with Rav Avigdor Miller
Approaching to See
Part I. Seeking Him
Noblemen Need No Warnings
When the great day of Matan Torah came and the entire Am Yisroel stood together at Har Sinai waiting to see the Glory of Hashem, we find that Hakodosh Boruch Hu gave Moshe Rabeinu a very strict command: רֵד הָעֵד בָּעָם – Descend from the mountain and warn the people: פֶּן יֶֽהֶרְסוּ אֶל הַשֵּׁם לִרְאוֹת – lest they break through to Hashem to see. “They might push through the barriers because of their desire to see Me,” said Hakodosh Boruch Hu. “And then, what will happen? A great tragedy! וְנָפַל מִמֶּנּוּ רָֽב – Very many will fall (Yisro 19:21).
Now, when we hear these words, we get the impression that we know what it’s talking about. Today, let’s say, if there’s a live wire hanging down from the telephone pole — it’s sparking maybe, it’s on fire, so there’s a natural curiosity that sometimes gets the better of people. And if you’re dealing with a crowd of ignorami, of nobodies, so you’ll need the policemen to come and set up barriers. To merely tell these wild fellows is not enough. You need barricades, and the police have to brandish clubs so that the crowds shouldn’t touch the live wire and, chas v’shalom, וְנָפַל מִמֶּנּוּ רָֽב – people might get hurt or die.
But suppose a covey of kings and presidents is passing by. Imagine for a minute, President Nixon is standing with the Prime Ministers of England and France, and a dozen people like that. Does the policeman have to hold out his club threatening to hit them over the head if they get too close? No! When you’re talking about people of nobility, high-minded people, you don’t need to force any discipline – tell them once and that’s all, they’ll step away. They’re men of seichel – they know how to restrain themselves.
Our Forefathers Are Misunderstood
Now, you have to know that our forefathers were much more disciplined than President Nixon – although I have a good opinion of him by the way; I think he’s a very capable man, despite what the hotheads say. But our forefathers, l’havdil, were very much superior and they had much more self control. And I’m just speaking this way because of this audience. If I were talking to a yeshiva audience, I would say the truth, that they were ten thousand times superior. But you people sitting here would think it’s an exaggeration, so I’m just saying they were better – actually, they were exceedingly superior, better than anything you can imagine.
Unfortunately, most people don’t understand who our forefathers were. I’m sorry to say that even many talmidei chachomim have misunderstood the subject of the dor hamidbar. And therefore the teachers and the preachers – Orthodox ones – present our forefathers in the worst possible light. And they’ve done a good job, believe me! Our children have grown up in the Hebrew schools, the boys in the yeshivos and the girls in the Beis Yaakovs, with the idea that our forefathers were a pretty low crowd.
But here we speak the truth and we therefore have to understand that this was a superior group of people. Despite all of the propaganda, we have to get the truth into our heads and change our ideas about this great nation who came out of Mitzrayim. These were the best people who ever lived! Never again was there a generation that understood things as clearly as those who were standing at Har Sinai to receive the Torah.
Before our forefathers came out of Egypt, they took ten courses in emunah – each one of these makkos was an education in itself. It wasn’t like high school or college courses – these were courses that were very much advanced. Emunah 101 was dam. The second course in emunah was tzefardeya. And then came kinim. Each makkah that was visited upon Mitzrayim took a long time and our forefathers sat and studied the details of each oneand it went into their bones. They became so aware of the Presence, the imminence of Hakodosh Boruch Hu, that if we here would sit together and learn Chovos Halvovos every night for five hours a night, we would not, even at the end of our days, arrive at what they arrived after they finished dam.
And after they went through everything, they took a few more postgraduate courses at Kriyas Yam Suf. וַיַּרְא יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת הַיָּד הַגְּדֹלָה, They saw Hakodosh Boruch Hu at the Yam Suf! And not only the lamdanim and the Beis Yaakov women, the disciples of Miriam; even the shifachos, the women who swept the floors, saw more than you and I will ever see: רָאֲתָה שִׁפְחָה עַל הַיָּם מַה שֶׁלֹּא רָאָה יְחֶזְקֵאל בֶּן בּוּזִי בְּמֶרְכָּבָה – A slave woman saw more prophecy at kriyas Yam Suf than Yechezkel HaNavi saw. That’s why Hashem gave them a diploma – He testified about them: וַיַּאֲמִינוּ בַּהֲשֵּׁם – They believed in Hashem (Shemos 14:31). And if Hashem said they believed, then you can be sure that they were aware of His Presence just as much as I am aware of you sitting right here.
