D'vekus is God Awareness
This Parsha provides an opportunity to elaborate on one of the
most basic concepts of Judaism which is greatly emphasized in
Chassidic thought and practice. This is the idea called d'vekus.
Literally it means "clinging" or "cleaving" or "attaching"
oneself to G-d. It however implies much more. It is the
relationship of a parent to a child, of a husband and wife, one
of ultimate devotion and commitment. Today we call it G-d
Awareness. In practice it means being connected in thought,
speech and deed to the Creator.
Parshas Ekev: "If you will keep the commandments that I have
commanded, and you will love HaShem your G-d, to go in all His
ways, and to cleave to Him. Then you will inherit the
nations...." (Deut. 11:22-23)
Parshas Re'eh: "Follow Hashem, be in awe of Him, keep His
commandments, obey Him and serve Him, and cleave to Him (u"vo
sid'bakun)." (Deut. 13:5) (See also Deut. 4:4, 10:20, 30:20, and
Psalms: King David expressed his longing for Hashem (while in
hiding from King Saul) in the arid Judean desert. (v.2) ". . .my
soul thirsts for You, and my flesh pines for You. . ". (v.9) My
soul cleaves after You, for You have supported me." (Psalms 63)
The sons of Korach indicate their longing for the restoration of
the Holy Temple. (v.2-3) Like a hart who yearns for springs of
water, so does my soul yearn for You G-d. My soul thirsts for
G-d, for the Living Almighty One, when will I come and appear
before G-d." (Psalm 42:2-3)
Siddur Tefillah: (prayerbook)
1) "Enlighten our eyes with Your Torah, and let our hearts
cleave to Your commandments in order to love and fear You." [in
the Blessings before the Shema in the Shacharis (morning) prayer,
in the section that begins "With a great love You have loved us.
. ." (Ahava Rabbah). In some siddurim the section begins, "You
have loved us with an eternal love. . ." (Ahavas Olam)
2) The poem that is recited in many congregations after Shabbos
morning prayers, "Anim Zemiros", contains several expressions of
longing to cleave to and unite with Hashem. The beginning goes
"I shall compose pleasant melodies and weave hymns,
because my soul yearns for You.
My soul desires to be sheltered by You
to understand every mystery of Your Being."
The Ramban zt"l in last week's Parsha (Deut. 11:22), gives a
detailed description of d'vekus in action. "The principal of
d'vekus is to constantly remember Hashem and your love for Him,
and never to remove your thoughts from Him, whether on the way,
when lying down or when awakening. And even while conversing
with others his heart remains attached to Hashem's presence. . .
People who have reached this spiritual level, live in eternity
even while in this (material) world; they themselves are a
dwelling place for the Shechina.
In our times, this theme was brought to fruition by the
Tov zt"l and his disciples. The Ba'al Shem Tov absorbed this idea
at a very early age from his father, who passed away when he was
only five years old. Before his death, his father instructed
him, "Remember my child that G-d is with you, never let this
thought out of your mind. Go deeper and deeper into it every
hour, every minute and in every place." Deeply affected, the
Baal Shem Tov later remarked, "His words remained fixed in my
mind and engraved in my heart. After his death it became my
practice to go into seclusion in the forests and woods to in
order reinforce these thoughts in my mind; that the glory of
Hashem fills the world and that He is actually with me. (Ikkarei
The Ba'al Shem Tov also wrote, "It is a high level to
continually see G-d in the mind's eye just as you would see a
person. And you should be aware that G-d is also looking at you,
just as a man would look at you. Always be joyful, believing
with complete faith that the Divine Presence is with you and
guards you. Meditate on this at all times. You are always
looking at G-d and seeing Him, and G-d is looking at you."
