“Cleave to Him”
Three Torah Portions and their Haftoros
The Ninth of Av marks the destruction of both Holy Temples. Three Haftoros , known as “The Three [Haftoros] of Punishment,” are read on the three Shabasos that precede the Ninth of Av. Then, on the Shabbos following the Ninth of Av, there begins the series of “The Seven [Haftoros] of Consolation.”
The first Haftorah of consolation is Nachamu , which accompanies the Torah portion of Vaes’chanan. The Haftorah of VaTomar Tzion follows the week after, and is read in conjunction with the portion Eikev. This, in turn, is followed by the Haftorah of Aniyah So’arah that is read in connection with Re’eh.
All matters relating to Torah are precise. Surely, the juxtaposition of these particular Torah portions with these particular Haftoras is not mere happenstance. What is the relationship between these portions and their Haftoros ?
The destruction of both Holy Temples caused much more than mere physical annihilation; it also caused G-dliness to depart, as it were, from this world.1 This occurrence is annually relived on the Ninth of Av — and following this occurrence it is necessary to begin spiritual service anew.
Every new beginning, particularly a new spiritual beginning, must first be empowered by G-d and receive His blessing — an “arousal from Above that precedes the arousal from below.”2 This is why we read Vaes’chanan on the first Shabbos after the Ninth of Av. It is then that spiritual service begins anew, and it is then that we ask for G-d’s blessing in this quest — a plea implicit in the word Vaes’chanan. Our Sages explain that Vaes’chanan means a plea for “an undeserved gift,”3 i.e., a gift not necessarily commensurate with our spiritual efforts.
Appropriately, then, we also read the Haftorah of Nachamu : “Be consoled, be consoled My people, says your G-d”4 — a form of blessing and consolation that comes entirely from Above.
However, merely receiving G-d’s gift does not suffice; it is necessary for man to rouse himself — “an arousal from below” — and serve G-d as well. This second stage is alluded to in the portion of Eikev , which informs us that even man’s lowest level of eikev — a level that does not perceive G-dliness at all5 — is sublimated to G-dliness, so that it too “listens” and hearkens to G-d’s word.
This concept is further buttressed by the Haftorah of Eikev, VaTomar Tzion , wherein the Jewish people — “forsaken and forgotten” — bitterly lament their estrangement from G-d. And this heartfelt lament is wholly a result of the Jews’ own spiritual service, a manner of service that heightens their spiritual sensitivity and causes them to mourn their lack of closeness with the Creator.
While the degree of service that “listens” to G-d is laudable, it is not the ultimate. In the highest form of service, a person attains so rarefied a level that he is able not merely to hear, but also to see , G-dliness. It is this third stage that is hinted at both in the Torah portion as well as in the Haftorah of Re’eh.
The opening words of this portion are: “Re’eh Onochi — See [that] I [G-d]….,”6 this means that a Jew is to see and behold G-d Himself. Anything less than that, the Jew should find wholly unsatisfactory.
This gives rise to the lament in the Haftorah of Re’eh , Aniyah So’arah , wherein the Jewish people express their anguish at their “tempestuous [spiritual] impoverishment that can find no consolation”7 merely through the words of the prophets, for they desire to be united with and consoled by G-d Himself.
Indeed, G-d accedes to their request and assures them, “It is I, and I alone, who shall console you.”8 Granting their request is G-d’s response to the Jews’ service — “an arousal from Above that follows the arousal from below.”
This also explains why Eikev is always read during the month of Av and Re’eh is read either on the Shabbos that blesses the month of Elul or on Rosh Chodesh Elul itself. Av is the month during which G-d gave vent to His Divine wrath;9 Elul is the month during which He expresses His Divine mercy.10 During the former month we feel mostly the distance, gloom and concealment epitomized by eikev. When the month of Elul comes, during which the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy are dominant, then G-d is seen in all His glory, for: “It is I, and I alone, who consoles you.”
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. IX, pp. 76-78.
“Cleave to Him”
We are told in the Torah Portion Re’eh ,11 “Follow G-d your L-rd, fear Him, observe His commandments, hearken to His voice, serve Him and cleave to Him.” On the words “cleave to Him,” Rashi explains: “Cleave to His ways, perform acts of loving kindness, bury the dead, visit the sick, just as G-d has done.”
Rashi’s comment must be understood: Since, according to Rashi , the verse means to tell us that we should cleave to G-d’s ways and act as He does, why doesn’t the verse explicitly state “cleave to His ways” rather than “cleave to Him?”
Moreover, since the command to cleave to G-d’s ways is stated as “cleave to Him ,” it is understandable that the ultimate unity with G-d is accomplished specifically through following G-d’s example and performing acts of loving kindness.
In other words, the highest form of cleaving to G-d can only be accomplished through these latter actions, and not by performing the actions and commandments referred to earlier when the verse declared “obey His commandments.”
This, too, must be understood: All mitzvos bring about an attachment between man and G-d; what greater attachment is achieved by doing those things that fall under the heading of “cleaving to G-d”?
G-d commanded us to perform Mitzvos , and we perform them because we are so obligated. It therefore follows that the attachment achieved by performing mitzvos is one in which the performer is continuously aware of his own self; it is he who is becoming attached to G-d through his performance.
This is not so with regard to “cleaving to G-d.” Although “cleaving to G-d” begins as the result of a command, the performance, completion, and totality of the command involves the total loss of any sense of self, for the person is wholly engulfed within Him — he cleaves to Him.
The difference between mitzvos in general and performing those actions that result in “cleaving to Him” is thus the difference between “attachment to G-d” and “cleaving to G-d”:12
“Attachment to G-d” — the state achieved through the regular performance of Torah and mitzvos — is similar to attaching two separate objects one to another and tying them together. Even after the objects have become bound together, they are still viewed as two things. “Cleaving to G-d,” however, is so strong a form of unification that there are no two separate entities — they are truly one.
We thus understand that the same act — extending a loan for example — when performed with the intent of “cleaving to G-d” is infinitely greater than the same act performed as a separate mitzvah ; the latter lacks total loss of self and only attains attachment — not cleaving — to G-d.
This also explains why the verse states “cleave to Him.” Although this requires “cleaving to His ways,” no action is specified, for the intent here is not to speak of the act itself — “His ways” — but the result of the act; when one is so at one with G-d, following in His ways will come as a matter of course.
Thus it is told of the Alter Rebbe that on Fridays towards evening he would automatically fall asleep, since it was then a time of sleep Above.13 I.e., his cleaving to G-d was so intense that the proper actions — “ways” — followed spontaneously.
Acting in such an unprompted and unpremeditated manner in consonance with G-d’s desires reveals the tremendous degree of innate cleaving that a Jewish soul has to G-d. When the Torah commands us to “cleave to G-d,” it empowers all of us to reveal our latent qualities.
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIV, pp. 53-63.
1. See Zohar I , 210a; ibid. III, 20b, 75a.
2. See Likkutei Torah, Vayikra 2b.
3. Sifri, Devarim Rabba, Tanchuma and commentary of Rashi on Devarim 3:23.
4. Yeshayahu 40:1.
5. See previous essay.
6. Devarim 11:26.
7. Yeshayahu 54:11.
8. Ibid. 51:12.
9. Zohar, Shmos 12a.
10. See Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim 581; Likkutei Torah, Re’eh 32a and onward.
11. Devarim 13:5.
12. See L’ma’an Tizkeru 5568; V’Haya Eikev 5673.
13. Toras Sholom p. 13.