Parsha Mitzvot-Eikev-Mitzvah 432-Concept 12-Attach Yourself To Those Who Know God
“You should be in awe of God, your Lord, you shall serve Him, and you should attach yourself to Him, and in His Name you shall swear (Deuteronomy 10:20).” How does one attach to God? According to the Rambam, the Mitzvah – Concept is to Attach to those who know God.
Transcribed and unedited: We’re all very influenced by the people we hang around with, so you have to be sure that the people you hang around with are the types of people who are good influences and who will draw you closer to God, who live with God.
When you go to a Shabbos table, you should go to a Shabbos table where people speak about the parasha and about God. Not about the Giants and the Jets.
There is a mitzvah in the Torah “lehidabek biyodiav.” We’re so influenced by our environment, more so our generation, I think, than any previous generation, and I think more so we who live in New York City with all this stuff going on all the time than other people, we have to learn how to create connections that are meaningful and that’ll really be a good influence on us, positive.
Now, the unbelievable thing is, we all talk about it and shake our heads yes, right? And then, to go out and do it, we don’t, and that is a result of our environment, because it just doesn’t fit in.
I never, when I was in Yeshivah, when my rebbe would walk in, I’d stand up right away. I would never say “You” to my rebbe, never. I would say, “Would Rebbe like a cup of water,” Rebbe this, Rebbe that, and I never resented it. The minute I went out into the real world and I saw, hey, you know, this is the way people speak, all of a sudden for me to speak to my Rebbe the way you have to according to halacha, it tears my guts out. Like, “Here, I’m the rabbi of Lincoln Square and I’ve got to talk to him like that? I have more people in my shul than he does!” it’s very hard, and we’re influenced. You may know that its right, but that’s part of the reason.
Listen to practical halacha. The Gemara in Berachot says like this, that all the prophecies of all the prophets of good things that’ll happen are for those who marry their daughters to a Talmid Hacham, to those who do their business with a Talmid Hacham, to those who invite a Talmid Hacham to their house, but the reward for those who actually study Torah, is far beyond anything the prophets ever described.
In other words, the Gemara is saying, all the great rewards described by the prophets are the rewards for one who as attached him or herself to one who is aware of God, meaning, all the rewards of the world to come are for those who have tries to create a positive environment around them, and for those who are taking the Derech Hashem class, that’s exactly where we’re up to, right, the community.
In Olam Habah, you don’t go as an individual. When you go to the world to come, you go as part of a perfected community. So you can’t have it, unless you learn how to create a perfected community around yourself in this world.
Or, the Gemara in Berachot says like this: that whoever partakes of a meal in which a Talmid Hacham is sitting, it is as if he has partaken of God’s Divine Presence.
A man should always sell whatever he has to a Talmid Hacham, he should make sure to marry the daughter of a Tamid Hacham, she should make sure to marry a Talmid Hacham herself, and it goes on.
Whoever does not allow Talmidei Hachamim… this is a Gemara in Sanhedrin, quote, “sheaino mihane tlamidei hachamim minechasav,” whoever does not allow Talmidei Hachamim to benefit from his property, “aino roeh siman bracha leolam,” will never see blessing in what he has.
Let me tell you a story about Rabbi Akivah. Think everyone would agree Rabbi Akiva was a great scholar. For those who know him and those who don’t I can assure you, Rebbe Akiva was a great scholar. He had finished studying in Yeshivah for twenty four years.
When he was traveling, he was already acknowledged the leader of all the Jewish people, basically. He was traveling home, and he found the dead body of a Jew, he picked up the Jew and carried the body for eighteen miles, to the closest Jewish cemetery, and buried the Jew there in a Jewish cemetery. Eighteen miles and he was not a young man.
The next time he saw his rebbe, he told him what he had done. “You see what I did?” And his rebbe said, “Do you know, what is the law, Akiva, if you find the body of a Jew in the middle of nowhere? You’re not allowed to move it. You have to bury it right there. And I taught you that! Well, how could you forget?”
So, Rabbi Akiva, the way they felt that what was lacking in him? That he had studied, studied, studied, but he hadn’t really spent enough time serving his rebbeim and being with them and knowing what it was like to really function as a Talmid Hacham.
And that’s what they made him do, twelve years.
I spent two years washing my grandfather’s back and changing his bed and getting him dressed and undressed and feeding him and cutting his food and things like that, and I got to tell you, I learned a lot more from one week with my grandfather than I learned from anything else.
And, you know, a lot of you may have heard this story, but whenever he was walking, he was talking. He would review his learning. And if you were having a conversation with him, so while you were talking, he didn’t want to waste his time, so he would review his Gemara while you were talking, and then he would answer you.
If he was writing a letter, as he was writing a letter, he would review his Gemara, because he didn’t want to waste the time. So you can do two things at a time, all for more. And again, Rav Moshe Feinstein was the same way, that’s the way they were trained.
So, but at night, he would talk to himself in Yiddish and he would be animated, so we knew he wasn’t reviewing his learning, so we figured at night he was senile. He was already elderly, right? We had to take such care of him, washing him and cleaning him, so we figured then, you know, he was elderly, and had a number of strokes, he was a little senile.
I had a niece who was then ten years old who refused to believe that my grandfather was senile, so she hid under his hospital bed. And my sister and I picked up my grandfather, we had to get him undressed and we had to get him into his pajamas, and both of us had to pick him up to put him into the hospital bed, and we put an orange juice there, then we made sure he had gone to the bathroom first and everything, and we were really worried about him, so we put up the rail on the bed, because every single morning we were coming in to the bedroom and we were finding him sitting in his chair with all his clothes on in a twisted, backwards, how did he get out of bed, why was he trying to get dressed, we had no idea.
So my niece is there, underneath his hospital bed, and my sister and I lave the room, we don’t know about my niece, and she hears him begin to speak to himself in Yiddish.
Yankif Yitzhak, what time did you wake up? Up four o’clock. What time did you get out of bed? Four fifteen.
Where did you get fifteen minutes to waste? Huh! Then, what did you do? I got out of bed, I washed negelvasser. Did you think about it while you were washing negelvasser? Yeah. Then, what did you do? I made a beracha.
And he went through everything he had done during the day, every conversation, he had a terrible headache in the middle of the day, someone had called him, and he was gruff. And he’d start berating himself, this poor guy, he thinks you’re a something, you know you’re a nothing, and you embarrassed him because you were gruff on the phone, so you have to call him back tomorrow and apologize.
He went through his day, he calculated twenty two minutes. He climbed out over the railing, this is a man who could barely move, got himself dressed as well as he possibly could, walked to his study, sat and learned for twenty two minutes, and then came back. He didn’t have the physical strength to get back into his bed, so he ended up sleeping in the chair in the room, and that’s why we were finding him in his room every single day.
Now, let me tell you something, you learn a lot more from living with someone like that, than you can learn from reading any book, and that’s what this mitzvah is all about.
Every time he would make a blessing, so he would go, “Baruch…Atoh…HaShem…” we used to hate bentching at his house, because it took three hours, but all of a sudden now, with my kids, I find myself bentching slower, like that, and imitating his voice, because it reminds me of what it was like. So, I’m never going to be like him, but I assure you that I am far more affected by having been exposed to him and washing his back in the bathtub and taking care of him, taking him to the bathroom and putting him to sleep, than I learned from any sefer. And that’s what this mitzvah is all about. You have to find someone.