“After (acherei) Hashem, your G-d you shall go…and cleave to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:5)
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
Rabbi Michael Skobac had been involved with Jews for Judaism (Canada) since 1989 and currently serves as its Director of Education and Counselling. He is a leading authority on missionaries, cults and issues relating to Jewish continuity and Jewish spirituality. Rabbi Skobac's publications include Missionary Impossible; Counter-Missionary Survival Guide; The DaVinci Code: A Jewish Perspetive; and Intermarriage: Is There Ligth at teh End of the Tunnel?
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Republished by Angelique Sijbolts with permission for the Noahide Academy.