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Being Alive to the Full
By Tali Loewenthal

Just before the first person is called up to the Torah a beautiful verse is sung in the synagogue: "And you who cleave to G‑d, are all alive today" (Deuteronomy 4:4). This verse is from
 our Parshah, Vaetchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11). It focuses on an important Jewish concept: cleaving to G‑d. Through this, says the verse, we "live" to the full.
G‑d, the Creator of the Universe, is infinite. He is the source of all being, and is beyond all being. How then can we cleave to G‑d? To "cleave" means to join together, to be one. How can this word apply to the relationship of a tiny human being and boundless, eternal G‑d?
The Baal Shem Tov and other Chassidic leaders taught people about this concept. Although we are tiny, physically, we have within us a spark of the Divine. This inner flame yearns to join with G‑d. How can it do so? Through Torah, prayer, and mitzvot (the divine commandments).
G‑d puts Himself in the Torah: when we study Torah we are joining with Him. From this stems the special love that the Jewish people have for the teachings of the Torah, expressed in the sacred Torah Scroll and in the thousands of books which explain its meaning.
Prayer is another way of connecting with G‑d. The simple meaning of prayer is that we are speaking to G‑d, intimately from the depths of our heart, in any language. Further, the Baal Shem Tov taught that divine radiance is present in the Hebrew words of the prayers. When we pray with devotion, giving ourselves over to G‑d, our souls join with that radiance. This makes prayer potentially a deeply inspiring experience: very private and intimate, a coming close with G‑d.
The third level of connection, which in some ways is the most powerful, is that of the mitzvot, the laws of Judaism. The word mitzvah is usually translated as "command"; but it also means "connection" (relating to an Aramaic word tzavta, meaning "connection"). Carrying out a mitzvah means that we are connected to and bonded with G‑d.
Why is this? Because the mitzvah is the will of G‑d. When we do the mitzvah, at that moment, we became an expression of G‑d's will. We can compare this to the way the will of a person is expressed though his or her own hand which writes, plays the piano or bakes a cake. Through the mitzvah we are joined to G‑d, so to speak, as a hand is joined to the inner will and desire of a person.
The mitzvah might be a practical action: lighting candles for Shabbat, fixing a mezuzah on a doorpost, putting on tefilin, giving charity, making sure one's kitchen is kosher. Or it might be a law involving feeling, such as love of one's fellow. Yet this too is generally expressed in practical terms, such as doing something to help the person.
At that moment, through the action of the mitzvah, the person and G‑d are joined together. So we come back to the verse in the Torah portion. Through cleaving to G‑d by means of Torah, prayer and mitzvot, every aspect of our being is transformed: we really live!
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