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A Merger, Not a Partnership

Friday, 6 August, 2021 - 5:21 am

Two drunks were once overheard debating their friendship.

“I love you,” shouted one to the other.

“No, you don’t!” responded his fellow drunkard.

“Yes, I do! I love you with all my heart! Why don’t you believe me?” retorted the first drunk.

The thundering response was, “Because, if you truly love me, why don’t you know what’s hurting me?”

It so happened that the great Chassidic Rebbe Levi Yirtzchok of Berditchev was the one who overheard this dialogue. He later declared, “I learned the true meaning of love from a couple drunkards.”


In this week’s parsha Re’eh, we are reminded to observe G-d’s commandments. The Torah states: You shall follow the L-rd, your G-d, fear Him, keep His commandments, heed His voice, worship Him, and cleave to Him.

How does one cleave to G-d? After all, Hashem is not a physical being…

The Talmud (quoted in Rashi) explains that this means to cleave to His ways, by bestowing kindness, burying the dead, and visiting the sick, just as the Holy One, blessed is He, did.

Okay, I understand that one comes closer to G-d by emulating His ways, but aren’t all of the above instructions mitzvot – and thus already included in the previous words of the verse to “Keep His commandments”? Don’t we cleave to G-d with every mitzvah?

So, what is the meaning of cleaving to G-d – above and beyond fulfilling G-d’s wishes through His instructions in the Torah?


In the beginning of the Torah we also find a similar language. The Torah talks about the creation of the first humans and declares, “man shall leave his father and his mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Cleaving to one’s spouse is not simply living together and navigating life together. Rather, it is designed to be an essential bond. A connection that leads one to think along the lines of the other. A bond that becomes intuitive.

This is also the meaning of cleaving to Hashem.

When we perform Hashem’s instructions we are two distinct entities. G-d, the Commander-in-Chief dictates. We, the subjects, obey with love and awe. Every mitzvah serves to connect us – finite humans – with our Infinite Creator.

But, G-d also wants us to become more intuitively Divine. When we follow in Hashem’s ways – and act with selfless kindness – we have surpassed the bond of fulfilling G-d’s wishes and entered into a more intimate embrace. Rather than obeying, we are walking in lockstep.

G-d doesn’t only seek a partnership. He seeks a merger.

Turns out those drunkards were onto something deep – and intimate – indeed.

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