“‘D’vay’kut’–Bonding with the Al-mighty”
by Rabbi Ephraim Z. Buchwald
In this week’s parasha, parashat Eikev, we read of the deeply spiritual mitzvah of דְּבֵקוּת “D’vay’kut,” of clinging to, or bonding with, G-d.
The Torah, in Deuteronomy 10:20 states: אֶת השׁם אֱ־לֹקֶיךָ תִּירָא, אֹתוֹ תַעֲבֹד, וּבוֹ תִדְבָּק, וּבִשְׁמוֹ תִּשָּׁבֵעַ, The L-rd your G-d shall you fear, Him shall you serve, to Him shall you cleave, and in His name shall you swear.
At first blush, the idea of clinging to G-d seems to be rather esoteric and mystical, and certainly, not easily accomplished. Truth is, that the idea of clinging to G-d,
“D’vay’kut,” was originally thought to be almost impossible to achieve. But, with the evolution of time, its meaning over the years has become increasingly mystical, and more ways of achieving “D’vay’kut” with the Al-mighty have emerged as well.
Maimonides forcefully asserts that it is not possible for a mortal being to cling to G-d, Who does not possess physical form. Instead he concludes that what is meant by this mitzvah, is that every person must seek out, and cling to rabbis, sages and judges, who promote “G-dliness.”.
The common interpretation of the idea of “D’vay’kut,” which is held by the author of the Sefer Ha’Chinuch and the Recanati is that, as Maimonides says, this refers becoming close with sages and to those who are pious.
The Recanati maintains, that by clinging to the sage who lives by G-d’s Torah, we come as close as possible to clinging to G-d. Even though we are not directly clinging to G-d, in this way we cling to G-d’s way of life. When we are in close contact with the pious and the sages, we learn how to live in the way that G-d would like us to live. By treating others with kindness and mercy, we mirror G-d’s relationhip with human beings.
The idea of “D’vay’kut,” is found prominently several times in scripture. The Torah, in Deuteronomy 4:4 states in the well-known verse, וְאַתֶּם הַדְּבֵקִים בַּהשׁם אֱ־לֹקֵיכֶם, חַיִּים כֻּלְּכֶם הַיּוֹם, And you who cling to the L-rd your G-d–you are all alive today. The Psalmist, in 63:9 sings out, דָּבְקָה נַפְשִׁי אַחֲרֶיךָ, בִּי תָּמְכָה יְמִינֶךָ, My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.
The Talmud in Tractate Sotah 14a, cites Rabbi Hama the son of Rabbi Hanina, who comments on a similar verse in Deuteronomy 13:5: אַחֲרֵי השׁם אֱ־לֹקֵיכֶם תֵּלֵכוּ וְאֹתוֹ תִירָאוּ וְאֶת מִצְוֹתָיו תִּשְׁמֹרוּ וּבְקֹלוֹ תִשְׁמָעוּ וְאֹתוֹ תַעֲבֹדוּ וּבוֹ תִדְבָּקוּן, With the L-rd your G-d shall you walk, and Him shall you fear: His commandments shall you observe, and to His voice shall you hearken; Him shall you serve and to Him shall you cleave.
Rabbi Hanina says that it is impossible to walk after the Divine Presence, except by emulating His characteristics. What then is meant when it is written that “You shall walk after the L-ord your G-d,” after all, G-d is a consuming fire? Rather, one should emulate the characteristics of G-d. Just as He clothes the naked, so should you dress the naked. Just as G-d visits the sick, so should you visit the sick. Just as G-d comforts the mourners, so should you comfort the mourners. Just as G-d buries the dead, so should you bury the dead.
The idea communicated here is that the concept of bonding with G-d and following in His footsteps means to imitate the many positive attributes of the Al-mighty.
Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra claims that it is not only with one’s behavior that one must cling to G-d, but also with heart and mind.
The Alshich says that clinging to G-d can serve as a counterbalance for those who have sinned and have run from G-d, perhaps to avoid feelings of guilt. When those estranged from G-d begin to cling to G-d and internalize His virtues, they are then capable to again become one with G-d.
In more recent times, the RaMCHaL, in his book, Derech Hashem, argues that as people strive to become perfect in their actions, deeds and qualities, they become closer to G-d. Clinging to G-d does not come through some abstract thought about G-d, but is achieved, rather, when people contemplate and strive to improve their own deeds.
Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook (the first Chief Rabbi of Israel, 1865-1935) asserts that it is impossible to cling to the Divine Presence, unless we cling to the Al-mighty’s paths.
In contemporary times the most popular idea of “D’vay’kut” has become closely associated with sacred music. Soft, slow, emotional songs, that speak of the goodness of G-d, have become a great source of spiritual empowerment, leading those who allow the message of the music to penetrate, achieve a feeling of oneness with the Al-mighty. For those who are able to achieve this exalted spiritually, there is, at once, a powerful embrace of love and passion between the human being and G-d.
It is the ethereal gift of music that is capable of penetrating directly to the inner essence of humankind, which has the ability to passionately unite the human soul with the Divine Presence.
May you be blessed.