topic, a person must make maximum effort to constantly remember that there is a Master of the World, but he must also daven to Him to truly implant this knowledge in his heart. Once the first stage has been truly acquired, we may move forward with the next stage in our avodah.
As stated above, knowledge that there is a Creator is not a fact that from time to time surfaces in one’s consciousness, rather, it is an awareness experienced in the soul. Just as a person is basically aware of the time of day and does not err by five hours in either direction, so too, must knowledge of the Creator be alive in the person, encompassing his whole life. If a person hasn’t yet reached this level, it is not appropriate for him to advance to the next stage. The path of avodah must be well-founded, so that one advances to a later stage only after the prior stage is inwardly acquired.
After one has indeed merited that the awareness of the Creator is part of his being, he is ready to progress to the next stage.
The next stage consists of understanding the nature of the relationship between the Creator and His creation– the recognition in one’s soul that he and the entire world are creations of Hashem. Until this point, we have discussed the knowledge that there is a Creator. Now, we will continue and work with the fact that Hashem created all that exists. Certainly, this is obvious to any believer, but our task is not to merely know this, our main avodah is to actually feel it. The soul must feel that it and the entire world are creations of Hashem.
Pharaoh said, “The Nile is mine, and I made myself.” In other words, he clearly believed in Hashem’s existence, since he said, “Who is Hashem that I should listen to Him?” Despite this, he believed that he, not Hashem, created himself.
We see here an example of someone who entertained the absurd idea that he created himself. Now, one might think that this was just some fool who lived on the earth once upon a time and maintained this absurd notion that he, not Hashem, created himself, chas veshalom, and that has nothing to do with us. He disappeared along with his mistake, so why should we bother with this ancient error?
Yet, the truth is not so. We have a tradition from our teachers that the whole Torah, with all its details and fine points, relates to every single person. Each person has within himself an aspect of Avraham, Yitzchak, Yaakov, Moshe, and the other great people of the Torah. Similarly, each person has within him the opposite kinds of forces – Lavan, Pharaoh, Bilaam, and the other evil people mentioned in the Torah.
We must understand that this does not only mean that there are hints and lessons we can learn from our great leaders and the evil people of old. Rather, the idea is that “Avraham” is a force of purity that exists in each soul, and so it is with all the holy Avos and the rest of the seven “shepherds” of our people (Yosef, Moshe, Aharon, and Dovid). Conversely, the evil characters are forces of impurity present in each soul, as the Rambam writes (in a letter to his son), “Pharaoh is truly the yetzer hara.” This teaches that every soul has a force of evil called Pharaoh, and the claims and acts of Pharaoh seen in the Torah and Midrashim actually exist in the soul. There is a Pharaoh in the world, and a Pharaoh in the soul. The Pharaoh in the world once existed, but is no more, and we are presently not very much involved with him. But the Pharaoh of the soul exists now in literally each and every Jewish soul, and we are very much involved with him. We must recognize him well and know how to wage war against his false views and the foolish thoughts he sends our way.
We can now well understand that each of us has deep in his soul a force that proclaims, “The Nile is mine and I made myself.” We learn how to eliminate this distortion. We must understand that the feeling that we and the entire world are created beings is not at all simple to attain. There is an internal force in a person called “Pharaoh,” which prevents a person from feeling this. If we skip this stage, the soul will retain a force that contradicts simple emunah. Therefore, we must work hard to instill inside ourselves the simple fact that we are created by Hashem and to sense this at all times.
We must contemplate and understand that a person is himself a microcosm of all existence. Any force of evil we see in creation must be present in each person’s soul. However, not all forces are equal. Some forces are quite apparent in the soul, while others are more hidden, but each force in the world has a corresponding presence in the human soul.
Harav Yerucham Levovitz zt”l of Mir once expressed the idea that there exists in a man’s soul an entire zoo, containing a lion, a bull, a snake, and so on. We will not go now into all of the soul’s forces, only the force mentioned above – the force in each person’s soul that feels that he created himself. This is not so strange. We have seen in recent generations, up to our time, that people think they came into being naturally. The difference between that view and the view that one created oneself is not all that great. They are both absurd. Yet, both of these beliefs are present in the soul. Each soul contains a feeling that it created itself and that it came into this world through a natural process.
Although each soul possesses all of these forces, they are not necessarily evident in every believing person. Therefore, a person may come to think that there is no need for him to work on these points. He will skip over this aspect of avodah and want to immediately begin working on loftier points. But this attitude and form of avodah is fundamentally flawed. Although these negative thoughts may not be apparent in the soul of any believing person, deep down, they certainly exist. If one neglects these forces and ignores their presence, he leaves within himself a vacuum and a missing rung on the ladder. Every vacuum and missing rung causes a lack of stability and permanence in one’s avodah.Therefore, the proper way is to work with each stage, even those that seem simple and unnecessary, because in fact, there is no stage that can be ignored.
What lies at the root of our spiritual deficiencies, such as our lack of real emunah in Divine Providence? It is not only a problem with emunah in Divine Providence, but a more basic problem. It comes from the lack of real palpable emunah in the existence of the Creator and the awareness that He created the individual. Certainly, the person knows all this in his mind. But since deep in the soul, there is a force that feels otherwise, the emunah is not sufficiently clear. Since the fundamental, simple emunah in the existence of the Creator is lacking, there will be a lack in the results of that emunah. Therefore, a person must instill within himself the simple emunah that there is a Creator, and the fact that Hashem created him.
One’s age is irrelevant. If one has worked on the simple points, he may progress further, but if not, he must return to the beginning and establish a healthy foundation of simple emunah. Every person who works in this way and properly establishes simple emunah in his heart in a living, palpable and clear way, will immediately feel that many of the difficulties he had previously encountered will disappear – or at least, have been diminished.
As long as the light of simple emunah does not properly illuminate the soul, the soul is immersed in deep darkness. There is no light clearer and brighter than simple emunah, and when a person is lacking this light, he is missing the primary pure light, and his soul feels sadness and a lack of clarity. Even if the soul is not aware of the problem and does not understand the cause of its darkness, this fact is nonetheless true. A soul without pure and clear emunah is lacking the ultimate light, the light needed to generate all the other illumination inherent in Torah and mitzvos.
We will try to clarify the matter to help anyone who seeks simple and pure emunah in Hashem. In this way, he will attain true happiness and a solid foundation for the entire structure of true avodah.
“In the beginning, Hashem created the heaven and the earth.” When the Chofetz Chaim zt”l would sense a weakening of his own ruchniyus, he would review the account of the days of creation, learning the order and details of creation in a very simple way.
One might wonder: Didn’t the Chofetz Chaim know Who created the world? Did he have some doubt about it, chas veshalom? Of course not! But the explanation of this conduct is that when a person senses some weakness and laxity in his Torah study or another matter, it is likely that the weakness does not stem from that area itself. Rather, the problem stems from the ultimate foundation of everything: emunah. That does not mean that the individual is weak in the intellectual aspect of his emunah, and that chas veshalom, he has some doubt in his mind. Rather, the point is that the light of emunah in his heart has become somewhat weakened, and it is no longer actively illuminating his heart. When there is a weakness in the ultimate source, which is emunah, one senses a weakness in Torah study and other aspects of one’s avodah.
Let us ponder this point and consider it. The Chofetz Chaim was truly one of the greatest of his generation. Yet, he himself did this in order to awaken within himself the most basic point of emunah. He did not engage in sophisticated philosophizing, but rather returned to the simplest, clearest points of emunah. He achieved all this through a simple review of the pesukim about the works of creation, studying them with a deep simplicity.
You should know that this is a very great secret. The soul, deep down, is very simple and uncomplicated. Therefore, when a person wishes to arouse in himself the inner aspect of the soul in all its true purity, he must employ the simplest concepts and strengthen the roots of simple emunah. The first area to strengthen is the awareness that there is a Creator, as we mentioned above. He must then focus on the relationship of the Creator and that which He created, until these concepts are alive and clearly present in the soul in a palpable way, and the soul feels them and is in contact with them literally at all times.
We must not make light of this recommendation to adopt the way of the holy sage, the Chafetz Chaim zt”l. We must toil to implant within ourselves the most basic principle of all – simple and pure emunah. Generally speaking, when we discover problems in our spiritual lives, we notice only the external aspects, which are the branches, but the true root of them all is deep down in the soul.
The root of the Jewish soul derives from Avraham Avinu, whose very first efforts were in the area of emunah, as it says, “At the age of three, Avraham recognized his Creator.” Certainly, the way Avraham attained emunah was different than the way we should attain it, since we already possess a tradition from our ancestors, and we have the Torah, which was not the case with Avraham Avinu. But what we share in common is the need to plant within ourselves the main foundation, which is true emunah in the living G-d.
For example, many people fail and succumb to the temptation to speak loshon hara or to use their eyes in an inappropriate manner. They then attempt to tackle these problems in any number of ways. You should know that the root of all these problems is the lack of palpable emunah. Therefore, the primary way to begin repairing all breaches in observance is not only with practical resolutions as to how to act in various situations, but primarily, to perfect one’s emunah, so that it becomes pure and clear. Then, the rest will be much easier, and he will be able to deal with the particulars of any sinful behavior, which all stem from a lack of clarity in emunah.
As one’s emunah becomes more alive and clear, he will find the strength and courage to properly toil in Torah and keep all the details of the mitzvos correctly. The opposite is also true: the more the emunah is missing from one’s soul, chas veshalom, the more difficult it will be to toil in the holy Torah and observe the details of the laws with a true sense of fear of Hashem. May Hashem enable every one of us to truly reach this level.
We will attempt to demonstrate how to learn the story of creation, in a way that will instill and awaken in the soul pure and simple emunah. We wish again to emphasize that we are not looking for new ideas, but only to understand the pesukim with absolute simplicity.
It is written, “And when your son will ask you…” From here, Chazal derive the obligation of recounting the story of the Exodus to one’s son on the night of Pesach. In each person, as well, there is an inner “father” and “son.” The intellect is the “father,” and the heart is the “son.” (“The heart understands”– meivin – is related to the word ben [son]). The intellect is the “father,” and it must teach its “son,” the heart. This teaching can be accomplished through thought, by thinking of something until it is firmly established in the heart, or through speech, by articulating words of emunah until they are fixed in the heart, as will be explained later at length.
We should understand that this is not an obligation only on the night of Pesach, but rather for all year around. One must instill in the “son” within himself – his heart – the simple foundations of emunah. “Even if we are all wise, all insightful, all know the Torah, it is incumbent upon us to recount the exodus from Egypt.” This is because chochmah, binah, and da’as are one matter, and simple emunah in the heart is another matter entirely. One might possess chochmah, binah, and da’as, and yet, be lacking simplicity. That is why, on the night of Pesach, each person must recount (lesaper – to enlighten, based on the word sapir [sapphire]) and light up his soul with the fundamentals of simple emunah learned from the exile and redemption from Egypt.
We learn a great and important principle from the way the story must be told on the night of Pesach. The gemara in tells us that it must be related in a manner of question and answer. Chazal have revealed to us a great principle about human nature. When a person wants to instill within himself a very fundamental concept, he should do so by clarifying it through the method of question and answer.
Now, when one asks this type of question, he is already well aware of the answer, so what is the point of asking the question? However, Chazal have revealed to us here that this is the way to impart understanding to the heart. (In a deeper sense, the question gives credence to the stubbornness in man’s heart, while the answer reveals the point of truth in the heart.) Therefore, when a person wants to speak to his heart and instill a concept in a structured and firm way, he must do so in the manner of question and answer. This is an extremely important principle that sheds valuable light on the proper manner of working with one’s soul.
We will now employ this principle to study the account of creation.
“In the beginning, Hashem created the heavens and the earth.” “In the beginning,” refers to the beginning of creation. When it says, “created,” what does that tell us? That there is a Creator and a creation. Without this passuk, one might have thought that chas veshalom, the world came into being through a natural process. But the Torah clarifies for us that there is one truth, which is that there is a Creator and a creation, and the existence of the world didn’t just happen on its own. Who is the Creator? “Elokim.” The Torah tells us Who created the world – Hashem. A person should think about this and talk to Hashem and say, “The Torah says that You created the world! You, and none other created every single thing.” Every believing Jew knows all of this, but we must firmly infuse ourselves with the concept that only Hashem, and nothing else, created the world. One who has not toiled greatly to infuse this pure emunah into his heart is almost definitely lacking in his emunah.
In this manner, a person must speak to Hashem in very plain words, and say to Him, “If not for this pasuk, there would, chas veshalom, be a possibility of thinking that there was no Creator. But the pasuk clarifies for us that You created the world.” A person should repeat this tens and hundreds of times, and even more, in order to implant and illuminate this simple emunah in his heart.
