Parshas Ekev 5780

A gitten erev Shabbos! This weeks parsha is Parshas Ekev.

The injunction to love Hashem and cleave to Him is repeated several times in this parsha. Rashi and Ramban have different views as to what this means, commenting on the last usage of the word for cleaving in in Devorim 11:22 “כי אם שמור תשמרון את כל המצוה הזאת אשר אנכי מצוה אתכם לעשתה לאהבה את ה’ אלקיכם ללכת בכל דרכיו ולדבקה בו” “For if you keep strongly to this commandment which I am commanding you to do it, to love Hashem your God, to walk in all his ways and to cleave to Him.” Rashi asks on ולדבקה בו if this is even possible, since it says in an earlier chapter of Sefer Devorim that Hashem is a consuming fire. So Rashi explains this means we need to cleave to talmidim (students) and Chachomim (The Wise) and then it will be said that it is like we are cleaving to Hashem. Ramban brings a different understanding. He says there in the first p’shat that this is a warning to the Jews to not go and perform Avodah Zarah (serving other deities), meaning that we shouldn’t see any point in going to serve them chas v’sholom, and see that everything is absolutely nothing compared to Hashem. From this understanding we should do everything remembering that Hashem is the only thing. Next p’shat from Ramban is that we should never forget at any moment Hashem and His great love for us. Those who are able to attain this become like the Shechinah itself and are tied with the Tz’ror HaChaim, the Bond of Life, even while still alive. The last p’shat according to Ramban is in the form of advice, that we should always do everything with awareness of Hashem and His love, even when things are normal and we’re not witnessing constant and open miracles, like the Mann and the clouds of smoke and fire in the desert.

Specifically in regards to the understanding of the Ramban, we can see that one thing we should do throughout the day is focus on Hashem’s name. The best technique for this is to visualize the name at set points throughout the day, to close your eyes and see it written in K’Sav Ashuris, the scribal font, in black on white. Eventually, one can do as the Mishnah Berurah describes, to visualize the name throughout the day constantly with the eyes open, except for in places such as the restroom. If this is too difficult, simply performing all of our actions with the knowledge that Hashem is permeating the entirety of His Creation, running every occurrence from volcanic eruptions to the falling of leaves from trees, knowing that Hashem gave us His Torah for us to serve Him and cleave to Him, these are ways to cleave to Hashem according to Ramban.

Rashi’s p’shat is perhaps easier, but might not be so clear from a straight understanding of what cleaving to Hashem should be like. Obviously it’s good to be around Chachomim and people who learn Torah properly as their way of life, but how could this possibly lead to cleaving with Hashem? There’s a remez, a hint, to this in hilchos Shabbos. On Shabbos, as is known, we cannot cook, and pouring boiling water directly on something will cook it. So you pour from the first vessel, which is sitting on the heat source – which back in that time would’ve been covered coals – into a second vessel – which does not halachically have the capacity to cook things that are already cooked – then from the second vessel into the third vessel which has your coffee or tea essence in it. According to an understanding from Toras HaNistar, we can understand Rashi and this Mishnah like this: the original heat source is a hint to Hashem Himself; the layer of soot or blech covering it is a remez to the Torah, since Hashem is contained within the Torah and the only way to understand Him and His machinations as much as we can is through learning Torah; the first vessel is the Tzaddik, who through their avodas Hashem and Torah learning gains greater degrees of perception and can then communicate this to others; the second vessel is the close student of the Tzaddik, who though they may not be on the spiritual level to handle the great fire of Hashem, they can receive what the Tzaddik can give them; and the third vessel is the next person who the student of the Tzaddik shares the Tzaddiks Torah with.

Hashem should help us all grow spiritually and merit to truly cleave to Him and walk in all His paths, we should also be bentsht by Him that we should merit the Geulah Shleimah swiftly.

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