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The Word Moses Introduced - ראה

Friday, 14 August, 2020 - 4:12 pm

The Word Moses Introduced 

The gap between G-d and the human being seems unbridgeable. G-d is infinite and transcends time and space, while man is finite, a speck of dust in comparison to the vast universe, here today and gone tomorrow. Yet the Torah teaches that man can achieve a meaningful relationship with G-d, through the six hundred and thirteen commandments, each of which is a vehicle  man can use to transcend his limited existence and to touch the infinite light. Because the Hebrew word for commandment, Mitzvah, also means connection, every commandment is a mode of connection. 

In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses introduces a new word that does not appear in the first four books in the context of our relationship with G-d. The root word is Dveykut, which means to cleave. Dveykut is a powerful word, because it demands more than just doing what G-d commands. Dveykut means that we cleave to G-d and become one with him. 

What exactly does that mean? And is it even possible for the human being to cleave to G-d? 

When we examine the instances when Moses employed the word Dveykut, we note that Rashi offers divergent interpretations depending on the context of the verse. 

The first time the word Dveykut appears, in the verse “But you who cleave (Hadveikim) to the Lord your God are alive, all of you, this day.” Rashi does not explain the term. That is because Rashi assumes that the meaning is self understood. Indeed, earlier in the Torah the term is used to express deep love. In describing how Shechem loved Dina, the Torah says: “his soul cleaved to Dina the daughter of Jacob and he loved her”. To cleave, then, could mean to love. 

The word Dveykus appears again: 

“For if you keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave to Him.” (ibid. 11:22) 

Because love is mentioned earlier in the verse, Dveykut there cannot mean love, it would be redundant. Rashi therefore introduces another interpretation:

and to cleave to Him: Is it possible to say this? Is God not “a consuming fire”? Rather, it means: Cleave to the disciples and the Sages, and I will consider it as though you cleave to Me. 

In this week’s portion the word cleave appears once again: 

You shall follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him. (ibid. 13:5)

Here, cleave cannot mean love, as this verse appears in the context of the theme of love of G-d, to cleave then must mean something beyond love. To cleave is the climax of the verse, therefore it cannot mean to cleave to the sages and scholars, because that cannot possibly be of greater importance than: “to follow the Lord, your God, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him”.

Rashi therefore explains: 

and cleave to Him: Cleave to His ways: bestow kindness, bury the dead, and visit the sick, just as the Holy One, blessed is He, did.

Although there are other examples of G-d performing kindness, such as when the verse states: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife shirts of skin, and He dressed them”, Rashi cites specifically two forms of kindness that G-d performed: burying the dead and visiting the sick. This is because Rashi is referring to a unique form of kindness. The two examples Rashi quotes were instances where there were others available to perform the kindness, and therefore G-d was not “obligated” to step in and perform the kindness. G-d buried Aaron, although the Jewish people were present and they could have performed the burial; G-d visited Abraham after the circumcision, although there were other people available to visit him. This represents a deeper form of kindness, one that goes beyond the legal and moral obligation. 

This form of kindness represents the profound meaning of Dveykut, that, in some ways, is even more powerful than a Mitzvah, a commandment. When a person fulfills a commandment he is seeking to connect to G-d, yet there are two entities, the commander and the commanded, the person feels like a distinct and separate entity seeking to connect to G-d through fulfilling the commandment. On the other hand, Dveykut, cleaving, is a state of being  when the person does not feel separate and apart from G-d. Therefore, he cleaves to G-d’s ways even when the commandment does not compel this degree of kindness. Why does he perform this kindness? Only because this is what G-d does and he is in a state of Dveykus, cleaving to G-d. 

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos 14 Re’eh Sicha 1. 

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