He should say, “What did You create? The heavens and the earth.” He should lift his hand, point to the sky, and ask, “Who created these heavens?” He should then answer his question, saying to Hashem, “You created the heavens! You, and no one else, chas veshalom.”
Likewise, he should point to the ground, as bnei Yisrael pointed when they said, “This is my G-d and I shall make a home for Him,” and say to Hashem, “You created the earth. Was the earth made by itself? Absolutely not! Rather, You created it.”
In this way, a person should continue with these pesukim. For example, it says, “and there was light.” A person should contemplate the light, and ask, “Who created the light?” He should respond as above, “You, Hashem, created the light.” In this way, he should go through each detail, through all the works of creation, and consider all the individual creations he sees. Regarding each one, he should ask, “Who created this?” He should respond to himself (in the form of communication with Hashem, as will be described later), “You, Hashem, created this object.” In this way, a person must strive for weeks or months, for about half an hour each day, each person according to his ability, and instill in himself the simple emunah that all was created by Hashem. (Editor’s note: Although this work often mentions the need for about an hour devoted daily to these efforts, the author subsequently explained in person that those who find it difficult to devote a full hour can start with even a few minutes, and gradually add to the time, until it reaches an hour. The author also mentioned that ideally, this contemplation should take place at night.)
There is a basic difference between man and the other creations. When a person infuses himself with the knowledge that the heavens, earth, animals, birds, etc. were created by Hashem, he is dealing only with things that are external to him. After that, his avodah is to instill in himself the awareness that he himself is a creation of Hashem, until he feels it properly. One must consider his hands, his feet and all the parts of his body – as the Zohar says that a person must make Hashem the king over all his limbs – and clarify to himself that each limb is a creation of Hashem, until he senses this as an obvious fact. He must continue infusing it in his heart until he merits that feeling.
A person cannot instill this knowledge within himself unless he devotes a good amount of time to it. One must divide his time, devoting most of the day to Torah study, and spending part of the day working on his emunah. If there is Torah with no emunah, then chas veshalom one is not attached to the Creator. If one does not set aside time each day for contemplating and instilling these concepts, he will forget them, and they will never enter his soul.
A person’s avodah in all areas in general and in this area specifically, should be divided into two parts: 1) He must fix a set time every day to contemplate these matters; 2) Throughout the day, about every half hour, he must remember the point of avodah that he is trying to acquire. (Except for while he is learning Torah, when he must be immersed in his learning.)
With regard to the area of avodah we are now discussing, a person must remember about every half hour that everything is created by Hashem. He should make reminders in order to accomplish this. He should contemplate a particular object that is before him, and ask himself in the question and answer method described above, “Who created this object?” He will answer, “You, Hashem, created it.” In this way, the matter will become fixed in his heart, both through the time devoted for this each day and through the remembrance at brief intervals throughout the entire day.
Using this method of avodah, we can advance from one stage to the next. However, you must remember that you cannot advance too quickly. As long as a prior stage is not well-established in the heart.) you cannot advance, but rather, you must continue to properly internalize the prior stage. You must work on the topic we have mentioned until the clear awareness that everything is created by Hashem is properly fixed deeply in your heart. At that point, it will be as if the object is crying out and proclaiming, “I am a creation of Hashem!” May Hashem help us all to merit that this emunah shall take root deeply in our hearts and truly sustain us, and may we thereby merit closeness and attachment to the Creator all our lives.
We will now summarize what has been said so far. The purpose of every Jew is to be close and attached to the Creator. We discussed at length the meaning of deveikus – an inner bond with the Creator. One’s entire life must revolve around one point. All one’s actions must be focused on the One Who created him, the One Who sustains him and guides him each moment, the One before Whom he will give an account of all his deeds, and from Whom he will eventually receive his reward – which is itself the experience of deveikus to the Creator of the world.
The sefarim hakedoshim write that if a person does mitzvos for the sake of pride and honor, then when he requests his reward after leaving this world, he will be told, “‘The one you worked for will give your reward.”’ Go and seek your reward from that which motivated you. Go to the attributes of pride and honor to receive your reward. Only if a person serves the Creator can he expect reward from Him.
Essentially, we have presented a way to bring a person to a state in which he and the Creator will be very strongly bound together and he can live with Hashem every moment and in every situation. We wish to show how a person can be bound with Hashem in every time, place and situation. We are striving to achieve one thing – to connect every person to Hashem in all aspects of olam, shana and nefesh, space, time and soul, until, as the passuk says, “they will be as one.”
The first point we mentioned is that a person must remember the existence of Hashem. After that, we taught that a person must always remember that each thing is a creation of Hashem. Not only did He create it in the past, but He is creating it in the present, as it says, “He makes light and creates darkness,” in the present tense. The sefarim hakedoshim write that each moment, Hashem makes His creations anew. The relationship of Creator and created, then, is not only a matter of the past, but a constant process. A person’s avodah is to sense that each thing is a creation of Hashem and to sense the relationship of that which is created to the Creator.
Section 4 Belief in Divine Providence
The third stage, which we will now discuss, is Hashem’s guidance of the world. The Rambam writes, that there were those who erroneously thought that although Hashem created this world, He subsequently abandoned it and the world is now governed by the stars and the constellations, chas veshalom.
A person’s avodah is to recognize intellectually and feel in his heart that Hashem has not abandoned His world for even a brief moment and will never ever abandon it. Every believer knows this well, but our avodah is to ensure that this knowledge permeates every fiber of the heart, so that a person will feel it during each step of his life. Through this awareness, he will become strongly attached to the Creator.
Before progressing further, we must point out that although the ideas are presented one after another, it takes time for each level to be attained. It is also essential to review the material often. If this were just a matter of intellectual knowledge, one could just rely on one’s memory, but since it is a matter of internalizing the ideas and living with them, one must review them again and again.
We will now discuss Divine Providence, with the help of Hashem. A person’s activities can be divided into two general categories: Those considered minor and those viewed as major. For example, purchasing a home, getting married, and the like, are seen as major events. One does not change his home on a daily basis, and certainly, one hopes to marry only once a lifetime.
In these types of cases, most people with emunah are aware of Hashem’s Providence and feel that they need His help. Many will seek out various tefillos composed by the greatest tzaddikim, look for segulos, and try to increase their merits. But when it comes to the small events that occur on a daily basis, the fact that these things come so naturally, causes many people to forget the truth, that just as marriage is dependent on Hashem’s help, so is every minute detail of life.
For example, when a person enters a store to purchase a small cassette tape recorder, he checks the various brands, compares prices, tries them out, and finally buys one. Does he feel that he needs Hashem’s help now, just as he does when he gets married? Yet, this is his avodah – to remember that Hashem is guiding his life on a daily basis, even during very minor events. When one remembers this with every detail of life on a daily basis, he lives a life of emunah, a proper life in which he is connected to Hashem.
Let us explore this further. Let’s say that we ask a person who is about to buy a table, a set of chairs, or something similar, “Do you think you really have control over what kind of table you will buy, or do you clearly believe that you cannot determine this at all, and it is Hashem Who decrees exactly what you will buy?” Most people, apparently, know the truth that a person doesn’t really have the ability to determine which table he will buy. However, this is something hidden in the back of their minds. Not only is it far from their heart, but it is not even in their consciousness. A person doesn’t naturally think about this or contemplate it at all. A person’s avodah, therefore, is to train himself to think before doing even small acts, like the purchase of a table or chairs. Don’t run to the store without a moment’s thought. Stop to think a little and contemplate what you are about to do. Consider whether you are the one who determines what you will achieve through the act you are about to do. After you have thought about it, verbalize this contemplation and say to Hashem, “Master of the World, I know clearly that when I buy the table, I do not have control at all as to which table to buy, but it is all by Your decree.” (However, a person can certainly effect the decision through prayer, as will be explained later at length, with the help of Hashem.)
Care must be taken that this basic emunah should not be used by the yetzer hara as an excuse to absolve oneself from the responsibility to make reasonable hishtadlus to spend one’s money wisely. One is required to make responsible and well-considered choices taking into account all relevant factors, in particular how this purchase will affect others. The result of an irresponsible, rash decision may be that Hashem will decide to let you suffer the consequences of your folly.
A person should train himself gradually that whenever he is about to buy an object or accomplish anything else, he should consider whether the matter is really under his control. In this way, he will instill within himself the fundamentals of simple and pure emunah, that there is one unique G-d, the Master of all the worlds, Who alone determines every single detail (except for the fear of Heaven, as Chazal have said, “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except for the fear of Heaven.” ).
One should accustom oneself, for a long period of time, to perform every act with a thought of emunah. In this way he will connect all his actions to the Master of all the worlds. His life will be saturated with emunah, and all his deeds will be linked to the one unique G-d. This habit will become his nature, and he will truly acquire it in his soul. Pure, unadulterated, and simple emunah will be firmly entrenched within him.
This is a person’s avodah: to infuse within himself the knowledge that the only One Who determines each and every event is the One Master of the world. We shall try to make this matter more meaningful to you, so that not only will you accept this intellectually, but you will also feel it in the depth of your heart.
A person’s avodah is to first nullify the notion, and then the feeling, that he is in control of events in the world. His avodah is to weed out this feeling from its roots, to ferret it out and destroy it, until he truly feels that he has control over nothing but the acquisition of fear of Heaven. Chazal have said that in reality this is the sole arena of free will. Other than that, every single event is determined by the One Master of the world.
It is written, “You shall know today and impress on your heart.” This is a most basic principle and the root of the entire process of avodah. A person’s task is first, “know today,” to establish the concept in his mind. After the idea is a well-established fact in his mind, there begins the process of “and impress it onto your heart,” taking the knowledge to heart. The feelings of one’s heart must be in consonance with one’s way of thinking, so that it receives the knowledge without any obstruction. This requires a pure heart that has been freed from the “foreskin of the heart” which prevents the truth from penetrating into the heart and guiding it. This is the process of spiritual growth for any level a person strives to acquire. First there is the stage of “know today,” and then, there is the stage of “and impress on your heart.”
There are two ways to affect the transition from the stage of “know today” to the stage of “and impress on your heart.”
The first is through extensive contemplation on the matter one wants to master. This can be achieved by setting aside a set time each day to think about it for an extended period of time. (We will later discuss the statement of the Ramchal in Derech Etz Chaim that everyone must devote about an hour a day for contemplation.) This must be followed by repeated brief references to this thought at intervals throughout the day (except when one is studying Torah, as mentioned before).
The second way is to repeat statements relevant to the topic numerous times. Speech has the power to inspire the heart, as will be explained later, with the help of Hashem.
We will now focus on the method of contemplation during the allotted time devoted to such thought. We will try to show how to think in order to acquire emunah in Hashem’s Providence over every detail of life.
A person should sit in his house and devote about an hour of quiet time, free of any worldly distractions, and begin to think: “Who lives in this house? My wife and I,” and so on. Then, he should think: “Who determined that she would become my wife? Did I determine it, or was it the One Unique Being – Hashem – Who determined it?” He should talk about this in the form of a question (as described above) and then respond to himself, “Chazal, whose words are absolute truth, revealed how Hashem guides the world and they taught us that forty days before a fetus is formed, a Heavenly voice proclaims, ‘The daughter of this man will marry that man.’ Hence, Hashem Himself determined who would be my wife. I didn’t determine it at all, only He did.
Since this marriage was determined by Him, it must be clear to me that whatever resulted from this marriage also came through Him. There is no such thing as Hashem doing an action and not foreseeing all its results. Everything was revealed to Him from the beginning, and whatever ensues is His will. Hence, all the results of this marriage are really His will.”
The person should continue to reflect: “Who determined that I would live in this house? Was it I, because I looked at a number of places and liked this one, or did Hashem determine it, as Chazal have said that a Heavenly voice proclaims, ‘This house will go to that person’?”
He should consider the fact that although he already knows the absolute truth of Chazal’s words, he rarely devotes serious thought to the practical ramifications of this and other teachings. Like many other lessons and experiences, this teaching of Chazal is relegated a humble place in the individual’s memory. In addition, since he doesn’t think about it often, his heart doesn’t sense it. The feeling that he determined it by himself is closer to his heart.
A person will thus gain a clear grasp of his condition. He knows intellectually Who determined who will be his wife and where he will live, but he has two problems: 1) He doesn’t think about this much; 2) His heart doesn’t feel it. He will then resolve to think about it more frequently and to work on similar details. He must first rectify the first problem, by at least keeping this belief alive in his mind with clear, pure and calm thought. Slowly, the concept will take root in his soul, and his heart, too, will feel it strongly.
In addition to contemplating this, one should articulate all his thoughts, repeating words of emunah, and affirming that only Hashem determines every detail. He should review each point, one after the other with great patience, because this will have a major effect on the soul. There are two ways to do this: He could speak about Hashem in the third person, saying that Hashem determines each detail, such as this one and that one. The other way is to speak directly to Hashem in the second person, saying, “You, Hashem, determined who will be my wife and where my home will be.” This is a lofty level that expresses the goal of a person’s life which is to feel that he is in the presence of Hashem. But if this is difficult to start with, one may use the third person.