Rebbe Kalonymus Epstein zt"l, in his fundamental book of
Chassidic thought, Meor VaShamesh, writes, "While a person lives
in this world he must have all his physical needs met; food,
drink, clothing and a home. Nevertheless, in truth, every aspect
of one's conduct should be centered not around oneself, but
rather around Hashem, in order to see His true beauty; with the
soul thirsting to partake of the sweetness and closeness of
Hashem and his Shechinah. . . . Now if you maintain a continuous
effort in yearning, and every day you increase your longing and
desire for d'vekus with Hashem, then you and your body will
become purified, and the even the physical will be transformed
into spiritual." (Parshas Pinchas)
Rebbe Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira zt"l, the Piascetzna Rebbe, gives
practical advice in his guide to spiritual growth, B'nei
Machshava Tova. "Frequently during the day, whether at home or
in the street, humbly consider: 'The entire world is G-dliness,
the particles of earth beneath my feet, as well as the air I
breathe within me. The reality of all that exists is G-dliness.
Why then have I driven myself from Hashem's presence to become
an independent non-spiritual entity? Ribbono Shel Olam, draw me
closer to You and surround me with Your blessings in complete
repentance.'" (Seder hadracha and Klalim #7)
Not surprisingly, we find later in the Parsha, the ultimate
expression of d'vekus. "You are children to Hashem your G-d. .
." (Deut: 14:1) This is the relationship of genuine unfailing
love. When one remembers that he is a child of Hashem, he will
certainly refrain from dipleasing his Father and thereby
forfeiting the privilege of His presence.
The relationship has two sides though. Being a child of Hashem
implies that we are the recipients of His special love.
The Maggid of Mezeritch, the successor to the Baal ShemTov,
explained this other aspect of d'vekus. A Jew must know, that
when he is challenged or becomes overwhelmed by the circumstances
of life, it is a message that Hashem wants him to come closer.
Instead of focusing on the hurt, it is more advantageous to
become aware of the distance that has come between himself and
the Creator. This feeling is d'vekus. It can be used to launch a
spiritual ascent. In fact, even a seemingly small disappointment
can be used in this manner. The Sages say that even if one put
his hand in his pocket expecting to find two coins and found only
one, it is a message from Hashem. "Come closer, come closer", He
Furthermore, the Maggid explained, that after a person has had
spiritual achievements, and feels d'vekus with Hashem, more
likely than not he will experience a fall. Nevertheless, he must
maintain his d'vekus with Hashem even if it dips to a very low or
weak level. As long he remembers that his d'vekus to Hashem has
left an indelible watermark on his soul, he has what is necessary
to begin his ascent anew, as it is written, "A Tzaddik falls
seven times and rises again." (Proverbs 24:16) He will be able
to rise again to an even higher level of d'vekus. (R' Nachman
Breslaver once mentioned how many falls he had taken in his
efforts to grow in spirituality. When he finally stopped
falling, he experienced a continuous spiritual climb for fourteen
years before he had another fall.) Symbolic of this idea is the
Kosel, the Western Wall. In spite of the fact that the Beis
HaMikdash lies in ruins, the Sages revealed to us something that
almost every Jew today knows (or feels) is true. "The Divine
Presence never left the Western Wall." (Likutei Yekarim)
D'vekus is accomplished in one's thoughts. The Maggid of
Mezeritch, gave some pointed advice. The path to wisdom is
silence. Through silence, one can direct his thoughts with
undeviating focus, increasing his d'vekus to Hashem. In another
place, the Maggid offers this visualization: " Think of Hashem as
not only a King whom one stands before in fear and awe, but also
as a light that totally encompasses him. Then he can see that
Hashem is contained within that light, as he is himself. There
is unity, there is d'vekus.
Tefillin is another avenue toward achieving d'vekus. It is told
that a certain Tzaddik once came to the
R' Yisroel of Ruzhin zt"l
after having paid a visit to Reb Zusia of Anipoli. The Ruzhiner wanted to know what he had seen there.
"When I entered his room", recalled the Tzaddik in awe, "Reb
Zusia was wrapped in his Tallis and Tefillin, and the upper half
of his body appeared to me to be burning with fire. Only after
he removed the Tefillin did he slowly begin to take on the
appearance of a flesh and blood man." Tefillin is a sign which
identifies a Jew as being in unity with His Creator.