The Nation of Prophets
So we understand that the yotzei Mitzrayim were full of emunah certifications, one on top of the other, when they came to Har Sinai. They were the Dor De’ah – The Generation of Knowledge. Most of them were nevi’im! You hear that? Most of the generation of the wilderness were prophets. It may be a big exaggeration for me to say it, but what can I do if Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi says it in the Kuzari. He says, כֻּלָּם מִשְׁתַּדְּלִים לְהַגִּיעַ אֶל הַנְּבוּאָה – All of them were trying their best to attain the state of prophecy, וְרֻבָּם מַגִּיעִים אֵלֶיהָ – and most of them reached it.
Now the Kuzari is not a darshan. The Kuzari, you have to know, counts his words. Instead of “zuggen ah kvort – zuggt er a vort;” it means instead of a long sentence, he says only two words. That’s why you have to study what he says very carefully. And so, when he states that all of them, men and women were trying to attain prophecy, and most of them reached prophecy, you should take those words seriously. And that means that the Am Yisroel were on a very high level – they weren’t uncivilized people that needed to be kept in check with barriers and warnings of deathly punishment.
And yet, what do we see? Hakodosh Boruch Hu is treating them as if they were a rabble, a wild multitude. They’re being warned once again and again. כִּֽי סָקוֹל יִסָּקֵל אֽוֹ יָרֹה יִיָּרֶה – You’ll be thrown down; you’ll be put to death (Shmos 19:13). That’s already a strict warning! And then Hakodosh Boruch Hu added a special mitzvah: “Go down and warn them lest they’ll break through the barrier.” An additional yeridah – go down just for that; to warn them! For such a nation, a nation of noblemen and nevi’im, is that necessary?!
The Desire To See Him
Now, for the answer to that we look into the Mechilta. There’s a statement there about this generation and we should understand it as the motto of the dor hamidbar; it was their slogan, and here is how it goes: רְצוֹנֵנוּ לִרְאוֹת אֶת מַלְכֵּנוּ – It is our will, our desire, to see our King. Our forefathers had in their hearts a fire of yearning for Hashem – we have no idea how much there burned in their hearts a longing to see Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
Like our pious king, Dovid Hamelech, when he wanted to express how he thirsted for Hashem, so he said: כְּאַיָּל תַּעֲרֹג עַל אֲפִיקֵי מָיִם כֵּן נַפְשִׁי תַעֲרֹג אֵלֶיךָ אֱלֹקִים (Tehillim 42:2). It’s like a deer in a hot desert and he can’t find any water with which to quench his thirst; and now the deer is longing with every cell, with every fiber in his body for a drink of water: צָמְאָה לְךָ נַפְשִׁי כָּמַהּ לְךָ בְשָׂרִי – So too my soul thirsts for You, Hashem; my flesh longs for You.
It’s a burning desire that great men experience. And here was a generation made up of especially great people — all of them. רְצוֹנֵנוּ לִרְאוֹת אֶת מַלְכֵּנוּ – It is our desire to see our King! That was their dearest wish.
Running Into The Fire
And it was because of that deep wish of the nation standing at the foot of Har Sinai, that’s why Hashem had to warn them again and again to beware. This generation that knew Hashem best, they wanted one thing only – to get close to Hashem, to see Him – and because they were subject to this passion more than anyone else in history, therefore the danger was most real. They would be moiser nefesh to fulfill this desire – they’d forget about danger and they’d rush into fire to see Hakadosh Boruch Hu!
And so Hashem said to Moshe Rabeinu, “You don’t know these people well enough! I know the nature of these people and they’re thirsty for Me. They don’t care for anything – all they want out of life is to come close to Me! And once the dibbur will begin to come forth mipi haShechina, they’ll become wild with passion and they’ll try to break through the barriers! And therefore, רֵד הָעֵד בָּעָם – Go back down and warn them again in My name, פֶּן יֶֽהֶרְסוּ – so that they shouldn’t break through.”