In this way, a person should analyze all the aspects of his life in great detail. He should also articulate any considerations that might, chas veshalom, oppose simple emunah: “It seems that I chose my marriage partner and my home.” Then, he should discount them one by one, saying to Hashem, “Even though I feel that I am in control, I know that in fact this is not true. You are the One, the only One, Who determined that this person will be my marriage partner and that I will live here.”
A person should carefully consider one detail after another. He should consider, for example, the chair he is sitting on and the table nearby. He should reconstruct the process of the purchase, how he chose the particular style and color of the table and chairs: “If so, on the surface, it seems that I chose my table and chairs.” But, he should then continue to reflect and then articulate: “This is not true. Only, You, Hashem, determined precisely which table and chairs I would get. Without a doubt, even if I chose the color and style, the manufacturer makes many such chairs, so why did this chair or table specifically become mine? This was Your doing, Hashem, and You determined it with precision.”
In this way, he should consider the contents of his wardrobe, his household items and all his belongings. With each item, he should repeat in his mind and verbally state that only Hashem determines with precision which object will be his. He should thus cover all the objects he owns, and review all the events he has experienced, considering each one in detail, instilling within himself the fundamentals of emunah, the simple emunah that only Hashem determines each detail. He should first think about it in his mind, and then articulate it, as we said before, either in the third person (“He”) or in the second person (“You”) – if he is ready for that.
“I have emunah because I spoke.” As the sefarim hakedoshim explain, “When do I have emunah? When I speak!” That is to say, emunah is planted deeply in a person’s heart by expressing it in words. The more one articulates one’s emunah in addition to thinking about it, the more emunah will take root deeply in his heart. The opposite is also true: “Emunah is lost; it is cut off from their mouths.” As the sefarim explain, emunah is lost because it is missing from their mouths. Since they were not accustomed to constantly articulate words of emunah, in addition to thinking about it, emunah became lost from their hearts. The deep clarity of the light of emunah was concealed and buried in their hearts; it was not alive there in an active way.
These words of emunah can be expressed in two forms. When talking to friends, emunah must be a dominant theme that accompanies everything one says. But that is not enough. Even when a person is alone, which in fact is the main time for instilling emunah, he should express ideas of emunah in great detail, as explained above. “Even when I walk in the shadow of the valley of death, I will not fear, for You are with me.” A person must constantly speak words of emunah, and always live with Hashem with pure emunah. In this way, “Even when I walk in the shadow of the valley of death, I will not fear, for You are with me.” The person will always be in the state of “for You are with me.”
The gemara defines man as “one who prays” (mav’eh), based on the passuk, “If you wish to pray, then pray (be’ayu).” A person’s task is to speak to Hashem and about Him with words of pure emunah. One who habituates himself to constantly speak this way and does not give up hope can reach a wondrous level of emunah. He can attain a true acquisition of pure emunah in his soul. This can be achieved entirely through simple words of emunah, not with lofty and sophisticated ideas, but with total simplicity. This is the essence of the Jewish soul – simple and pure emunah in the Creator of the Worlds.
The times when a person must strive to instill emunah in Hashem’s Providence fall into two categories, as we explained above with regard to every aspect of avodah: 1) During the time in the day devoted to contemplation, which we have just been discussing. 2) At brief intervals throughout the day – about every fifteen or thirty minutes.
During the months in which a person is working to attain this level of faith, the matter must occupy his heart throughout the day. He must live with this perspective all day long. If he works with it only during his designated hour of contemplation, there will be an interruption of 23 hours until the next time he thinks about it. Anything that is not constant cannot properly take root in a person’s soul. Therefore, throughout the day, one must think about the matter he is toiling to master.
There are two applications of remembering Hashem’s Providence throughout the day: 1) frequent events; 2) daily regular occurrences.
A person plans, for example, to purchase a table, chairs or the like. Preferably, before leaving the house, he should think to himself and say, “I am going to buy a table and chairs. I cannot really choose at all. Only Hashem will determine which table will I purchase. What I do and the choice I make will not make any difference at all, but nevertheless according to the level of hishtadlus (required effort) expected from me, I need to go about making a choice, as the Mesillas Yesharim says that even though one extends an effort, he must know that his effort does not really accomplish the result.”
This is the perspective with which he should enter the store. Even when he is in the store and begins to select the table and chairs, he must keep in mind that his choice is like that of a monkey that acts as directed. He is not in control at all, because Hashem has already determined which table and chairs will enter his home.
We have used the example of a table and chairs, but obviously, the point is that a person should not buy anything without some prior contemplation. No matter what he buys, be it a refrigerator, a washing machine, a cabinet, or anything else, he must first prepare himself mentally, as described above, and then go to buy the item together with Hashem, not by himself, chas veshalom. A person must acquire the habit of not doing any significant act without entertaining a thought of emunah beforehand. One who acts in this manner will find that along with each material acquisition, he has gained a great and powerful spiritual acquisition. By going about a purchase in such a manner, he will infuse his heart with emunah in Divine Providence. By repeatedly thinking and articulating these thoughts, pure faith in Hashem’s Providence will take root inside him.
We have dealt so far with significant decisions, such as major purchases. Once one has attained the habit of contemplating significant acts, his avodah is to accustom himself to do so regarding even minor decisions and undertakings.
We will provide an example: A person goes to buy food for Shabbos. Through this commonplace act, he can acquire a great deal of emunah. For example, he stretches out his hand to take a package of noodles from the shelf. He should think to himself and say, “This shelf has dozens of packages. Why did this one come to my hand and not another? It must be that for some hidden reason, You decreed that precisely this package would come to my hand, and not another.” (We are not going into what might be the reasons why Hashem decrees such things.)
The details are numerous, but there is one underlying principle: a person must train himself to inculcate himself with emunah in Divine Providence every time he buys something, as described above. An acquisition carried out in this way can enable one to make a great acquisition of emunah. Certainly, if a person takes this to heart, and accustoms himself to do so always, emunah will firmly take root in his heart.
One must accustom himself to living this way and in doing so make a lofty and awesome spiritual acquisition, that of pure emunah in Hashem and His Providence. One should accustom himself to ponder many different situations throughout the day. For example, when he sits down to eat some bread, he should consider the fact that specifically this piece of bread came to his hand. When washing his hands or drinking, he should reflect upon how this water came to him specifically though precise Divine Providence.
Of course, one cannot always contemplate every detail of his life, but one should strive constantly to expand his awareness to more details of life, little by little, until the concept is fixed in his heart.
The main thing is that one must avoid the superficial perspective, in which Hashem’s Hand and Providence are seen only during very unnatural events and miracles. Rather, a person must see Hashem during each detail of his life, even the smallest of them, although it may seem to be a very natural happening.
The point is not to rely upon stories of wondrous events. To be spiritually alive, one must live with genuine emunah his entire life. One who lives in such a manner will attain a very high degree of deveikus to Hashem, provided that he has fulfilled the prior conditions, which are remembering Hashem’s existence and being aware that He is the Creator and we are his creations.
But contemplation is not enough; one must express these thoughts. One must know that he is not talking to himself. He is talking to the Creator of the world with the definite faith that He listens attentively to every word of emunah that comes from a sincere Jew.
We must understand that although this is a simple path, it affects the deeper recesses of one’s soul. The yetzer hara may ridicule a person claiming that this approach is simplistic. However, anyone who has achieved the simplicity born of kedushah will understand and sense that it is davka through simplicity that a person is lifted above a life that is shallow and superficial, and placed into a world of depth and meaning.
Hashem is called a “hidden G-d.” Where does He hide? In a person’s heart. A person must work to reveal Hashem’s presence in his heart. This is achieved through an approach of uncomplicated simplicity based on kedushah. A thoughtful person can discover Hashem through each detail of creation, and remove the veil from his heart.
Now that we have shown how to instill in one’s midst a simple and pure faith in Hashem’s Providence, we will see how establishing this emunah in one’s heart will weaken the intensity of one’s anger.
The truth is that anger is a measuring rod for a person, through which the extent of one’s faith in Hashem’s Providence can be measured. The greater one’s emunah is in Hashem’s Providence, the weaker is his trait of anger. And the further one is from faith in His Providence, the greater will be his anger. (This is besides the differences in people’s natures, making some people quicker to anger than others.) Therefore, if a person wants to check if his efforts have borne fruit and whether faith in Hashem’s Providence has made inroads into his heart, one method is to check the degree of his anger. If his reactions have not changed and he becomes as angry as he did before, he has not truly acquired emunah in Hashem’s Providence. But if he finds that the degree of his anger is decreasing, he can take that to be an indication of the extent to which he has indeed acquired emunah in Hashem’s Providence.
We will give a brief introduction before we explain how instilling emunah can cure the trait of anger. There is a principle that applies to all true avodah in general and specifically to the trait of anger. The way to correct any flaw in one’s character traits and give it a proper balance is through bringing Hashem into the picture.
“If I (Hashem) am here, all is here.” That is to say, if Hashem is included in the process in an appropriate manner, the matter in question will be properly rectified. When Hashem is truly present at the heart of a matter, it will perforce be corrected and ultimately perfected. A person’s entire avodah therefore is to bring Hashem into the picture.
We will now discuss and explain how to cure the trait of anger. How does one bring Hashem into the picture, in order to bring about such a cure?
What leads a person to anger? One simple answer is that anything that opposes one’s will brings him to anger. Sometimes, the anger is very weak and barely discernable. Sometimes, it is strong and very evident in the heart. And sometimes, it is so powerful and fierce that it is obvious from the person’s facial expression.
Another cause of anger (this is included in the first aspect, but is a specific application of it) is that when a person’s honor is slighted, he is angered. He feels he deserves honor, and it has been denied to him.
Generally speaking, there are two situations that make one angry: 1) When one’s will is frustrated not through another person, but through natural events; 2) When another person thwarts one’s will.
We will provide some examples. A person gets up one morning and embarks on a journey. Suddenly, he gets a flat tire, and he can’t continue driving. No one caused this to happen. Tires naturally wear down until they get ruined. This event can make a person angry, because he planned to meet someone at a particular time, and now, he can’t. There is no one to direct the anger against, because the event didn’t occur through a person. If you would ask him, “At whom are you angry?” He would correctly respond, “I am not angry at the tire, but at the situation. I am unable to carry out my wishes and plans.” Seemingly, his anger is not directed against anyone specific. (Later, we will see that this is not exactly true.)
The second kind of anger occurs when one person does some harm to another, such as breaking his window. Here, there is someone at whom to direct the anger – the specific individual who caused the damage.
Hence, there are two kinds of anger: 1) Where there is no clear target for the anger, because there is no one to get angry with; 2) Where there is a person who caused one to become angry.
On a deeper level, all kinds of anger are the same. We will explain. When a person really understands emunah in his mind and is properly aware of it in his heart, he realizes that in each case, the source of the event that made him angry is only the Creator.
We will initially consider the first kind of anger, and then, with Hashem’s help we will discuss the second.
A person wakes up in the morning, gets into his car, and drives off. Later on, he gets a flat tire. If a person simply reacts to this mishap he will naturally feel angry and frustrated. However, if he lives in the proper way, he will do the following: when he enters his car in the morning, he will first of all think, “Who gave me the car? Hashem! From where does the car receive its ability to be driven? Hashem gives the car the capacity to drive each moment.” (The phrase in our Morning Prayers, “With His goodness, He renews creation each day” is said in the present tense.) If this attitude permeates mind and heart, then if the car malfunctions for any reason at all, he will think as follows: “Who gave the car the ability to work until now? Hashem! And Who now took away its ability to be driven? Hashem! If so, if I get angry at my inability to use this car, that really means I am getting angry with Hashem, because it was He Who took away from me the ability to drive this car now.”
However, many people live with a superficial outlook on life and do not keep in mind – all the more so, in their hearts – that Hashem alone provides the ability to use a car at each moment and it is He Who constantly guides our lives. When such people encounter some problem on the road, they will find it extremely difficult to suddenly remind themselves that Hashem alone guides them. Hashem was not in the center of their thoughts before the problem surfaced, and as a result, anger will surface.
But if one constantly remembers that Hashem controls everything with precise Providence, then even when it seems that his journey was unsuccessful because there were numerous delays, he will remember in his mind and feel in his heart that: 1) Only Hashem has led him until now; 2) Only He is delaying him now, as there is no other cause. He will understand that the present hindrance is from Hashem.
In the Torah we find an episode that is almost identical to the situation described above. Bilaam was going on his way, and his donkey crouched down and prevented him from continuing. Bilaam thought that the donkey had chosen to stop him, but that was not at all the case. The donkey did not stop of its own free will, but through an angel, a messenger of Hashem. In other words, the fact that it stopped and did not continue was a direct result of Hashem’s will. But since Bilaam did not understand this, at whom did he get angry? At the donkey! When he later understood that the hindrance was from Hashem, he realized that there was no one at whom to direct his anger.