The Code of Jewish Law, the Shulchan Aruch, begins with a quote
from Psalms 16:8. "I place Hashem before me constantly."
Mitzvos are d'vekus. The best and most reliable way to begin
one's d'vekus work is through the medium of Brachos (blessings).
The principle of blessings is contained in a quote from the
Midrash Tehillim. Rav taught, "When one makes a blessing he
says, "Blessed are You Hashem. . .", as it is written, "I have
placed Hashem before me constantly." (Midrash on Psalms 16:8)
The fact that we address Hashem in the text of the blessing as
You in the casual form, implies a certain type of closeness, of
A blessing is the ultimate expression of one's G-d awareness. By
accepting on oneself the obligation to make blessings over food
and other enjoyments, over mitzvohs and over natural phenomena,
one is declaring that G-d is indeed Omnipresent, and His
influence is the fabric of the world and all that is within it.
Every blessing is an opportunity to reinforce this belief and
deepen one's awareness of G-d's presence. This is d'vekus, and
this is the essence of Chassidus.
Two short stories will illustrate the point. Once, some
scholars, uninformed concerning the character of the Baal ShemTov
and his path, came to a certain town where the Baal ShemTov was
spending the night. They wanted to find out if the reports of
the greatness of the Baal ShemTov were indeed true. They decided
to pose some intricate Halachic questions in order to examine his
erudition. The delegation arrived, introduced themselves and
explained the reason for their visit. The Baal ShemTov,
understanding their intentions readily agreed.
They began by asking, "When one has eaten a meal and forgot to
say the Grace afterwards (Bircas HaMazon), and then travels one
kilometer out of town, before he remembers that he forgot the
Bircas HaMazon, what is the ruling?"
The Baal ShemTov, answered immediately, satisfying the concern of
his visitors. "We", he promised them, "we don't forget to say
Once a man brought his ten year old son to visit R' Aharon
HaGadol of Karlin. As they were sitting and talking, Reb Aharon
asked for a bowl of apples to be brought in. Reb Aharon and his
guests each took an apple, with great intention recited the
blessing, ". . .Borei Pri HaEtz. . ", and began to eat.
The boy thought to himself, "What is the difference between me
and the Rebbe. He eats apples and also I eat apples. He makes a
blessing and so do I. Even I could be the Rebbe someday."
Reb Aharon, attuned as he was to the thoughts of others, felt
what the youngster was thinking. "Oh, there is a real difference
between us my friend", divulged Reb Aharon. "When you wake up in
the morning and look out the window, you see that there is a
beautiful apple tree in your yard. You see the juicy, red apples
growing on it and right away you can think of nothing else but
those apples. You run to wash your hands, get dressed as quickly
as possible, bolt out the door and scamper up the tree. You
quickly decide which apple is to be your breakfast and open your
mouth for the first delicious bite. You almost take that bite
until you remember, just in time, that you must make a blessing
before eating an apple. So you make the blessing in order to
"When I wake up in the morning", continued Reb Aharon, "it is a
different story." "When I wake up and look out the window I see
a beautiful apple tree. I think about the wonder of Hashem's
creation. I contemplate how this apple tree began as a small
seed in the ground, and how it slowly grew year by year until one
year it flowered and then apples appeared. I remember to wash my
hands before I run outside to take a closer look at this amazing
creation. In awe of Hashem and His Creation I want to make a
blessing on the apple tree and its fruits. I begin to say the
blessing, but then I remember, in order to make a blessing, I
need an apple. . .!"
The Talmud in Tractate Bava Kamma (30b), sums up these ideas.
Rav Yehuda said, "One who wants to be a true Chassid (pious Jew),
must fulfill the laws of Blessings." This advice is good for us
today. Each blessing which one makes, represents a stride
forward in ever increasing d'vekus to the Creator.
A Guten Shabbos!
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