In Parshas Re’eh, we have the mitzvah of “Uvo Tidbakun – and to Him you shall cleave” (13:5)
How does one cling to Hashem? Rashi quotes the Gemara (Sotah 14a) that asks: Is it possible to follow G-d who is infinite? The Gemara explains that cleaving means you shall emulate Hashem’s qualities – just as Hashem clothed Adam and Chava, so too we should ensure people have clothes to wear. Just as Hashem visited Avraham Avinu when he was sick after his bris milah, so too we should visit the sick. The way to cleave to Hashem is by incorporating the characteristics of the Almighty in our daily life, to act with compassion and to care for others.
Why does Rashi use this Gemara to explain this mitzvah of clinging to Hashem when clearly the Gemara is talking about the mitzvah of following Hashem? Rav Aharon Kotler zt”l (late Rosh Yeshiva and founder of Beis Medrash Govoha – Lakewood Yeshiva) explains that Rashi is giving us an entirely new perspective on caring for others. “Kirvas Elokim li Tov – Closeness to G-d is what’s good for me,” says Dovid HaMelech.
Think about it. Who does not want to get close to Hashem? Yet, how do we do that? Initially, we might think of tefillah or Torah study, which is true. When it comes to chesed, we view it as a very important mitzvah, but not a mitzvah that unites us with Hashem Himself, as Torah and tefillah help us do. Yet, from this Rashi, we see that simple mundane acts of caring for others constitutes clinging to Hashem… literally. Even small talk that makes a person feel important and cared for, picking up an item at a supermarket for your neighbor, visiting the sick or listening to what’s bothering someone – all of these are clinging to Hashem Himself, just as much as Torah and tefillah. This is precisely why Rashi quotes this Gemara on the mitzvah of clinging to Hashem, because by performing the mitzvah of following in Hashem’s ways, we are then clinging to Him.
As we are now entering the month of Elul, I am reminded of a story.
It was the eve of Yom Kippur. The whole town was in shul. The Rav concluded his impassioned plea for everyone to do teshuva, and the Chazzan was ready to start Kol Nidrei.
Unexpectedly, the Rav turned to his shamash and says, “Come with me.” They left shul and walked until they reached a home at the far end of town. The Rav knocked on the door.
A weak and ill-looking 12 year-old girl answered the door.
“How do you feel?” asked the Rav.
“I feel weak,” said the girl.
“Refuah Shleimah. I want to wish you a Gmar Chasima Tova. Tell me… did you get a new dress for Yom Tov?” asked the Rav.
“I did, but my weakness is so on my mind I can’t focus on the dress,” replied the girl.
“Can you tell me what your dress looks like?” asked the Rav. “Well, it’s pink and has ribbons on the sleeves …” The girl continued to describe the dress in great detail. Incredibly, the girl’s spirits seemed to perk up, and color started coming back to her cheeks. “I can even show it to you,” added the girl. She then ran to get the dress and showed it to the Rav. At this point, the girl looked healthy and well.
“It’s beautiful… the perfect Yom Tov dress! I want to wish you a sweet year,” and with that the Rav left back to shul.
Small talk. Showing interest. A little chesed. That’s cleaving to Hashem.