"Follow G‑d, be in awe of Him, keep His commandments, obey Him and serve Him, and cleave to Him." (Deut. 13:5)

"If you will keep the commandments that I have commanded, and you will love G‑d your G‑d, to go in all His ways, and to cleave to Him. Then you will inherit the nations..." (Deut. 11:22-23)

"Deveikut", literally meaning "cleaving", "clinging" or "attaching" oneself to G‑d, is one of the most fundamental concepts in Judaism and is greatly emphasized in Chassidic thought and practice. It implies, however, much more. It is the heart of the relationship between a parent and a child, a husband and wife - one of ultimate devotion and commitment. Today, we call it "G‑d Awareness". In practice, it means being connected in thought, speech and deed to the Creator - divine service in a state of rapture. Jewish sources are replete with expressions, examples and the encouragement of Deveikut. Constantly remember G‑d and your love for Him…

King David expressed his longing for G‑d while in hiding from King Saul in the parched Judean desert. "My soul thirsts for You, and my flesh pines for You…", "My soul cleaves after You, for You have supported me." (Psalms 63:2,9)
[Audio link for Chasidic Rebbe singing his famous tune for this verse.]

"Anim Zemirot", a poem that is recited in many congregations after Shabbat morning prayers, contains expressions of longing to cleave to and unite with G‑d.

This is the first stanza:

"I shall compose pleasant melodies and weave hymns,
because my soul yearns for You.
My soul desires to be sheltered by You
to understand every mystery of Your Being."

[Audio link for Chasidim singing a tune composed specifically for this opening verse.]

The Ramban in parashat Ekev (Deut. 11:22) gives a detailed description of Deveikut in action. "The principle of Deveikut is to constantly remember G‑d and your love for Him, and never to remove your thoughts from Him, while on the way, when lying down or when awakening. And even while conversing with others, one's heart shall remain attached to G‑d's presence…. People who have reached this spiritual level live in eternity even while in this material world; they themselves are a dwelling place for the Shechinah."

The Baal Shem Tov and his disciples eloquently expressed and profoundly developed this theme. The Baal Shem Tov absorbed the idea, while still young, from his father, who died when he was only five years old. Before his death, his father instructed him, "Remember my child that G‑d is with you, never let this thought out of your mind. Go deeper and deeper into it every hour, every minute and in every place." Deeply affected, the Baal Shem Tov later remarked, "His words remained fixed in my mind and engraved in my heart. After his death it became my practice to go into seclusion in the forests and mountains for the purpose of reinforcing this thought in my mind; that the glory of G‑d fills the world and that He is actually with me at every moment." (Ikarei Emunah p.11) If…every day you increase your longing and desire for Deveikut with G‑d, then you and your body will become purified…

Rabbi Kalonymus Epstein, in his fundamental compilation of Chassidic thought, Meor V'Shemesh, writes, "While a person lives in this world he must have all his physical needs met: food, drink, clothing and a home. Yet truthfully, every aspect of one's conduct should be centered not around oneself, but rather around G‑d, in order to see His true beauty; his soul thirsting to partake of the sweetness and closeness of G‑d and His Shechina…. Now if you maintain a continuous effort in yearning, and every day you increase your longing and desire for Deveikut with G‑d, then you and your body will become purified, and even the physical will be transformed into spiritual." (Meor V'Shemesh, parashat Pinchas)

Rabbi Kalonymus Kalmish Shapira, the Piascetzna Rebbe, gives practical advice in his guide to spiritual growth, B'nei Machshava Tova. "Frequently during the day, whether at home or in the street, humbly ponder: 'The entire world is divinity; the particles of earth beneath my feet, as well as the air I breathe within me. The reality of all that exists is divinity. Why then have I driven myself from G‑d's presence to become an independent non-spiritual entity? Master of the World, draw me closer to You and surround me with Your blessings in complete repentance.'" (Seder Hadracha and Kelalim #7)

Not surprisingly, the parasha later brings the ultimate expression of Deveikut: "You are children to G‑d your G‑d…." (Deut. 14:1) The Sages, Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Meir disagreed on the interpretation of this verse. Rabbi Yehuda maintained that it applies only when the Community of Israel acts like they are children of G‑d. Rabbi Meir understood the verse is absolute. (Kiddushin 36a) Responding, the Rashba has a startling legal decision regarding a Jew who renounced his faith and embraced another religion. He was asked if we relate to him as a Jew or as a non-Jew and to what extent. The Rashba concludes that even though we must relate to him as a non-Jew in certain respects, nevertheless, a Jew can never fully renounce his faith, and he quotes the above passage from Talmud Kiddushin as proof. Then the Rashba writes something truly astonishing: "Even though we have a rule that when there is a dispute between Rabbi Yehuda and Rabbi Meir, the halacha is in accordance with Rabbi Yehuda, in this case the halacha is in accordance with Rabbi Meir." (The Beit Avraham of Slonim used to say, "It is worthwhile to review this ruling time and time again"!)

This is the relationship of genuine, unfailing love. When one remembers that he is a child of G‑d, one will certainly refrain from displeasing the Father and thereby forfeit the privilege of being in His presence. Yet the relationship is two-way. Being a child of G‑d implies that we are also the recipients of His special love.

The Maggid of Mezritch, the successor to the Baal Shem Tov, elucidated this other aspect of Deveikut. A Jew must know that when challenged or overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, it is a message that G‑d wants him to come closer. Instead of focusing on the pain and difficulty, it is more advantageous to become aware of the distance that has come between oneself and the Creator. This awareness is Deveikut. It can be used to launch a spiritual ascent. Indeed a seemingly small disappointment can be exploited in this manner. The Sages say that even if one put his hand in his pocket expecting to find two coins and found only one, it is a message from G‑d. "Come closer, come closer", He is urging. When the needs of others are our concerns then we will have achieved…Deveikut

Furthermore, the Maggid explained, that after a person has had spiritual achievements, and feels Deveikut with G‑d, more likely than not one will experience a fall. Nevertheless, one must maintain his Deveikut with G‑d even if it dips to a very low level. As long as one remembers that one's Deveikut to G‑d has left an indelible mark on one's soul, one has what is necessary to begin his ascent anew, as it is written, "A tzadik falls seven times and rises again". (Proverbs 24:16) He will be able to return to an even stronger level of Deveikut. (Likutei Yekarim)

What is the end result of all this Deveikut? Rashi (in parshat Ekev and Re'eh above), teaches us the practical meaning of Deveikut. We must cleave to G‑d and emulate the ways of the Creator. Just as He is compassionate, kind and forgiving, so too must we relate to our fellow Jews and to all of the Creation only through compassion and kindness." (See Deut. 16:11, Rashi) When Rashi (Deut. 13:5) bids us to cleave to the Sages as the only way to cleave to G‑d, who is "an all consuming fire", he means that we are to learn from them the ways and wisdom of the mitzvot of loving-kindness. When the needs of others are our concerns then we will have achieved a Deveikut which will lead us further into sublime aspects of the service of G‑d.

[Source: www.nishmas.org]