If a person would always think in this manner, he would realize that there is no reason to lose one’s anger, because everything is from Hashem. He will realize that if he feels anger at the cause of a disturbance, he is in fact angry with Hashem, which he certainly never intended. He will realize that all of life is in truth a constant interaction with the Creator, and he will direct his attention toward Hashem, remembering Who is behind each moment and experience. He will not pay any attention to the many intermediary factors, but to He Who stands behind everything – Hashem Himself.
Once a person has come to realize intellectually and feels in his heart that every single event comes only from Hashem, he must think more deeply about it. Does this act of Hashem stem from His love, or, chas veshalom, from hatred? Clearly, Hashem loves every person very much, with a love that transcends the kind found in created beings, a love whose essence can only be present in the One G-d.
Here is a simple example: Someone gets drunk on Purim, and wants to drive a car. His father tries to convince him that it is very dangerous, but the son doesn’t listen. The father tries to take away the car keys, but he is unsuccessful. When he sees that the son is about to drive away, he goes and lets the air out of the tires. The son realizes that he cannot drive, and begins to scream, “Father, what are you doing to me?” The father doesn’t answer, because the son will not understand him then. The son dejectedly returns to the house and falls asleep. The next morning, he barely remembers what happened, and asks his father about the previous evening’s events. When the father tells him what happened, the son hugs and kisses his father, saying, “Thank you for saving my life!”
Similarly, a person must clarify to himself that the event in question occurred through Hashem, as a result of His love toward him. That being the case, it undoubtedly was for his benefit. Although the benefit and the love are not immediately apparent, he must accept in his mind and feel in his heart that the event occurred as a result of Hashem’s deep love for him. The entire event was only for his benefit, even though he does not sense the nature of the benefit.
Once a person realizes and feels that every single incident that occurs to him flows from Hashem’s deep love and is entirely for his benefit, there is no place for anger. Anger arises when someone offends a person or tries to harm him. But if the act is entirely positive, devoid of evil, and results from Hashem’s deep love, what place is there for anger?
We will summarize what we have discussed so far. To begin with, a person must come to know and feel that Hashem alone causes each event. The second stage is for the person to know and feel that Hashem loves him very much. The third stage is to know and feel that Hashem is the only One Who knows what is truly best for him. If He put the person into this situation, then His infinite wisdom has determined that this was the best way to benefit the individual at this time.
Sometimes, the yetzer hara tries to fool a person and puts the thought into his head: “True, this was totally for my benefit, but why couldn’t Hashem have benefited me in a different way, in a way that I could see even with my physical eyes that this was good?” You must believe, understand, and feel that Hashem knows everything. His infinite wisdom has determined that this was the only way to benefit you at this time.
Once a person has internalized this concept, he will not get angry over anything that happens to him. Not only that, but he will even be happy about it. Chazal refer to, “those who rejoice even when suffering.” This comes from a clear recognition of Who was the cause of the event, and why He caused it. Hashem Himself, out of his infinite love, brought this upon him.
When a person understands this and feels it with all his heart, there can be no place for anger, only for joy. If his heart is not filled with joy, and certainly, if there is still room for anger, his emunah is obviously not pure enough.
This is a person’s avodah – to fully internalize these ideas of emunah into his heart. The first step is to give it a lot of thought. The next step is to speak about it often, repeating the concepts time after time. He should say to Hashem, “I know that You caused this event, I know that You love me, and I know that this was for my benefit. Enable me to feel all this.” A person should repeat such words thousands of times, and even more, until he really feels them and that they have penetrated to the depths of his heart.
Even if a person fails and does become angry, he should not get upset about that. He should think back on how he began the day, and realize that he was not sufficiently aware of Hashem’s guidance. Then, he should go back and instill in himself the emunah, many thousands of times. This should be done both before an unpleasant situation arises, and during such situations. He should go back and infuse these words in his heart incessantly, without being disheartened by failures. If he perseveres with this, despite the failures and setbacks and is not overwhelmed by them, Hashem will certainly grant him the privilege to acquire pure faith in his heart.
It is essential for a person to keep a daily account of his spiritual growth. This is particularly important when one is working on anger. One must check if he became angry that day, identify that it was a result of a lack of emunah, and commit himself to improve. This will have a very positive effect.
We have described, so far, how to deal with anger that comes through an event that doesn’t involve another person. Now, with Hashem’s help, we will discuss anger that is aroused by the behavior of another person.
We have already mentioned that this is a very difficult situation, because when another person is not involved, it is clear that one cannot really get angry at the rock that one tripped over, or the tire that burst. The person understands (if he is worthy) that it came from Hashem. But when another person makes one angry, one is apt to think that since that person has free will, the event was not decreed by Hashem, but is a result of that individual’s free will. It is natural to be inclined to become angry with that individual who chose to harm him.
There is a well-known incident that happened in the beis din of the Beis Halevi (Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, 1820-1892). A butcher once came to him with a question about the kashrus of an animal, and he ruled that the meat was forbidden. The butcher calmly accepted the decision, in spite of the financial loss this ruling caused him. Some time later, this same person came before the Beis Halevi to resolve a financial dispute between him and another man. After the Beis Halevi ruled against him and in favor of his opponent, he became enraged. The Beis Halevi commented that even though the man lost more money as a result of the first ruling, he didn’t have anyone with whom to get angry then, because the animal was not his opponent. But in the second case, there was someone to blame, and this stirred up hostile feelings.
There are two issues when the anger-provoking situation is caused by another person: 1) It appears that the other person chose to hurt him; 2) The very fact that there is another person involved draws one into a fight, due to feelings of pride and honor. This can only be corrected through pure, clear emunah. When a person lives with true emunah, it makes no difference if he was harmed by a rock, water, a person, or anything else. Only a lack of clear emunah creates these distinctions and incites anger.
The Zohar points out that when a dog is struck by a stick, it runs after the stick and tries to bite it. This is because the dog is unaware that the real cause of the blow was not the stick, but the person holding it. People make the same mistake. They fail to realize that any time a person serves as an intermediary to bring about an unpleasant occurrence, he is only a stick in Hashem’s Hand.
One must identify the true source of an event. It is not the stick, but Hashem. Sometimes, this stick appears in the form of a rock, sometimes as water, and sometimes as a person. The common denominator, though, is that they have the same origin – Hashem Himself.
When David Hamelech was cursed by Shimi ben Geira, his reaction was, “Hashem told him to curse.” This is the foundation of emunah – “Hashem told him to curse.” Similarly, we may say that Hashem told him to hit, Hashem told him to break, Hashem told him to embarrass. Although these examples are not found in the Torah, a wise man will extract the message from “Hashem told him to curse,” and understand that the proper approach should be nothing other than “Hashem told him.”
One must understand the inner structure of creation. There are two ways a person might view the world: 1) The world is comprised of inanimate objects, plants, animals, and people. This is a superficial approach, because the person is only looking at the external aspect of creation. 2) We say in the Morning prayers: “You existed before the world was created, and You exist now that the world has been created.” Why did Chazal reveal this fact to us?
Clearly, any time Hashem caused some knowledge to be revealed to man, it must be that it is needed for his avodah. If so, this must also apply with regard to the statement, “You were the One before the world was created, and You existed now that the world has been created.” Chazal revealed to us a new perspective on creation. We should not just focus on the perspective of seeing the inanimate objects, plants, animals, and humans, which is the perspective of after creation. We must learn to live even now with the perspective of “before the world was created.” This is a deeper view of life, and provides an inner, true perspective of the essence of all created beings.
This is the explanation: from the perspective of “after Creation” every object, plant, animal and human being is related to as having its own independent destiny and existence. This way of thinking naturally leads to a life filled with anger “caused” by others who have wronged or insulted him. But if one sees the world through the eyes of emunah, he lives every minute in the reality of, “You existed before the world was created.” He finds Hashem in everything. He doesn’t view the inanimate object as something independent; he senses Hashem’s energy in it. The same is true with the plant, the animal, and the person. Therefore, he never really focuses on the created being, but rather on Hashem. He senses that the entire physical world is a garment with which Hashem has disguised Himself, so to speak. He does not bother himself with the garment, but with the underlying essence, which is Hashem. Therefore, whenever something happens, he sees only Hashem, Who is the real cause of all events.
This outlook on life will completely transform a person. He will escape from the superficial state of seeing only created beings and connect to a deeper state of sensing the Creator. His only involvement will be with Hashem. (This is the depth of Chazal’s comment that when Esther said, “May the king come” she had in mind the King of the World. That was how she lived – seeing Hashem in everything – and her entire focus and communication was only with Him.)
You should understand that this is the true way to look at creation. When one views the objects of creation as separate entities, their value is lowered, because in truth the sole importance of anything is measured by its very own degree of G-dliness. Other ways of assessing value that are commonly employed in this world are definitions that come from the world of falsehood. The truth is that each thing is as great as the G-dliness it reveals. The deeper perspective of seeing the G-dliness underlying an inanimate object, a plant, an animal, or a human, elevates them from the state of ordinary creations to the state of being creations connected to Hashem, in which there is a revelation of G-dliness. This is the entire value of any created being – the degree to which it represents and reveals the presence of Hashem.
When a person merits to maintain the perspective of “before the world was created,” within the present state of “now that the world has been created,” he can become close and attached to Hashem even while interacting with anything in creation. The physical world does not become a barrier between him and his Creator. This is achieved when the person mentally removes the outer form of the object and sees Hashem’s presence in everything. We are not referring to the specific spiritual energy of the object, but to the ultimate common source, which is Hashem. In this manner, he will never be bound to the events and acts of the physical world, since he realizes that they are not truly the underlying reality in which these interactions transpire. In this way, he will not depend on the unpredictable variables of physical existence. Furthermore, by removing their outer form and exposing their inner essence, which is Hashem, a person is able to connect with Hashem through any event. We have elaborated on this somewhat, because it is a fundamental understanding of the inner essence of life and man’s ability and responsibility to cleave to Hashem.
When a person has the privilege to understand and internalize this concept, he achieves a powerful bond with the Creator, for there is nothing to separate between him and his Creator. He relates to the inner essence of each thing, which is Hashem’s light, and thus, the outer form of things do not block him from deveikus to his Creator. This person can connect to Hashem not only while learning Torah and performing mitzvos. He lives according to the passuk, “In all your ways, you must know Him (da’ehu).” Literally in everything he does, he knows (yode’a) Hashem and is attached to Him (yediah means connection and deveikus, as is known).
This is a person’s avodah – to reject the superficial outer appearance of the world around him and to cleave at all times to the inner essence, which is Hashem. This includes a clear awareness of Hashem’s existence and His Providence, as we explained before. By acquiring this way of life, a person escapes the world of separateness, and joins Hashem’s world: “Hashem is One and His name is One,” becoming a member of the people “who acknowledges Your oneness” (Hoshanos). The purpose and endpoint of this stage is total deveikus to the Infinite. Each person should strive to achieve this to the best of his capabilities.
Once a person has reached the level where his emunah is strong, and he sees Hashem’s guidance in everything he does, he should enter the world of tefillah. We intentionally use the term “world” here. This is because tefillah is not merely a matter of reciting three prayers a day. Rather, a person must enter the “world of tefillah”. Life with tefillah is an entirely different kind of existence. David Hamelech said, “and I am tefillah.” He was always involved in tefillah; he lived in the world of tefillah. When a person lives in this world of tefillah, he will not allow even fifteen minutes go by without turning to Hashem in prayer, whether in thought or verbally. The first thing to understand is that tefillah is an entirely different way to live, not merely a detail that applies at specific times in the day.
We will explain. A sincere Jew lives in a way that ensures he is with Hashem throughout the day: his Torah is with Hashem, his mitzvos are with Hashem, and so on. What binds the person to Hashem throughout the day is tefillah. The real purpose of tefillah is to bring a person to a state in which he is always close to Hashem. When we understand that this is the purpose of tefillah, it becomes clear that tefillah cannot be limited to three or four times a day. If that were the case, the main point of tefillah – the constant connection to Hashem – would be lacking. If it only takes place during a small part of the day, how could it generate a bond that lasts throughout the entire day? Clearly, some form of tefillah must be present all day (as described later). Of this, David HaMelech said, “and I am tefillah.” His entire being was always involved in tefillah.
If a person does not remember Hashem during the day, how can he turn to Him at all times? If he does not even remember Him, he will certainly not daven to Him.
Therefore, it is clear that first of all, a person must remember Hashem throughout the day, as explained above in detail. Furthermore, even if a person remembers Hashem, but does not remember His constant Providence over each thing every single moment, why would he turn to Him for help? After all, he doesn’t presently remember and feel that Hashem is the sole address to turn to for help in all areas.
