Va’etchanan: My answer to this question might surprise you!
My answer to this question might surprise you.
Who is the greatest role model of all time?
In Parshat Va’etchanan Moshe declares to the people
“V’atem had’veikim baHashem elokeichem chayim kulchem hayom,” – “And to all of you who cleave to the Lord your God, you are alive this day.” (Devarim 4:4.)
What does the Torah mean by the term ‘hadeveikim’, to cleave to God?
It literally means to ‘stick’ to God and similarly we’re given a mitzvah, “Uvo tidbak,” (Devarim 10:20) literally meaning, “You must stick to the Lord your God.” Indeed, in Modern Hebrew ‘lehadbik’ means to stick on and ‘miyardevek’ is sellotape. What can we make of this?
More than 40 years ago, I attended a shiur given by HaRav Ovadia Yosef in which he asked this very question, and he used the following analogy.
Let’s say you have two pieces of wood. One is perfectly straight and the other is jagged, and you want to stick the two together. You’ll plane away on the jagged piece of wood then you’ll compare the two in the light and you might see that the jagged one is not yet straight enough. Then you’ll plane away again and again until the jagged piece matches the straight piece, so that you’ll be able to stick the two together.
Like the perfectly straight piece of wood, so too, said HaRav Ovadia Yosef, Hashem is the ultimate role model of all time, and we should strive to emulate Him. “V’atem hadveikim,” is an aspiration for the people of Israel, to model ourselves on HaKadosh Baruch Hu. We should plane away at ourselves throughout our lives to strive to come as close to Him as possible, that is to say, to come as close to His ways as possible.
The Torah is full of examples through which Hashem goes out of his way to set an example for us for all time. That is why at the beginning of Creation, He said,
“Naaseh adam,” – “Let us create man,” (Bereishit 1:26)
to teach us the important lesson that whoever we are we should always consult with others. During the episode of the Tower of Babel we read,
“Vayered Hashem lirot.” – “Hashem came down to see.” (Bereishit 11:5)
He didn’t rely on hearsay. He came down to see what was happening on the ground for himself, to teach us that that’s the only way you can judge a situation. Hashem visited Abraham after his circumcision to teach us the mitzvah of bikur cholim, visiting the sick. Hashem buried Moshe – He was the original chevra kadisha, to teach us how important it is to treat the remains of people in a very sacred way.
In Parshat Ki Tisa, we are given the 13 Attributes of Mercy of God, and the Talmud declares about this,
“Ma hu rachum af ata hevei rachum.” – “Just as he is merciful, so we must be merciful.”
The Talmud continues, showing more ways in which we need to model ourselves on Hashem. He is gracious – we must be gracious. He is long-suffering – we must be long-suffering and understanding of others. He is filled with loving kindness – so too we must have natural chessed and we must be people of emet, people of truth.
So, inspired by the words of Moshe in Parshat Va’etchanan, let us continuously hold Hashem to be our ultimate role model and in our journey of life, may we aspire to the greatest possible levels of perfection.