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Deuteronomy 13:5 – Follow G-d From a Distance?

23 Av 5783 – 10 August 2023

“After Hashem, your G-d you shall follow…and cleave to Him”

There are two Hebrew words that can mean ‘after’. One is ‘achar’ and the other is ‘acharei’. In his commentary to Genesis 15:1, Rashi explains that achar implies proximity, where one event follows immediately after another; while acharei implies distance (see Rashi to Deuteronomy 11:30).

Based upon this distinction, the Chofetz Chaim once asked the Gerrer Rebbe why the Torah commands us to follow Hashem using the term acharei, which has the connotation of distance. It would seem more appropriate for the verse here to begin with the word achar, carrying the implication of closeness to Hashem.

The Gerrer Rebbe answered by quoting the verse from Psalm 34:19 – Hashem is close to the brokenhearted. When a person’s heart is broken because he recognizes the exaltedness of Hashem and his own lowliness, to the degree that he realizes his distance from Hashem is the degree to which he will be able to cleave to Him.

By Rabbi Michael Skobac

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