Therefore, it is clear that to embody, “and I am prayer,” one must first have a constant awareness of the Creator and be constantly cognizant that there is a “Master of this palace,” Who is the only Master over each and every detail in the “palace” we call life.
When a person goes through his day thinking and feeling that the success and failure (chas veshalom) of all his actions depends only on Hashem, his mind or his lips will murmur a prayer to Hashem for success in his efforts, before and even during each undertaking.
We will provide some examples: A person is about to daven Shacharis. From many years of experience, we know that it is very difficult to pray with proper intent. Who can help a person with this? Certainly, one should try to maintain proper focus to the best of his ability, but without Hashem’s help, he cannot succeed.
Chazal have already stated, “Each day, the yetzer hara opposes a person anew; without the aid of Hashem, the person cannot be victorious.” Consequently, a person cannot succeed in having the proper thoughts during his prayers relying only on his own abilities. Who can help him? Only Hashem!
If a person is wise, he will turn to Hashem and beg Him for the privilege to daven with proper intent. Likewise, if during the tefillah, he encounters difficulty in concentrating, he should pause a moment and daven to Hashem, either mentally or verbally (depending on the situation), to help him so that he can resume proper tefillah.
Here is another example – when a person is about to begin a session of Torah study, he must understand that without Hashem’s help, he will not be able to grasp the truth. The Torah is loftier than human intellect. In the sefarim hakedoshim, it is referred to as sechel nivdal, “a separate intellect,” because it is separate and elevated above human intellect. Therefore, it is clear that there is no way for a person’s mind, which is merely human intellect, to understand the depth of the inner truth of the Torah. That being the case, how can one hope to understand the holy Torah properly? This can only happen with help from Hashem, “for Hashem gives wisdom, from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Therefore, when a person realizes that left to his own resources, he cannot understand the Torah, and success can only come through Hashem’s help, he must pour out his heart in tefillah to Hashem (in his own language) that he should have the privilege to grasp and discover the truth of our holy Torah. Before a person begins to learn, he should beg Hashem for the ability to understand the holy Torah properly. Also, while he is learning, any time he is faced with a question or something he doesn’t understand, he must naturally turn to Hashem and beg for the privilege to understand the matter at hand.
A person who learns Torah in this manner, attaches himself to Hashem even while learning, and his Torah and tefillah are connected. If he doesn’t do this, and forgets about Hashem because he is immersed in his studies, there is a danger that even when he has finished his learning session, he will, chas veshalom, forget about Hashem. Therefore, the proper way is to do as described above when learning Torah. In this way, his Torah will be attached to Hashem, and will attach him to Hashem. It will not, chas veshalom, distract him.
This is not some new concept which we have invented; it was the way of our master, the Chazon Ish, as is recorded in his biography. Any time he would come across a question or something difficult to understand, he would go to a corner of the room and pour out a whispered prayer before Hashem, asking to be able to understand the matter properly.
Of course, you don’t need to go into a corner. Each person should act according to the needs of his soul. You can certainly do this in front of the sefer, turning to Hashem with your mouth or mind, asking Him to help you understand the holy Torah. (Incidentally, besides tefillah during learning, which can bind a person to Hashem, each time one has the privilege to understand a Tosafos and the like, he should briefly thank Hashem at the end of the piece. He might say, “Master of the World, I thank you so much for enabling me to understand this Tosafos.” In this manner, he will bind himself to Hashem the entire time he is learning. This is a wonderful suggestion for achieving true deveikus to Hashem.) A person should accustom himself to ask Hashem for understanding before learning, while learning, and after learning. He should ask to be able to remember the material and to have the privilege to learn in the future. If a person does this on a regular basis, he will achieve something really great, with the help of Hashem. He will understand the holy Torah, and also attain deveikus in the process.
Here is another example: A person goes to a store to purchase a table, a set of chairs, or the like. We described above how before and during a purchase, one must awaken the emunah that Hashem has determined which item he will purchase. In addition, before purchasing any such item, one must turn to Hashem and express all his thoughts: he needs a new table, and plans to buy one, he is going to try to find one in a particular store, and any other such matters. He should spell out every single detail before Hashem. Then, he should ask Hashem to guide him in the proper way, so that he will buy the right table, he should not have to trouble himself too much, he should succeed in guarding his eyes from improper sights on the way, and any other matters relevant to the purchase of that table. That is to say, he should seek Hashem in all aspects of the purchase and ask for help in all of them.
Any person working on himself will understand that these are only examples. A person must gradually train himself to daven for success during all of his actions. (This must be approached gradually because “if you grab too much, you have nothing” and anyway, it is pointless to move too fast, because this is a matter of the heart, and the heart cannot make radical changes suddenly.) This includes repairing a broken object, or preparing food, or traveling to be somewhere by a specific time, or looking for a study partner, or whatever. He will then acquire the habit to constantly turn to Hashem, with his mind or his lips, for each detail of life at all times. In this way, he will have the privilege to attach himself to the ultimate source of life – Hashem. This is a very wonderful piece of practical advice.
You should know that although tefillah has the ability to help childless couples, heal the sick, unleash a shower of material and spiritual blessings, and is a means for attaining all good things, these benefits are all incidental to the main point of tefillah. The real greatness of tefillah is that through it, one can become tied and attached to the ultimate source of life – Hashem.
When davening to attain a particular thing, whether spiritual or material, a person must bear in mind the main point of his prayer. This is really the whole secret of life – to always remember what is primary and what is secondary, and to always find the way to attain closeness to Hashem through every thing and each situation. Everything else is incidental and secondary to closeness and deveikus to Hashem. This is particularly true concerning tefillah, which is essentially communication with Hashem, closeness to Hashem, and deveikus to Him.
A person’s avodah is to be constantly mindful not to be too engrossed in the subject of his requests, but rather, in the essence of tefillah, which is communication and closeness with Hashem. Tefillah is so called based on the passuk, “Naftulei Elokim Niftalti” (“I have been attached to Hashem”) which refers to deveikus, as the sefarim hakedoshim state. This is the whole inner essence of tefillah – attachment to Hashem.
When a person davens and talks to his Creator, there are two possibilities: he might speak in the third person, saying “He,” or he might speak in the second person, saying “You.” The ideal way to daven is to use the second person. Although this may be very difficult at first, because the soul doesn’t feel Hashem’s immediate presence, a person must accustom himself to it. With time, little by little, Hashem will grant him the privilege to feel that He is nearby.
This must also be achieved in stages. At first, one should speak mainly in the third person, using the word “He,” and occasionally use the second person. Gradually, as he begins to feel more comfortable saying “You,” he should increase his usage of this mode, until all his words are in the form of direct communication with Hashem, and he has the privilege to feel that his Creator is right near him. This is the goal of life. The whole purpose of man’s life in this world is to live with his Creator, and to feel that Hashem is really next to him. This, in fact, is one of the most difficult levels to achieve. As the Ramchal says, our senses contradict this truth. But when a person gradually accustoms himself to attain it, Hashem will certainly help him until he really feels Him right nearby, and he can talk to his Creator “as one talks to a friend”
This may at first seem beyond a person, but if one accustoms oneself to have all his activities center around Hashem and talks to Him throughout the day, it will become much easier. He will grow in this lofty avodah of feeling that Hashem is there and to speak to Him at all times as if to a friend. This will become very simple and natural. This was the way of the great rabbis in all the generations. They sensed in a most tangible way that Hashem was present right next to them.
Section 5 Fear of Hashem
Yiras ha’onesh (fear of punishment) is the foundation of one’s spiritual growth. It is referred to as “inferior fear” in the sefarim hakedoshim (as opposed to awe of Hashem’s greatness, which is called “superior fear”). Yiras ha’onesh is divided into two parts: 1) fear of punishment after death, such as Gehinnom; 2) fear of retribution here on earth, through various forms of suffering.
We shall begin by discussing punishment after death. Most people find it difficult to attain this kind of yirah. Since we can’t see Gehinnom with our eyes, it is hard to fear it. It is human nature not to fear that which we cannot conceive, let alone see. If a person would be pure, and by means of his soul be able to perceive the punishments of the afterlife, he could attain fear of Gehinnom. But since very few people are on the level of perceiving what transpires in the spiritual world through their souls – and in any case, attaining yiras ha’onesh would be a prerequisite to reaching that level – this is obviously not the way to attain yiras ha’onesh.
What then is the primary way to attain yiras ha’onesh? One has to use one’s mental faculties – specifically the imaginative faculty – to picture Gehinnom, and thereby reach yirah. The problem, however, is that few people in our day and age are endowed with an imaginative faculty strong enough to influence their hearts to fear punishment. This being the case, it is most difficult to attain yiras ha’onesh. The body can’t see it; the soul, which can perceive it, is hidden from consciousness; and our power of imagination is too weak.
In view of these considerations, many teachers in these latter generations decided not to dwell at length on yiras ha’onesh. Others, on the other hand, felt that we cannot abandon this foundation of our avodah. They continued to work with it a great deal, in spite of the difficulties involved. They actually spent their entire lives teaching people about it. Nevertheless, due to the difficulties involved, they were not very successful.
Both of these approaches are dangerous. If a person skips over yiras ha’onesh, and moves forward to something higher, he is lacking an important foundation. Chas veshalom, at times when he is uninspired and falls spiritually, when the fire of the love of Hashem is not burning within him, what will prevent him from sinning if he has not acquired yiras ha’onesh? But the other approach is also dangerous. Since it is so difficult to attain yiras ha’onesh, a person is liable to spend his entire life trying to master it, and never move on to higher levels. He will leave this world with very little to show for his efforts.
We will begin to explain the essence of yiras ha’onesh. As we have mentioned a number of times, a person must strive to find Hashem in every aspect of life. This applies to yiras ha’onesh as well. We must first find Hashem in this avodah of yiras ha’onesh, and then figure out how to come closer to Him through it. First, we must contemplate – who created Gehinnom? Hashem Himself. It is the fruit of His handiwork. In addition to that, consider – who metes out the punishment in Gehinnom? Does it operate on its own? Of course not! Only Hashem, the One and Only, creates Gehinnom anew each moment. (This is why “He forms light and creates darkness; He makes peace and creates evil” is stated in the present tense; all things are created each moment anew.) He is the One Who punishes in Gehinnom.
Now let us consider why Hashem created Gehinnom. Does He want to harm us? Certainly not! Rather His desire is clearly that we should all attain closeness to Him. When a person sins, he creates a barrier that prevents him from attaining closeness to Hashem. One of the ways to remove that barrier is through the punishments of Gehinnom.
Hence, Gehinnom is merely a means of attaining closeness to Hashem. If one only fears Gehinnom, without remembering and being conscious of Who created it and Who punishes there, and for what reason, he has misunderstood the whole point. He fears the external aspect of Gehinnom, but fails to grasp the purpose for which this fear was created.
Once, however, we internalize an awareness of the existence of the punishment of Gehinnom, this very awareness generates a fear of it. Why does Hashem want us to be afraid? Does Hashem want to upset a person and frighten him? That is certainly not the case. Rather, the entire purpose of one’s life is to be close to Hashem. Yet, as we said, by transgressing Hashem’s will, a person creates a barrier between himself and his Creator. Hashem has therefore created Gehinnom so that a person will be afraid of that, and hence refrain from doing those very things which will distant himself from Him.
The fear of the punishment of Gehinnom is thus not a goal unto itself at all. Its whole purpose is to prevent a person from distancing himself from his Creator, and to ensure that he has the privilege of attaining true closeness to Him. Merely fearing Gehinnom without remembering the purpose of the fear misses the point.
This is a very fundamental idea. One must remember that both the punishments as well as the fear of Gehinnom exist only for the sake of allowing us to attain closeness and attachment to the Creator, as opposed to any external reason.
When a person strives to acquire yiras ha’onesh, he should first be aware of what or whom he fears – Gehinnom itself, or Hashem Who punishes there. (Of course, it is natural to fear the punishment, but the main thing to remember is Who punishes. This is a deep concept, which Harav Yechezkel Levinstein zt”l used to speak of.) One must remember the purpose of this fear.
When a person strives to acquire yiras ha’onesh in this way, his entire avodah takes on new life. Otherwise, one might, chas veshalom, strive for years to attain fear of Gehinnom, and yet completely forget about Hashem all that time. He will have become preoccupied with fear of Gehinnom, but forget about Hashem. When a person progresses in the way we have recommended, however, yiras ha’onesh itself becomes a means to draw him close to his Creator, and not, chas veshalom, the opposite.
The key is to determine whether yiras ha’onesh is helping one remember Hashem more and feel that he is getting closer to Him, or if it has made him more self-absorbed and consumed with worry about getting hurt and punished.