The Ten Tests
Hakodosh Boruch Hu was now revealing to Moshe the greatness of the Am Yisroel, the nation that exists to seek Hashem, and at the same time the danger that might cause. “This desire is going to cause a lot of trouble from now on,” said Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
And that explains a lot of what happened in the wilderness to our forefathers. Everybody knows עֲשָׂרָה נִסְיוֹנוֹת נִסּוּ אֲבוֹתֵינוּ אֶת הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בַּמִּדְבָּר – There were ten times in the wilderness that our forefathers tested Hashem (Avos 5:4).
Now, we understand that simply as ten times that the Jewish nation ‘sinned’ in the wilderness, ten times they failed the test. Everybody knows about these ten things – and all those who learn chumash in their youth have the impression that it was a very difficult people to deal with. Ten times – one after the other! Something is wrong with a nation like that! No wonder that finally the Almighty got disgusted with them and threw us out of the land into exile.
The Real Story
We have to rethink this however, because if that’s what it means, it’s a queer expression. It should have said “Ten times Hashem tested our forefathers and they failed the test.” Instead it says, “Our forefathers tested Hashem ten times.” What’s the meaning of that?
And the answer is that the real story is just the opposite. These ten tests were ten symptoms of the greatness of that generation! Because what were the ten tests? What did they want with these ten tests? They wanted Hashem to openly demonstrate His presence among them. We wouldn’t test Hashem like that because we don’t long for Him like they did. “Ten times they tested Me to see if I’m still around, to see that I didn’t depart from their midst.” When they asked for food in the wilderness, it wasn’t because they were afraid they would starve. They wanted to see that Hashem should demonstrate His presence. When they asked for drink, they wanted Him to show His Presence.
Because that’s the sign of greatness – the desire to see more and more. The ten “sins” of this generation are actually ten signs of greatness, a result of this intense desire. Every “test” was nothing but an expression, an outburst of this longing: “We wish to see our King!”
Part II. Seeking Substitutes
The Secret In Bava Kamma
Actually, it wasn’t only them. One of the great secrets of this world is that the great wish of all of Mankind is to see our King – in the depths of our souls we are seeking only one thing and that is to be close to Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
Now, this secret is hidden away in the first mishna in Bava Kamma. The masichta begins: אַרְבָּעָה אָבוֹת נְזִיקִּין – There are four main causes of damage in the world – four categories of things that cause damage to people and property.
The first is hashor; an ox. Now, shor doesn’t mean only an ox – a yeshiva man might learn “shor” and he thinks “an ox”, that’s all it is. No; it means any animal, any living thing that you possess, you’re responsible for it. Let’s say your cat goes into your neighbor’s lawn and digs up the flowers, so you have to pay your neighbor for the damage your cat caused. If it’s your animal, so you’re responsible. That’s why it’s good to learn Bava Kamma. Otherwise, you’d never dream that you’re responsible for your animals.
The second on the list is habor – obstacles. Let’s say you’re sitting here now listening to the lecture and your foot is sticking out into the aisle because you have to stretch for a minute, and somebody falls over it, so you have to pay. You’re liable for the damage. That’s called bor – you dug a pit, you made an obstacle.
The Mysterious Damager
Now, the third thing we’ll skip for now and we’ll come back to it very soon. First, number four. The fourth category of damagers is v’hahever – fire. When damage is caused by fire, or by anything else that moves due to natural causes, like wind, that’s called hever, fire. If you put a flowerpot, let’s say, on your windowsill and the wind blows and it drops down on somebody who is passing by, that’s aish. You’re responsible for the damage it causes.
And now we come back to the third category; the mishna calls it maaveh. Now maaveh is a rare word that is not found anywhere else in the mishna. What is this maaveh, this mysterious damager? So our great teacher, Rav, says: Maaveh zeh adam – maaveh means man. Man is one of the four main sources of trouble in the world, one of the big troublemakers who is constantly causing damage.
Let’s say you’re knocking on your neighbor’s windowpane to get his attention and suddenly it cracks – you broke the pane. You can’t say, “Oops, I’m so sorry.” No, you have to pay. פֶּצַע תַּחַת פֶּצַע לְרַבּוֹת שׁוֹגֵג כְּמֵזִיד – You have to pay even though you broke it unintentionally. By the way, if you came in just to hear that, it’s worthwhile. People don’t know this piece of Torah, that you have to pay for breaking things unintentionally. It’s included in maaveh zeh adam.
