Rebbetzin Heller in the transcript of a taped class on How to Come Closer to Hashem Drawing Closer to Hashem*gives five ways from the Vilna Gaon, with stories that explain each. The five ways are love Hashem, have awe of Hashem, cleave to Hashem, imitate Hashem, and be careful to not distance oneself from Hashem.
Perhaps it would be helpful to understand experientially what it means to draw closer to Hashem. What is the experience to notice to understand if, indeed, we have drawn closer to Hashem?
On the misbeach, there was a constant fire burning, ready for the giving of sacrifices. When we consistently desire to draw Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy into our actions and speech and when with our free willed choice when hitting stumbling blocks and obstacles that try to draw our passion toward worldly goals we consistently make an effort to create order by redirecting passion upward with emunah on the winds of our prayer and words of Torah so that we can reconnect that passion back to the desire to draw Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy into our actions, we become a system that can become larger and larger in drawing closer to Hashem.
The experience is our passion to
1. Bitul : draw Hashem’s 13 Attributes of Mercy into our speech and deeds; and
2. Shifluss/lowliness: to have emunah and ask Hashem to give us all the strong white-fire will we need to redirect passion to learning Torah, heartfelt tefilla, when challenges of worldly matters present themselves offering a tempting diversion of our passion to serve ourselves. On the wings of emunah, we open our mouths in words of prayer in personal request asking Hashem to please help us reconnect our passion back to drawing Hashem’s 13 Attributes down in a greater way because it is our choice to burn off the mask covering His glory in our naturethat is in this moment providing a challenge;
3. Drawing closer: We ask Hashem to please add to what our tzelem elokim can reflect of His Glory into the world, to please add into our hand the glory our choice unmasked that was animating our unrefined character traits, so that we have a larger more unified system that burns within us. With this passion redeemed from unrectified characteristics, we ask to fold His Glory into our ability to reflect His Glory into the world with greater strength and with less likelihood of being diverted by worldly matters from our heartfelt love and awe of Hashem.
* Rebbetzin Heller refers to the idea of arousal from below in the section on yira. Any women interested in a workgroup for Elul please visit www.arousalfrombelow.com:
Hashem is connected to everything all the time. The level of punishment Hashem administers is in direct proportion to the depth of the connection. Hashem is constantly pouring life force into everything. He has, however, very little expectation, in terms of response, of a tree or a blade of grass. There’s no such thing as a good blade of grass or an evil tree. They are what they are existentially. Humans, however, could be either good or evil, according to our choices. Hashem responds to us according to our choices. All relationship issues between us and Hashem begin with us. What is called, “an awakening from below,” creates a more than parallel response from above. Yirah is difficult to arouse because we rarely see the spiritual results of our choices.
Let’s say Linda spoke badly about you. Now you get a phone call from a prospective employer who’s considering hiring Linda. He’s calling you for a reference. You have a choice. You can take revenge on Linda by speaking badly about her, or even insinuating that there’s something bad you’re not saying. (Revenge, of course, is prohibited by the Torah.) Or you could swallow your words and instead say something positive about Linda, or, if there’s really nothing positive to say, you could say you really don’t know about her skills.
Let’s say you choose the latter option. You chose not to take revenge. No other person is aware of the feat of spiritual heroism you just accomplished, but you’ve just created a space where Hashem could put His chesed (loving-kindness) into the world. And since Hashem’s chesed is infinite, what enters the world as a result of your action is enormous beyond compare. But you’ll probably never perceive the connection between that chesed and your overcoming the urge to take revenge.
Conversely, let’s say you chose to say, “If you hire Linda, you may come to regret it.” Then you’ve just made a space for cruelty to come back and challenge you. But when it does, you probably won’t recognize that it has anything to do with your taking revenge on Linda.