There is something else you should know. Yiras ha’onesh is not only a last resort that is needed for small-minded and foolish people. It is true that the sefarim hakedoshim have written that yiras ha’onesh is meant for such people. What they intended to say is that such people can only attain yiras ha’onesh and nothing more. However, it is clear that even the greatest people need yiras ha’onesh.
When a person is uninspired and feels intellectually unmotivated, he needs a strong measure of yiras ha’onesh. At such a time, the attitudes that usually motivate him are not operating, and the only thing that can protect him is the yiras ha’onesh in his heart. A person must therefore know that when he starts working on yiras ha’onesh, he is thereby fulfilling Hashem’s will.
This becomes another element that binds a person to Hashem. One must expend effort in acquiring yiras ha’onesh because this is the will of Hashem. (Certainly, there are times when one may feel yiras ha’onesh because he fears the punishment itself. He thus works on his yiras ha’onesh because he is concerned that he does not have sufficient fear and might therefore come to sin, chas veshalom, and be punished. Because he is afraid for his own sake, we might think that this is not acceptable. In heaven, however, it is considered that he is working on this for both reasons – because he fears the punishments of Gehinnom, and because Hashem’s will is that he should toil to acquire yiras ha’onesh.)
We see now that one can connect to Hashem even through yiras ha’onesh, which is a person’s concern that he might get punished and harmed. To do this he should remember: 1) Who created and still creates Gehinnom; 2) Who decrees the punishment in Gehinnom; 3) the purpose of that punishment, which is to bring a person closer to Hashem; 4) the purpose of the fear, which is to prevent a person from sinning and becoming distant from Hashem; 5) the reason for working on acquiring yiras ha’onesh (at least partially), which is because such is Hashem’s will.
We now have five ways in which yiras ha’onesh can bring a person closer to Hashem. With these in mind, even when he is working to attain yiras ha’onesh, he will not be self-absorbed, but will remember his Creator properly and even merit coming closer to Him.
When a person bears in mind these five points, he is ready to start working to attain yiras ha’onesh. Obviously, he must first study the works that discuss yiras ha’onesh, particularly the chapters about Gehinnom and the chibut ha’kever (punishments of the grave) as described in Reishis Chochmah (Shaar HaYirah). In addition, Minchas Yehudah – HaRuchos Mesapros, by the kabbalist HaRav Yehudah Fetaya zt”l – describes in detail what happens to a person in the soul-world after the soul leaves the body. Each person, according to his mental abilities, should envision in his mind what he has read.
The most important thing is that, while one is working to acquire yiras ha’onesh, he should pour out his prayer to Hashem is his own words. For example, he might say, “Master of the world, You have commanded me to fear Your punishments. Why? So that I will not become distant from You, but on the contrary, merit to come close to You. You gave me a brain, and the ability to imagine. Nevertheless, with my present abilities, it is difficult for me to attain yiras ha’onesh. Therefore, Master of the world, I will do my part to do whatever I can to fear You, but I know that I cannot succeed on my own. Therefore, Master of the world, have pity and compassion on me, and plant fear of You in my heart, so that I will always fear You and will not come to sin, and I will have the privilege to always be close to You.”
Each person should elaborate according to his ability to express himself from the depth of his own heart. He should detail all of his innermost feelings, the reason he is striving to attain yiras ha’onesh, and the difficulties that he is encountering. He should then beg for help from Hashem in this. This must all come from a clear recognition that one could toil for a thousand years and still not attain true yiras ha’onesh without Hashem’s help. He must know, understand, and feel that all his avodah depends solely on Hashem’s help. He should pray in this way regarding yiras ha’onesh in general, as well as its application. For example, he might be walking in the street and afraid that he might not properly guard his eyes, chas veshalom. He should preface the situation with a prayer, asking Hashem to give him the proper sense of yirah on the road, so that he will guard his eyes. Likewise, any occasion that calls for yirah should be preceded by a brief prayer. In this way he will pray to acquire yiras ha’onesh in general, and also in any particular situation where he feels he might falter.
Until this point, we have discussed the fear of Gehinnom. We will now discuss the fear of suffering in this world, such as illness and pain. One should first look at the world around him and see all the ill people – may Hashem have compassion on them. One person might suffer from heart disease (may Hashem protect us from this) and another might have an illness in his legs, and so on. He should then ponder – why do these people have such illnesses? Is it for no reason? It cannot be, because there is no suffering without sin. This may not be apparent within a particular lifetime, but if a person has sinned with a particular organ, he will be punished and suffer in that organ. Therefore, whenever we suffer in any particular limb, we must know that this is the result of something that we have done. Such reflection will instill yirah in the heart.
In addition, one should imagine applying yiras ha’onesh in a very realistic way. For example, standing near someone else’s possession when no one else is around, he should say (first to himself and later to Hashem), “I seem to have the ability to steal this article, because no one is watching. Why wouldn’t I do such a thing? Because I know that if I steal, I will be punished. If I steal with this hand, it will be punished, whether through a minor or a major injury, or through some disease.”
He should consider such examples with his legs as well, thinking and then saying to himself, “I can go to a certain place, which I know is forbidden to visit, such as a place where people are dressed immodestly (and there is an alternate route). Why don’t I go that way? Because I know that if I do, I will be punished in my legs, chas veshalom.” The same applies to sins through seeing, hearing, and anything else.
One should picture such a situation again and again, in many different ways. Whenever one encounters an ill person, he should use the opportunity to attain yirah. Understandably, this approach is only appropriate while he is focused on yirah. One must always see things from the perspective of the area in which he is working. In addition, it is important that one not fall into the mistaken idea that he knows why someone else is suffering.
This is easier to attain than fear of Gehinnom, because the suffering in Gehinnom is not visible, whereas suffering in this world is clearly seen, and a person does fear it. However, the difficulty is that many people commit terrible sins, and yet, we don’t see them being punished at all. Therefore, a person (either consciously or subconsciously) loses the awareness and feeling that sin causes suffering, because he often sees just the opposite. The truth is that there are sins for which one is punished in this world, and there are sins for which one is punished in the upper world, according to profound Divine considerations. It is therefore difficult to attain real yirah in this manner. Nevertheless, a person should try to acquire yirah through contemplating both the suffering of Gehinnom and suffering in this world, each person according to his ability. Certainly, one must pray greatly for this, as we discussed at length above.
We must now emphasize something else. Just as a person has times when he feels that he is growing spiritually and times when he feels he is falling, so there exist different pathways for each of these times. The pathways for spiritual service for times of growth are awe of Hashem’s greatness, love of Hashem, and the like. The pathway for times of regression is yiras ha’onesh. This is how Hashem made the world. Therefore, each type of avodah is precious to Hashem if performed properly.
Clearly, a time of regression is not the time to start working to acquire yiras ha’onesh, because then one is lax, and it is hard to acquire anything. However, it is the proper time to employ yiras ha’onesh. (In a deeper sense, one must rectify his penimius – the inner soul-level, which is accomplished through love of Hashem and the like, as well as his chitzonius – the external body-level, which is accomplished through yirah.) A person should therefore have true fear of Hashem, because otherwise, his feelings of fear will express themselves with regard to external things, not fear of Hashem and His punishments. One must understand that there is an inherent need to attain yiras ha’onesh, and it is not merely a last resort. But this must be achieved with a clear recognition that such is Hashem’s will, and not just something to be done because one is worried about himself. In that way, he will attain joy together with fear, because he will rejoice that he is able to do Hashem’s will. This is a deeper fulfillment of yirah – “rejoice with trembling,” regarding which Chazal said, “Where there is joy, there must be trembling.” When a person toils and attains yirah for the sake of Heaven, then together with the yirah, he feels glad to be fulfilling the will of his Creator. If so, there is yirah together with joy. The joy comes about through the closeness to Hashem generated by yirah. This is a deep idea that requires careful thought.
It is written, “Just as a father chastises his son, so Hashem your G-d chastises you.” We see that suffering and punishments should be viewed as part of a father-son relationship, which is a relationship of love. If one enters more deeply into the inner world of yirah, one finds Hashem inside the yirah, and discovers His love for him. In this way, one cleaves to Hashem through the yirah. Yirah, after all, is a positive mitzvah in the Torah, and the word mitzvah is related to the word tzavta (connection). If so, even through yirah, a person can merit becoming attached to his Creator.
Many people are unaware of this, thinking that yiras ha’onesh is nothing but apprehension. They recoil from working on yirah because they don’t want to live in a state of fear. Again, this attitude stems from a lack of an inner awareness as to the nature of yirah, which is really “Where there is joy, there must be trembling.” With this deeper kind of yirah, one attains love of Hashem and deveikus to Him, and there is no place for sadness at all.
If the yirah does not bring a person to love and deveikus, it must be because the person is engaged in an external level of yirah, and he has not entered the inner depths of the world of yirah. Therefore, when a person begins to attain yirah, he should do so with an awareness and desire to thereby attain love, deveikus, and joy. This is the deeper intention behind Chazal’s praise of those who rejoice even when they suffer. That is, the suffering itself leads to love, joy, and deveikus to Hashem.
Harav Shach zt”l once explained that a person is able to have deveikus to Hashem even while he is in Gehinnom. The depth of that comment is the idea explained above. There is no process of growth which allows for any separation from Hashem. Through every single matter, a person can become bound with Hashem. It is clear that a person can and must achieve closeness and deveikus even through yiras ha’onesh. When a person is privileged to appreciate this, he will approach the attainment of yirah with joy, just as he would approach the attainment of the love of Hashem with joy, because essentially they are equal in enabling a person to become close and attached to his Creator. This is what David HaMelech meant when he said “Closeness to Elokim is good for me.” That is, even the name Elokim, which represents Hashem’s attribute of justice, is good for me. Through both attributes, whichever way things go, one can attain closeness and deveikus to Hashem.
Until this point, we have dealt with yiras ha’onesh, whether in Gehinnom or in this world. But in fact, there are five levels of yirah. 1) Yirah of punishment and suffering, which was explained above. 2) Yirah for one’s honor – when a person is afraid of being embarrassed, as Chazal say, “Each person is singed by his friend’s canopy in Olam Haba”. 3) Yirah of a lack of shleimus – when one recognizes that perfection is deveikus to Hashem, he fears that his sins will prevent him from attaining this deveikus. (These three aspects of yirah are mentioned in Mesillas Yesharim, in the chapter on watchfulness.) 4) Yirah and awe of Hashem’s exaltedness – when performing a mitzvah, he fears that he might not be doing it properly and thus detract from the honor of the King. 5) Yirah of sinning – he always fears that his deeds may diminish the honor of the King of the world. (These last two aspects are described in Mesillas Yesharim in the chapter on fear of sin.)
We will not deal here with fear of losing one’s honor in the World to Come. Most people do not naturally sense the honor granted in the higher world, since it is a perception of the soul. As with yiras ha’onesh, it would be necessary to employ the imaginative faculty to attain this. Since this is difficult for most people, we have not elaborated on it. Some people, however, naturally pursue honor, and it would be easier for them. Others would need to invest a great deal of time in it. It seems that most people in our generation would be best advised to work with yiras ha’onesh and fear of lacking perfection, and not deal with fear of losing one’s honor. Our time in this world is brief, and we have much work to do. It would require too much time for most people in our generation.
We will therefore now deal with the fear that one should have lest one lack shleimus – deveikus to Hashem – because of his sins. First, we want to remind you that the Ramchal writes, “True shleimus is deveikus to Hashem.” Every sin hinders closeness and deveikus to Hashem. If so, the beginning of a person’s avodah is to understand that shleimus is deveikus to Hashem. After that, he must understand that sinning is a contradiction to deveikus to Hashem and prevents it. He must then yearn greatly for this deveikus. When a person really wants it, he will fear lest that desire not be fulfilled. But as long as there is no strong will for closeness to Hashem, there cannot be the fear of lacking it.
For example, take a person who leaves his home with the intention of going to the wedding ceremony of a friend. The chupah is called for six o’clock. When he walks toward the bus stop, he sees the bus pulling away. The more he wanted to be at this wedding and the closer he is to his friend, the more upset he will be about missing that bus. The opposite is also true. The weaker his desire to attend that wedding, the less concerned he will be about his not being able to be there on time. The same applies here. The weaker one’s desire to be close and attached to the Creator (if it is only an intellectual decision), the less he will fear sin. There is a fundamental difference between knowledge in the mind and that of the heart. Anyone who studies the Ramchal knows that the purpose of life is closeness to Hashem, and that sin prevents one from reaching this goal. But this might be only intellectual knowledge, which cannot inspire fear. A person’s avodah is to ensure that his heart desires to be close and attached to Hashem. The more this idea penetrates into the heart, the more one will fear sin – which is the very thing that hinders the goal of closeness and deveikus to Hashem.