Now, Rav says as follows: “How do I know that maaveh means man? I have proof from a possuk in Yeshaya (21:12). Pay attention now as we explain this possuk because we’ll come soon to the source of our word. It’s talking there about somebody who is talking to the night watcher. In those days the night watcher walked through the streets and nobody was supposed to be around; every decent man was in his house at night.
But as the watchman is walking through the street, somebody puts his head out of the window and he calls out, שֹׁמֵר מַה מִלַּיְלָה שֹׁמֵר מַה מִלֵּיל – Oh, watchman, what about this night? It means, “When will the night come to an end? It’s an unusually long night and I have a lot to accomplish by day.” That’s the complaint. He sticks his head out of the window and calls out to the night watchman: “When is it going to be morning already so I can get to work?”
אָמַר שֹׁמֵר – So the watchman replies, אָתָא בֹקֶר – ‘Morning came already.’ “You know how long you’ve been asleep? You’ve been sleeping for twenty four hours. You asked me the same question last night and then you went back to bed and you slept through the whole day! אָתָא בֹקֶר – The morning already came, וְגַם לָיְלָה – and this is already the second night. אִם תִּבְעָיוּן – If you’re looking for the day, בְּעָיוּ – then you have to get up and start looking! Seek it! You don’t seek things by lying in bed fast asleep!
Peanuts And The Press
Here’s a yeshiva man lying in bed, sleeping late, and he says, “Ah – I’d like to be a lamdan!” Or somebody else; a man is sitting at home on Shabbos afternoon reading the Jewish Press and eating peanuts and his heart is full of a yearning to know all Shas! Stop lying in bed and talking about it – if you really mean it, then do something about it.
That’s what the Navi Yeshaya said: אִם תִּבְעָיוּן – If you are seeking, then don’t be halfhearted about it, בְּעָיוּ – Get busy seeking! It means: If you mean business – not just talk – then look for it and you’ll find it. In this world, if you want to accomplish anything, you have to be a seeker.
Man the Seeker
And so, Rav says, who is this maaveh, this third damager that the mishna in Bava Kama refers to? The word maaveh comes from the word , בְּעָיוּ – to seek. That’s the root of the word. Maaveh zeh adam – “The Seeker” refers to Man because Man is the inveterate seeker, the insatiable seeker. No matter how much money a man has, he’s never happy; he wants more. מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ לוֹ מָנֶה רוֹצֶה מָאתַיִם. Why is it that a man is never satisfied? The answer is because he’s always seeking something more.
Does a cow look for more? Give a cow enough grass and water and he’ll stand around all day long chewing contentedly – he longs for nothing! The cat and the rabbit and the mosquito – what they want is very limited and when they get it, they’re happy, they’re content. They’re not seeking anything! Only Man is never content; he’s always seeking to accomplish, to achieve even more and that’s why Rav said that maaveh is man – because the only one who seeks in this world is Man!
Now, where did that drive in Mankind come from? What’s the foundation of that desire to seek that makes man different from a cow and a rabbit – different enough that maaveh becomes the defining characteristic of man; it becomes his title?
It goes back to the beginning of history. In the Torah it relates that when Hakodosh Boruch Hu created man, He did something exceptional: וַיִּפַּח בְּאַפָּיו נִשְׁמַת חַיִּים – He blew into man’s nostrils a breath of life (Bereishis 2:7). Now that’s a sentence that’s so important that we really should talk for forty years on this one subject – I’m not exaggerating – but at least a little bit we should talk about what it means this breath of Hashem.
The Zohar expresses it in the following words: מָאן דְּנָפַח מִדִלֵּיה נָפַח– When someone blows, what does he blow from? From his pocket? No; when you blow, you blow from yourself. And that means Hashem breathed into Mankind something of Himself. That’s where we get the famous expression חֵלֶק אֱלֹקַי – the soul of a man is a portion of Hashem Himself. Something of Hashem was put into man and it’s still there. More than that I cannot tell you. I don’t know what Hashem is, and nobody else does either and therefore nobody can describe what He breathed. We can’t explain Hashem and therefore we’re not going to be able to explain what ‘a part of Hashem’ is. But whatever it is, it’s not merely life that was given to all creatures.
