Ani L’Dodi: I Am to My Beloved

Seeing and Listening. Mind and Heart. I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me.

Seeing and Listening

R’eh. See, I have placed before you today blessing and curse …

See. Our parsha begins with seeing; with thinking, understanding, and contemplating. Last week's parsha emphasized hearing, “And it will be when you will listen to these statutes.” Seeing and listening are two exceptionally important dimensions of developing and deepening our relationship with God.

Seeing is the intellectual effort to discern, understand, ponder, and contemplate. Seeing is characterized by the ability to think about ideas, to carefully consider abstract concepts, and to reason and extrapolate. Hearing, on the other hand, is about internalizing what we understand. It’s about taking ideas to heart in a way that they impact who we are, and how we live.

We all need to develop both of these skills.

We need to carefully consider what’s true, and what isn’t. What’s good and what’s not. What’s right and what’s wrong. We need to reflect and consider our relationship to what’s true and what’s good. And then comes listening. We need to take these core life principles to heart. We need allow them to sink in so that they shape our deepest desires and longings. Listening is what we understand. Then, what makes sense to us, becomes what drives us.

Torah and Tefila

In a certain sense, seeing corresponds to Torah study and listening to prayer.

The process of Torah study is the process of thinking about, discerning, and understanding what’s emett, truth, and what’s sheker, falseness. The avoda of tefila is the internalization and alignment of our hearts with the truth’s embedded in our prayers. As our sages said: “What is meant by “the service of the heart?” This is prayer.”

“To do Your will, my God, is my desire; Your teaching is in my inner most parts [my intestines].” Tehillim 40:9

King David asked God not just to help him take his understanding to heart, but to make it part of him in the same way that his intestines are part of him. King David wanted his Torah, his understanding and wisdom to be instinctual and second nature, to be a natural expression of who he was; how he felt, acted, and lived. And, our sages tell us, that he succeeded. In their words, David so internalized reality that, without even thinking, his feet naturally guided him to the Beit Medrash.


Seeing-Torah, and listening-Tefila, are like two inseparable friends. The two simply can’t be without one another. A person that excels intellectually, but fails to take his understandings to heart, is doomed to wither; to end up living a life—a life of Torah and mitzvot—that is dry superficiality, just going through the motions and little more. On the other hand, a life solely of the heart, is likely to make myriad mistakes in judgment. Indeed, The fool does not desire understanding, but only to reveal his heart.” (Mishlei 18:2)

In Mesilat Yesharim, it’s clear that each step of spiritual growth requires serious thought and reflection. With each progressive middah-trait-stage of personal-spiritual development, the Ramchal sets forth a clear understanding of how to understand that middah. Only with a firm foundation of understanding can a person internalize, build, and move higher and higher. Just like it makes little sense to put one foot in front of the other without an awareness of where one wants to go, the same is true with growing in avoda, in one’s relationship with Hashem.


Elul is the month of teshuva.

“…Let it [the people] see [and understand] with it’s eyes, hear with it’s ears and understand with it’s heart, so that it will return and be healed.” Isaiah 6:10

According to the prophet, teshuva, the return to life’s proper direction, requires first seeing, and then listening. Teshuva begins, first, with lifting our sights and thinking big; contemplating what truly matters, the greatness of God, the preciousness of every neshma, and the neshama of all Am Yisroel; with pondering true goodness, and kedusha. Thinking big, as big as we can, sparks the deepest of yearnings. Then we can listen to that inner voice rooted in greatness—and take to heart—and then integrate that profound longing and inspiration so that it drives us to tshuva, to reunite with our truest selves.


I am to my beloved, and my beloved is to me.

Elul is a two step process. First, I am to my beloved. First I think and reflect on Hashem—on everything contained in, and implied by, the awesomeness of His reality—and on how much I truly want to be close. I think about the true greatness of Am Yisroel, of the Torah given to us by the Creator of the universe, and about the profound privilege of being His child, His first born, His nation.

And then comes, and my beloved is to me. The recognition that it is me, me, that Hashem desires to be close to. That true, unique me that longs for God, is the me that God, in a sense, also longs for. We yearn for Him, and He yearns for us. And so it goes. Back and forth, longing and love flowing in both directions. Deeper and deeper and deeper.

And so we learn and think, and reflect, and take to heart.

And pray, that we can reveal and return to our biggest, fullest self, and to Hashem.


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