To further illustrate, there are many people who know that it is very important to study the entire Talmud, yet they waste so much time precisely because this knowledge is only in their minds. It is not their heart’s absolute desire. Their hearts are filled with many other desires. A person must reach a state in which his whole heart will yearn for nothing but closeness and connection to Hashem, to the extent that he will think about this for the major part of the day. He will then try to remove any obstacle, and he will fear sin properly. Hence, there are three stages: 1) A person must know that the whole purpose of life is to be close to Hashem. 2) This knowledge must fill his heart and become his greatest longing. 3) He must know that sin blocks him from this goal.
These points are not necessarily interdependent. It is possible for a person to have a very great desire to be close and attached to Hashem, and yet not feel that sin contradicts this. The fact that sin prevents closeness to Hashem is not apparent and sensed by all; it is something we must learn and understand. It requires effort to understand that in addition to making one’s primary yearning the attainment of closeness to Hashem, one should feel that sin prevents and contradicts his life’s longing and goal. This itself is a test, for if one were to feel that by sinning he is losing the degree of closeness to Hashem he had attained, it would be easy to avoid sin. Since this is something that does not come naturally, it is clearly Hashem’s will that a person must toil for this as well.
We will now move on to the avodah of acquiring these ideas. We have already provided the key – that the purpose of life is closeness to Hashem and deveikus to Him. At this point, we will try to describe how a person should strive to acquire this knowledge so that it is always felt in the heart and gradually comes to be the dominant force affecting his emotions.
The avodah of acquiring true desire is the root of everything. When there is a strong and true will, it is said that “nothing stands in the way of the will.” When the will is weak, the entire structure lacks a foundation. A person must therefore strive to truly want to be close to Hashem, and not merely say so outwardly. (This applies to anything one is working on. He must really want to attain it. We are dealing now with the root of all wills, the most inclusive will, which is to be close and attached to Hashem.) This is not to say that one who has not toiled has no desire to be close to Hashem, but that his will is not powerful enough. If one does not truly want, but only would like to want, he lacks the foundation known as ratzon, and the entire structure is weak. Generally, most people get stuck at a certain level because they don’t have a strong will to continue and advance. Therefore, the beginning of a person’s avodah is to ignite the ratzon more and more.
How can a person strengthen his ratzon? The Zohar likens the body to a dying ember and the soul to a fire: “If the body does not burn brightly with the light of the soul, it must be struck.” In other words, the ratzon is hidden and covered over by the physicality of the body and the control the body has over the soul. The body must be “struck” and purified. But this avodah of fasting and self-affliction is not relevant to most people in our generation, as our sefarim hakedoshim stated already 200 years ago. Therefore, we will not deal with this aspect.
There is another method which was adopted by many tzaddikim during their periods of hisbodedus, solitude. They would cry out and scold themselves for their lack of true ratzon to become close to Hashem. They would scold themselves repeatedly until their hearts would open up somewhat. This is also not simple. First of all, one must know how to do this – to cry out from the inner depth of one’s heart, not from the mind. One also needs inner fortitude, so that he can truly scold himself. One who is not so strong will either not scold himself honestly, or might become dejected and bitter. Certainly, one cannot grow through sadness and self-deprecation.
For us, the most effective method is for a person to designate a quiet place to speak to Hashem in his own language. For example, he might say, “Master of the world, You know that I want to be close and attached to You. However, my ratzon is too weak. I know that my entire purpose here is to become close and attached to You, and this is dependent on my really wanting it. In my present state of not really wanting it very much, it is impossible for me to attain closeness to You. Please, Master of the world, help me and plant in my heart a true ratzon to be close to You.”
In this fashion, each person should elaborate in his own words, according to the best of his ability, day after day. This method has two great advantages: 1) Speaking in this manner itself inspires true ratzon; 2) since he is praying for it, Hashem will hear his prayer, and help him so that he will really want to be close to Hashem. If a person stubbornly persists in this for a long time, and keeps asking to have the ratzon to be close to Hashem, Hashem will surely help him and he will develop a true ratzon.
If a person cannot do even this, he must regularly listen to a tzaddik who speaks about this from the sincerity of his soul, and continue to do so until he can inspire himself. Ultimately, however, a person must come to the point where he can inspire himself, because inspiration that comes from the outside cannot last.
We now have three possibilities: 1) A person can inspire himself through self-affliction and fasting, and through scolding himself for not having enough desire to be close to Hashem; 2) He can beg Hashem a great deal each day to help him to truly have proper ratzon; 3) He can hear a tzaddik speak about it, until he becomes inspired.
Each person should choose the method that is most appropriate for himself to awaken his soul to really want to be close to Hashem. As long as there is no true ratzon, the structure of avodas Hashem will be weak. Ratzon is the foundation. If there is true ratzon to be close to Hashem, there is a foundation. If not, chas veshalom, the foundation is lacking, and the whole structure is in jeopardy. One must be very careful with this.
Let’s give an example. A true servant of Hashem wastes hardly a moment. He is totally involved in Torah, avodah, and acts of kindness. To an outsider, it seems impossible. How can one live with such pressure? The answer is that as long as there isn’t true ratzon, it is pressure, because it goes against a person’s will. But when this is a person’s ratzon, he is fulfilling his will, and there is no feeling of pressure at all.
The beginning of a person’s avodah is to have a true desire, so that the ratzon to be close to Hashem will be true and strong. In fact, according to chasidut, when a person merits entering the inner essence of ratzon, he finds oneg (delight) in fulfilling the ratzon. There are two stages here. At first, he must truly desire this with a strong and true ratzon, even though the ratzon cannot be fulfilled yet due to the fact that he has not yet merited to delight in Hashem. After that, however, he will be able to fulfill the ratzon, which is the pleasure of “delighting in Hashem.” One must first pass through the stage of unfulfilled desire. Then, when he really desires it almost every moment, he will ultimately enter into the inner essence of ratzon, which is to delight in Hashem.
Once a person has merited a strong ratzon to be close to Hashem, it is possible that true fear of sin will surface within him, because he will fear becoming separated from his Creator.
Earlier, we described the form of this avodah. At first, one must pray often for the privilege to feel this fear and avoid sin. As above, he should involve his senses in the avodah by standing next to another person’s possession and saying (first to himself and then to Hashem), “I could take this object, but I won’t because I wish only to be close to Hashem.” He should employ many practical examples in many different kinds of ways. He should also accustom himself to examine every deed and ponder and then say, “This deed will bring me close to Hashem, but that deed would, chas veshalom, distance me from Him.”
The entire day should proceed in this way. One should always consider and check if the matter at hand will bring him close to Hashem or far from Him. Through thinking about this constantly, the concepts will gradually become fixed in his heart, and his whole life will become a search for ways to be close to Hashem. He will naturally tremble and be afraid of anything that distances him from his Creator. If a person continues to think in this way, he can reach the state where his heart will, for the most part, be gripped by the search for closeness to Hashem.
Another principle in attaining yirah is that one must be refined and quiet. Speaking loudly contradicts bashfulness and yirah. A person should accustom himself to be refined and act calmly. Haste and boisterous behavior also contradict the attainment of yirah. This is a broad topic.
Above the level of yirah of lacking perfection (level three) are yirah due to Hashem’s greatness (fourth level) and yirah of sinning (fifth level). To be on these levels, one must sense that he is in the presence of Hashem, but to attain that level, one must first work on the quality of ahavah. This is also the order in Mesillas Yesharim – first comes saintliness and then higher yirah. Therefore, we will now move on to discuss ahavas Hashem.
Section 6 Love of Hashem
Ahavas Hashem is a positive commandment in the Torah, as it says, “And you shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your resources.” We see that everyone is obligated to love Hashem. The pasuk mentions three levels of love: heart, soul, and resources. The mishna in Avos explains that there are two kinds of ahavah, conditional love and unconditional love. Conditional love means that one’s love is a result of receiving something, but when this ceases, the love ceases.
On the other hand, unconditional love is an intrinsic bond. Ahavah has the numerical value of echad. This ahavah stems from an inner unity between the lover and the beloved. Conditional love of Hashem can be found amongst the gentiles, because they are capable of having love and gratitude toward those who benefit them. Unconditional love, of the sort we are discussing, is only present in the Jewish people. This love is unity with the Beloved, and only the Jewish people have unity with Hashem (“Yisrael and Hashem are one”). Therefore, they can have this inner love.
In general, gentiles are only capable of conditional love. The gemara says that if a Jewish person gives a coin to a poor person so that his own son will live, his action is valuable. Even if his son will not live, he will still be glad that he gave the charity. Deep down he really wants to give without receiving anything in return. This is unconditional love. But in the case of a gentile, if his son dies and there is no specific justification for his giving, the love ceases, and he has no interest in giving.
It is clear that when attaining the attribute of ahavah, one must first attain ahavah that is dependent on something, and afterwards, ahavah that is not dependent on anything. The soul of a Jew contains both of these qualities, conditional and unconditional love, and a person must work to bring this latent love into action. First, he must uncover in his soul the conditional love, and then he can reveal the unconditional love. (There are individuals born with unconditional love that is already apparent. They may skip the first stage, since the unconditional love is already revealed and they are able to involve themselves with it immediately.)
For one to possess even the conditional kind of ahavah, he must recognize from whom he is receiving. If he thinks the item is actually his, the gift will not inspire him to ahavah. If Reuven gives a gift to Shimon, and Shimon thinks that Reuven is just returning something he had borrowed, this will not cause Shimon to love Reuven.
The same is true regarding love toward the Creator. First of all, one must clearly recognize the benefits Hashem has bestowed upon him. Only then will he be able to love His Creator with conditional love. If a person lives without thinking, he will not sense the Creator’s kindnesses, and it will be nearly impossible for him to truly love the Creator, even conditionally. Therefore, a person must first contemplate and recognize the areas of life and the ways in which Hashem bestows kindness upon him.
A person’s avodah is to understand and to perceive that he himself owns nothing. Every single thing he possesses – everything – comes from Hashem. It is not enough to have the awareness that Hashem has given him many gifts and is very kind to him. He must recognize that every single thing is from Hashem, and that each thing he has is only an expression of Hashem’s kindness.
Take, for example, a person who buys a house. After a number of years, the house goes up in value, and he profits significantly. A person might think simply that Hashem was kind to him by giving him this profit; but that is not enough. A person must consider that the very idea to buy that house was a gift from Hashem. In other words, not only his material acquisitions and pleasures, but every thought and feeling, and every aspect of his body and soul is a gift from Hashem. Every good idea that comes to one’s mind is from Hashem, and so it is with even the smallest details. In the beginning of this avodah, a person should look at the “bigger” things, like money and children. As one progresses, he should see that his entire being, including all his thoughts, feelings, and movements, without exception, are gifts and expressions of kindness from the Creator, blessed be His Name.
There are two parts to this: 1) negating the notion that one thinks and achieves things by oneself; 2) the positive perception that everything is from Hashem. This is a person’s avodah. By nature, a person rushes through life and doesn’t think at all, so his human nature gives him the sense that he is smart, insightful, knowledgeable, and so on. One must therefore consider each detail: “Where did I get this from? Through my own ability, or from Hashem?”
A person generally thinks he has “help from Hashem.” In other words, he does most of the work, but Hashem helps out. The truth is not like that at all. Even a person’s own efforts come only from Hashem’s power. The good thoughts and the energy to work and acquire things are all gifts from Hashem. The effort known as hishtadlus (necessary personal effort) derives its energy and its associated wisdom and plans from Hashem. Everything, then, is a gift from Him.
In order to acquire the awareness that everything is from Hashem, a person should sit in a quiet place, and think to himself, “Who gave me my wife? How did I merit her? Did I do this with my own strength and wisdom? Certainly not! Only Hashem gave her to me. All of my wisdom and other capabilities are only from Hashem.” In this manner, he should consider one detail after another. If he lives in a house and is pleased with his acquisition, he should consider, “Who gave me this house? Did I find it with my own wisdom, or was it from Hashem?” He should train himself to review all his possessions and consider one detail after another, for a long period of time, day after day. He should first consider this in his thoughts, and then express it with his mouth. He should begin speaking in the third person – “Hashem gave me.” He should then switch to the second person – “You gave me.” Earlier, we described the methods of speech in the second and third person. He should continue with this process until he understands and feels that things do not come to him through his own power. Even if he employed wisdom and intelligence, those, too, are gifts from Hashem, Who places wisdom and intelligence within the person. A person must have no sense of ego here. He is merely like the guardian of an item, who has nothing of his own. All he has – his body, his money, his thoughts, his speech, his feelings, and more, are from Hashem.
When a person has the privilege to actually feel these ideas, he reaches the level (expressed by Moshe and Aharon) of “Nachnu mah? (We, what are we?).” He feels that he does not have anything of his own, and everything he has is only from his Creator. This is more than a mere desire to be humble; it is a perception of the truth of existence. Everything belongs to Hashem, and a person is merely the guardian of the wisdom, the money, the children, and whatever else he has.