At that time, Adam immediately had a very strong drive – it became the fundamental nature of man, an instinct, to accomplish and to achieve perfection by coming closer and closer to Hashem. It wasn’t just Dovid Hamelech and the Dor Hamidbar who yearned for Hashem. All of us have that drive within us.
Hakodosh Boruch Hu put into Mankind an immense yearning and that yearning makes man a maaveh. It cannot rest! It will never find respite. It never will have any tranquility because the nishmas chaim is unable to forget the source it came from. That’s what makes man a maaveh, a seeker. And that’s why the mishna, when it wants to put man on the list of damagers, it uses the title of “maaveh.”
Choosing Appropriate Titles
Now really, all this is a puzzle. Because if Chazal wished to give man a special title denoting him as one of the four main causes of damage, so couldn’t they find a better name than maaveh? If you’re choosing now to title, to identify man as a troublemaker, why do you choose the one name which actually describes his longing to come close to Hashem? The word that describes man as someone who seeks to accomplish and to come close to Hashem, is that a fitting title to give to somebody who does damage?
And the answer is that this most noble attribute of Mankind, is actually the cause of all the trouble in the world. The longing to come close to Hashem is one of the most pure instincts of human beings and at the same time it is the cause of most of the disturbances, wickedness and misfortune in the world. It’s only because Mankind has this longing, but he doesn’t know what exactly it is that he longs for — he can’t put his finger on it – that’s what causes all the trouble in the world. He seeks and he seeks and he seeks more, but because he doesn’t know what he seeks, he becomes the biggest troublemaker.
Seeking Ice Cream
So what does Adam Hamaaveh, Man the Seeker, do to requite this great longing that is stirring in his soul? He goes to the refrigerator! In the middle of the night when his wife is not looking, he takes out the tub of chocolate ice cream from the freezer and he gets busy trying to satisfy the yearning of his neshama. And because he’s yearning so deeply, he’ll fumble around the pantry looking for sprinkles too!
Some people graduate from this – and they move onto bigger and better things. Money! They make up their minds to get rich. They think that that’s what they want and they spend their lives accumulating property.
For some it’s travel. Look outside the window on motza’ei Shabbos – cars from this side of Ocean Parkway are traveling in this direction and the people who live on the other side are going the opposite way – they’re seeking. And if they have a little more money to water, so they get on airplanes and fly to Switzerland or to Eretz Yisroel. Back and forth, back and forth, looking, seeking, but they can’t find what they’re searching for.
Art and Fame
Some people go all out for other things. Art! There are people with great souls, mivakshim, who go all out for the arts. Art is nothing at all! So what if a man makes a painting? It’s so silly. Today you can take a Kodak camera and make a better painting. What is there to his sitting down and making a painting? It’s nothing but an expression of the longing within him.
Some look for fame or power. All the people who are out for power are longing for something, they’re seekers. Why does a communist dictator shoot his comrades in order to gain power and then he tries to trample on the rest of the world? He’s looking for something. He thinks it’s power, it’s glory. Even that madman Hitler, yimach shemo, why did he murder millions? That was his way of seeking mastery, of expressing this longing which had become corrupted in him because he didn’t know what it was.
Revolutionaries Find Trouble
All the misguided foolish college students, the revolutionaries who are making trouble, they’re looking for something – in all the wrong places. Is there anything in Socialism?! It’s just empty promises. The truth is if you would grab one of them by the collar and ask him to analyze what he’s doing, he wouldn’t be able to tell you. They themselves don’t know what they want. Sometimes they can latch onto this cause or that thing, but in general they don’t know what they’re looking for. And that’s why they find trouble.
That’s why they’re mazikim, protesting and breaking windows. They’re looking for something maaveh zeh adam. That’s why they spat on French Prime Minister Pompidou when he came to visit this country. To spit on a visiting head of state?! And all of the trouble that they make for the police force! Where do they get these ideas from? It’s only because they have greatness that is bursting within them – and they think that they’re saving the world.
And that’s why just between ourselves we can say – don’t tell anybody – but we know that liberal Jews are the most dangerous people; they’re the worst citizens. They’re the most pushy, the most demonstrative, and they make the most trouble. A Jew, more than anyone else in the world, is a maaveh, a seeker, but if he looks in the wrong places, he’ll never be satisfied. And therefore, when he goes wrong he’s the most dangerous and there’s no end to the trouble he’ll cause while he’s trying to requite his yearning – because he doesn’t know what he seeks. And en route to the final good, a lot of trouble is caused – a lot of vessels are being smashed and a lot of hearts are broken. The maaveh becomes a mazik.
