Rav Kook Torah

Va'etchanan: Cleaving to God


“You, who remained attached to the Lord your God, are all alive today.” (Deut. 4:4)

What does it mean “to be attached to God”? As the Talmud (Sotah 14a) asks, is it possible to cleave to the Shechinah, God’s Divine Presence, which the Torah (Deut. 4:24) describes as a “consuming fire”?

The Sages answered:

“Rather, this means you should cleave to God’s attributes. Just as God clothed the naked [Adam and Eve], so too you should cloth the naked.
Just as God visited the sick [Abraham after his circumcision], so too you should visit the sick.
Just as God consoled the mourners [Isaac after Abraham’s death], so too you should console the mourners.
Just as God buried the dead [Moses], so too you should bury the dead.”

This explanation on how one may cleave to God is the very essence of the Kabbalistic study of the sephirot. What is the point in studying the intricacies of God’s Names and His manifestations in holy sephirot? We learn about God’s divine attributes so that we may aspire to imitate them. These studies enable us to follow in God’s ways and in this way cleave to Him.

This idea — that we can only attach ourselves to God by imitating His attributes — is a fundamental concept in Judaism. Any other understanding of cleaving to God implies some degree of anthropomorphism or idolatry.

The very existence of ideals, holy aspirations, and ethics in the world and in the human soul mandates the existence of a Divine Source. From where else could they come? Our awareness of the Source of these ideals elevates them, revealing new wellsprings of light and pure life.

(Gold from the Land of Israel, pp. 297-298. Adapted from Musar Avicha, pp. 118-119)