One must accustom himself to this way of thought time and again, realizing that in all areas of life, he is a guardian over things that really belong to Hashem. The children are not his, but a gift on loan from Hashem. The wisdom is not his, but a deposit. This money is not his, but a deposit. He must not entertain the thought that something is “mine.” Everything belongs to Hashem, and all is from Him. If something is mine, it just means that Hashem gave it to me as a deposit in order to serve Him with it, but nothing more than that.
When a person feels that everything he has is a gift from the Creator, he should ponder, “Why did Hashem give me these things?” He should answer, “Because He loves me; all these gifts are expressions of His love toward me.” In this way, he should stop and think, and then say, “Master of the world! Who gave me this object? You did! Why did You give it to me? Because You love me.” He should discuss each detail, and mention Hashem’s love each time, until the idea that Hashem loves him is fixed in his heart. One must repeat this patiently thousands and tens of thousands of times, with simplicity, focus, and inner quiet.
After a person has acquired conditional ahavah in his heart, his avodah is now to acquire the kind of ahavah that is not dependent on anything. We have mentioned that this attribute is already deep within us, because “Yisrael and Hashem are one.” Of course, this is something that can only be perceived by the soul, not by the body. Therefore, the whole essence of this ahavah is a revelation of the inner essence of the Jewish soul. For a person to attain this level of unconditional love in a solid way, and not merely pick up small fragments of it, his whole life must revolve around Hashem. All of his thoughts must be focused on Hashem. He should be totally devoted to thoughts about Hashem’s existence, and his thoughts and inner conversation should be with Hashem, so that He will be the center of his life at all times. In this way, he will experience a revelation of the concept that “Hashem and Yisrael are one.”
But all this can only occur after a person has successfully followed the path we have discussed until this point. His heart will then be pure and clean, and Hashem will dwell within it. Then, his entire being will be attached to Hashem from the depth of his heart. Because he has nullified the thoughts of the vanities of the world, and is totally immersed in thoughts about Hashem, there will be no barrier preventing Hashem from being revealed in his heart.
This is a very broad topic, and what we have touched upon is only a drop in the ocean. We have, however, tried to at least bring a person to a measure of understanding and the ability to seek the path so that he will always live with Hashem; and that he may merit to converse with Hashem with simplicity, and with a feeling that Hashem is with him and actually within him at all times. When a person is privileged to reach this level, he will be able to remember with every breath that he is in the presence of Hashem. Even if he forgets momentarily, he will remind himself immediately. Fortunate is the one who is always closely attached to Hashem, and whose whole way of life is like this.
The inner path towards unconditional love requires contemplation and speech. One must contemplate well the nature of unconditional love, consider examples in this world, and consider our spiritual underlying essence, until the ideas are fixed well in his mind, and he possesses complete faith that unconditional love exists between Hashem and the Jewish people.
After that, comes the avodah through speech. This is a very precious and wondrous avodah, in which one selects pesukim that mention Hashem’s love toward the Jewish people and their love toward Him. Alternatively, he might select his own words, according to his ability, and repeat a phrase many times, for half an hour, or an hour, or more, each person according to the affinity of his soul. These words must emanate from the heart, not just from the mind, and one must persist with them for a very long time. In this way, his soul will be greatly fired with the love of his Creator.
This must be done with inner quiet and calm, as well as inner strength. There must be an inner passion, not an outer passion. Outer passion is only excitement, and excitement does not really penetrate the barrier that covers the soul. Only “flashes of fire from the flame of G-d” can burst through the barrier of the heart of stone that prevents the feelings of the soul from being revealed. When this is done with inner quiet and passion, and one persists for a long time without fail, Hashem will surely accept his efforts and remove any foreign barrier that prevents him from actually sensing the unconditional love that is there.
This method is well-known to ovdei Hashem, and is not a new idea. It is also discussed, in part, in the work Yesod VeShoresh HaAvodah. It has been tested and proven many, many times. But success requires a person to be very solid in his avodas Hashem and not prone to fool himself at all.
Section 7 Closeness to Hashem
After a person has merited that his soul clearly feels the mutual love, both conditional and unconditional, between him and Hashem, his avodah is to reach the inner essence and purpose of avodas Hashem, which is closeness and deveikus to Hashem.
First of all, a person must fix deeply in his mind a very powerful belief that Hashem is really present in every place. This can come about either through simple contemplation based on an unquestioning faith in the words of Chazal, or, if one’s soul needs it, through studying the inner wisdom of the Torah, which deals with this matter in detail. In any case, every person’s avodah is to fix in his mind with total faith that the absolute truth is that Hashem is present, right near him, at all times. He must repeat a great many times the words of the Rama in the beginning of Orach Chaim, which are taken from the Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim. He should also read the words of the Mesillas Yesharim in the section about Yiras Cheit, and review them literally thousands and tens of thousands of times, and even more, until the concept is firmly fixed in his mind. He should accustom himself during any free time he has, such as when walking in the street or waiting for something, to review this concept that Hashem is present, is right there. While working on this matter, he should not work on anything else. He should accustom himself to remind himself of this upon awakening, when walking, and at all times, until it is fixed in his mind, and he will naturally recall it at very brief intervals.
This avodah must definitely be accomplished both in thought and through speech, saying, “Hashem is present right next to me,” and so on, each person according to his mode of expression. The main thing is to remember at all times, both through words and thought, that Hashem is right nearby. Without this avodah, a person may feel that Hashem is only in the high heavens, while I am on the earth. But this is not at all true. Hashem is everywhere, including next to each person at all times. This avodah will help one remove the erroneous thought that Hashem is only in the heavens.
After one has merited having his mind fixed on the thought that Hashem is present and close to him at all times, he is ready for an extremely lofty kind of avodah. This entails not living with Hashem as “He” – something hidden – but as “You.” In other words, although a person may believe that Hashem is right nearby, he may nevertheless relate to Him as “He,” as if He is hidden. Certainly this is true in one sense. Hashem said, “No man can see Me and live.” No being has a perception of Hashem, and so He is perceived as being hidden. But our teachers have said, “He is hidden from their intellects, yet revealed in their hearts.” In other words, although He is hidden from the intellect of all beings, and He cannot be grasped mentally in any way, He is revealed in the hearts of the Jewish people, as it says, “Hashem is the Rock of my heart and my portion.” In the heart, one can feel that he is relating directly to Hashem. This is the depth of the inner essence of a person’s avodah here in this world – to live with Hashem, relating directly to Him at all times.
One must first internalize in his heart and mind that this is the true inner life. As the Vilna Gaon writes in the beginning of Orach Chaim, “This awareness is the entire greatness of the tzaddikim.” One must fix in his mind and heart the basic concept that the whole purpose of our involvement in Torah study and fulfilling mitzvos, with all their details and minutiae, and the purpose of every spiritual and material endeavor, is only for this end. The goal is to bring a person to a way of life in which he lives with Hashem, relating to Him directly, literally each moment.
Once it is clear to a person that this is the true inner life, he must train his thoughts and language to speak to Hashem in the second person (“You”) at every opportunity, on awakening, when walking, and so on. During anything he does, he should communicate with Hashem, saying, “You,” and ask for His help. This is not primarily for the sake of fulfilling the mitzvah of prayer, but mainly, in order to get used to saying “You” to Hashem at all times. Prayer is a means of achieving a direct connection with Hashem in the second person.
Besides praying, one must accustom himself to say things like, “You, Hashem, are with me,” “You are near me,” “I am not alone here, because You are with me” (“Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, for You are with me”). He should employ various different phrases appropriate for the occasion. What the statements will have in common is that they will enable him to focus on the fact that Hashem is present. He must do this many times, both during brief free moments and during designated times. This must continue for a very long period, for months and for years. In this way, he will break through the barrier that blocks the Creator from him, and he will feel at all times that Hashem is with him. His life will be focused on this idea, and every action will be directed toward this reality.
This avodah should not be separate from one’s other acts of avodas Hashem, whether they are Torah, prayer, or acts of kindness. One should understand that the purpose of everything is the awareness of Hashem’s presence nearby, and he will always cleave to this direct relationship, never ignoring it for a moment. He will continue in this manner throughout his entire life, until his day of death, and merit being attached and “bound in the bond of life” – in other words, with Hashem – both in this world and in the next. He will be able to testify about himself, “All my days, I was tied with a single bond to Hashem.” He will be a person totally attached to the Living G-d, the life-source of all worlds.
Beyond all this is the higher aspect of integration in the Infinite, of which it says, “I speak to him mouth to mouth,” but the meaning of this pasuk cannot be written.
One should know that this avodah is not as difficult as it may seem at first. It is a matter of habit. If one will just accustom himself to follow our instructions with simplicity and consistency, he will definitely earn the privilege to live this way.
Section 8 Integrating with Hashem
Once a person has really attained the feeling that Hashem is right near him, his avodah is to attain hiskalelus in the Infinite, as it says, “I am His.” (A deeper form of this avodah is to cause all the creations to be miskalel in Him.) In a general sense, this avodah has three phases.
The first phase is the perception from deep in the soul that the created being is, so to speak, part of Hashem, as it says, “For Hashem’s portion is His nation.” Chazal have also said, “Hashem and Yisrael are one” and, “The creation is like a snail whose shell is part of its body.” There are many other statements of this nature, all of which point to the depth of this concept that the creation is, so to speak, part of Him, blessed be His name.
Although many great people have tried to explain the depth of this concept by employing various different terms, ultimately, it is all a secret, and it is beyond the grasp of a created being. (Just as the Infinite cannot be grasped, so can one not grasp that which is a part thereof, so to speak. Think deeply about this. This should be adequate for one with understanding.) Therefore, the way to attach oneself to this extent is not through intellectual understanding and mental clarification, but through total faith in Hashem and the words of Chazal. When one attaches his thought to this concept very often (without attempting to understand, but just with simple faith in the concept), and articulates it with his mouth, so that this concept is regularly on his mind and tongue, he will merit to be integrated at this level, and will feel that he is part of Hashem, so to speak.
I must repeat and warn that you may not try to understand this intellectually, because it cannot be understood at all. “If your heart runs” – in order to understand this – “return to your place.” This affirms the need for simple faith in the concept, until it is sensed through the feelings of the heart, not through rational thought.
The second phase, which is higher than the first, concerns one’s removing all thought about his sense of self. During the first phase, a person is involved with his I, but he doesn’t deal with it as something separate – “There is me and there is the Creator, and I am close and attached to the Creator.” Rather he feels “I am part of Him, so to speak.” There is an involvement with the self, but this is a self that is part of Hashem, so to speak. In the second phase, there is no involvement at all with the self (other than the extent to which the Torah requires it), but only with Hashem. Any time a person begins to think about himself, whether about a positive or negative quality he possesses, whether of greatness or lowliness, he should take his mind off the matter, and return to connect his thoughts to Hashem. He should only deal with the self as required to fulfill the Torah and make a daily spiritual accounting for a specific period of time. Other than that, he should not deal with the self at all, but only with his Creator.
In a deeper sense, ignoring the self includes ignoring all created beings, because they are a large manifestation of the self (since the world is a microcosm). Rather, one will be involved only with the Creator. He will think of the created beings only as needed in order to do acts of kindness and such. In this stage, a person is not attentive to his I. Rather, the essence of his soul is absorbed with Hashem. Through regularly shifting his thoughts from the creations to Hashem, and not thinking about them, but about Hashem, one escapes from attachment to the created world in general and to the self in particular, and has the privilege to be integrated with Hashem.
This level is higher than deveikus, because with deveikus, there is an I that cleaves to Hashem. But on this level, one is not involved with the I, but only with Hashem. This is hiskalelus. Material things exist based on the perception of man, the recipient of Hashem’s kindness. When the recipient is not involved with a thing, it is as if it does not exist. When a person removes his thoughts from the self and thinks only of the Creator, there is no self. Understand this, for these words are very, very deep.
This second phase has two parts: 1) contemplating the greatness of the Creator, His actions, and so on; 2) thinking about His essence. Here, there can be no contemplation, but only simple thought about the existence of the Creator. This is a higher level than the first. When a person attaches his thoughts in this manner constantly, the principle that a person is wherever his thoughts are may be applied. He is absorbed in the object of his thought. When he thinks only of the existence of the Creator, he is, so to speak, actually integrated in Him. This discussion should suffice for one who understands. You should realize that this state requires one to divest himself of complex thought and become united with Hashem.
The third phase is an attachment to the concept of, “There is literally nothing other than Him,” which the sefarim hakedoshim discuss. Study their words, which will suffice for one who understands. All our words about being miskalel in Hashem have been written with extreme brevity. The outstanding ones in the generation who seek total perfection will need a longer and more detailed explanation. We have only come to expose a spark of this great light, as Chazal said, “The Master of the palace looked at him.” This comment will suffice for one who understands.
Finished, but not complete.
If Hashem will give us the opportunity,
we will continue to expand upon these topics.