Pursuing The Substitutes
And so we see that the same source of the greatness of a man can be his source of ruination — the yearning for Hashem can cause people to become harmful to the world, and more importantly it causes them to waste their one opportunity in this world running after substitutes.
Now, that’s easy to say but actually a great deal of thought must be put into this because this desire is testing us always. We’re in this world to be tested to see if we’ll be deceived and misdirect this instinct of ours towards substitutes. It’s a great test – will you seek to quell this urge in the right way?
And so, although this yearning, this noble instinct can be the cause of so many disturbances in this world, the real Adam, the maaveh who understands why he’s in this world, directs his yearning in the right direction – at coming close to Hakodosh Boruch Hu – and his entire life becomes a life of seeking closeness to Hakodosh Boruch Hu! That’s what he lives for, that’s the breath of his life.
Part III. Seek With Care
Don’t Break The Barriers
Now, included in this warning to not come too close to Hashem – הָעֵד בָּעָם פֶּן יֶֽהֶרְסוּ, warn the people not to break through the barriers – is another most important attitude that we must keep in mind always. The Torah is teaching us that in the great desire to come close to Hashem you must exercise restraint. There’s a certain line, and we shouldn’t break through that boundary. Now exactly where the boundary is, that’s a problem, but in the remaining time we’re going to study this subject a little bit.
You know, if someone has formed a certain fondness for a king, let’s say he actually loves the king, so his love must be restrained to a certain extent. He has to be discreet about it because if he’ll start poking his head into the palace windows to see what the king is doing, one of the attendants might give him a punch in the nose. Excessive affection has to be guarded against because overstepping the bounds, especially in the case of the Almighty, can lead to dangerous results.
And therefore, there is always this paradox. You have to get close, very close to Hashem. A Jew has to feel at home in the shul – it should be the place where he wants to be most. He should feel like he belongs in the beis medrash. Learning, davening; those should be the expressions of the desire in his soul and therefore he shouldn’t feel like a stranger in the shul – he should feel at home there; he should find pleasure in talking to Hashem. And yet, he cannot relax. He cannot forget that he’s in a shul. It’s not a club, a place to see friends and talk.
It’s not a contradiction to love of Hashem. Love doesn’t mean that you smother that person with your embrace. Let’s say you have a beloved rebbe in your yeshiva – you have a certain rebbe. The truth is you should love your rebbe; you shouldn’t feel that he is a machine, a tape recorder that says good shiurim. You should love him intensely! Rav Itzele Peterburger, zichrono livracha, loved his rebbe, Reb Yisroel Salanter. He loved him! When chassidim love their rebbe, they’re only doing what’s the Jewish traditional way.
Love and Fear
Suppose however, someone is so fond of his rosh yeshiva that he walks over and he puts his arm around his rebbe’s shoulder – that’s breaking through the barrier; you’re touching a live wire! So it’s up to the rebbe to shake him off and to walk away because part of the function of loving Torah is to have fear of Torah. We love Hashem, but at the same time we fear Hashem. Exactly when this and when that – this I cannot tell you.
But we see that although the greatness of Mankind is its desire to seek Hashem, yet at the same time, everyone should realize he must maintain restraint. Always remember, despite your passion to come close, you must beware of overstepping the bounds of respect and fear of Hakodosh Boruch Hu.
So let’s say, you want to adopt Reb Yankev Kaminetzky as your mentor. You want to get close to him so you move to Monsey – better yet, you move right next door to him. It’s a good idea, by the way. He’s a very great man. He’s an old man and he’s full of wisdom. He knows everything. Everything! And you can talk about anything with him.
So when he goes out in the morning, you ask him, “Can I go along with you?” He doesn’t have any bodyguards and he’ll say, “Alright. If you want, you can come along.” You go along with him and you listen to what he says. You don’t talk – you don’t say a word; you just listen to him. And you begin to understand a few things; you’ll learn a new way of living. You’ll look at his ways too. After a while you’ll become permeated with his greatness. It can’t help but rub off on you and you’ll have a tremendous benefit.
Clinging to Hashem
Not only will you be close to Reb Yankev Kaminetzky; you’ll be close to Hashem. You’re fulfilling the mitzvas asei of the Torah וּבוֹ תִדְבָּק – You should cling to Hashem. How do you cling to Hashem? You’re going to take a plane trip to the desert and take pictures of Har Sinai?! People do that by the way – that’s how they misdirect their longing for Hashem. Maybe they take a plane to Eretz Yisroel, back and forth, back and forth. They’re trying as hard as they can to satisfy the yearning in their souls. But that’s not how to come closer to Hashem. Cling to chachomim! Cling to Reb Yankev Kaminetzky!
Now, as you walk with him and you’re clinging to Hashem, you have to beware. Here is a great peril because you can make a misstep. It’s like walking with a 50,000 volt electric machine. Watch out! Because if a person becomes familiar, if he becomes a little too close, he might break through the barrier around Har Sinai.
The first thing is you might open your mouth to give your opinion. You’re standing in front of a sage like Reb Yankev Kaminetzky and you’re voicing your opinion?! Is he your friend?! Who are you?! You can love him very much, but still you won’t break through the barrier – you keep your mouth closed and your eyes and ears wide open – you try to soak up every word and every movement of this Torah sage!
How Much Of A Man Are You?
However, at least you want to live near Rav Yankev Kaminetzky; if you don’t have the desire to be close to Hashem, so you’re not worried about stepping over the boundaries because you’re busy wasting your life seeking empty dreams. Some people are almost not mivakshim at all. Maaveh zeh adam – if you want to be an Adam, you have to seek Hashem – that’s the measure of a man.
The one whose soul thirsts, he wants to know more Torah, he’s dissatisfied with his present state and he’s looking for opportunities to come closer to Hashem, that’s the sign of an adam. The more of a seeker he is, the more adam he is. And if he’s content, he is less adam; he’s more beheima.
And therefore to utilize this world to fulfill our tremendous urge to come close to Hashem is our career. Everyone must feel within him an intense unrest. Let’s say you have a chain of stores, a chain of department stores all over the city and the money is coming in. The cash register is ringing all day long without end and you have investments everywhere and you’re growing rich by the hour. If you’re a happy and satisfied man because of that, then you are not an adam. The fact that you have so many customers and that business is increasing should not satisfy you; it shouldn’t stupefy this urge in you, this longing.
The wise person directs his urge in the right direction; he seeks Hashem. And so, if you’re a mivakeish Hashem, get busy learning. Learn chumash, learn gemara, learn the seforim — there’s so much to learn. There’s a mesikus, a sweetness, to learning a piece of gemara well and reviewing it and knowing it. You feel it in your body, you feel in your soul a certain happiness. דִּבְרֵי תּוֹרָה מְשַׂמְּחִין אֶת הַלֵּב – Keeping the Torah, thinking about Torah ideals, doing mitzvos, living a Torah life, that’s the true happiness because that’s what you’re truly seeking.
Changing your character too! There’s a sweetness in studying the mussar seforim and training yourself to be a more perfect person. Even a mother raising children – maybe she didn’t learn any seforim – but she’s raising children, bringing up Jewish children to become members of the Am Kodesh; that’s a fulfillment of the neshama. It brings a mother so much closer to Hakodosh Boruch Hu – it’s a tremendous shleimus.
Those who seek Hashem in the right way are the happy people because the true satisfaction is only when the neshama is fulfilling its urge to come close to Hashem. It’s only יִשְׂמַח לֵב מְבַקְשֵׁי הַשֵּׁם – If you know what you’re seeking, if you know that your neshama is actually seeking Hashem, so you get busy working on that and you become a happy person.
And Hakodosh Boruch Hu is looking for happy people like that. הַשֵּׁם מִשָּׁמַיִם הִשְׁקִיף – Hashem looks down from the heavens, לִרְאוֹת – to see, הֲיֵשׁ מַשְׂכִּיל “Is there any wise man down below? דֹּרֵשׁ אֶת אֱלֹקִים is anyone seeking Me?” (Tehillim 14:2) He’s looking down on us right now and He’s saying: “Who is seeking Me? Who is a doiresh Hashem?” And if He discovers you, you can be sure that you will be rewarded because of that and find true satisfaction in this world and eternal happiness in the World to Come.
Have A Wonderful Shabbos