And you shall love HASHEM, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your means. (Devarim 6:5)
What does it mean to love HASHEM with all your means? How does one do that? One approach is to employ all of one’s resources, whether it is wealth or talent. Another approach offered by Rashi is to love HASHEM with whatever HASHEM measures out, whether it is something perceived as good or even bad. Still, how does one do this?
Reb Tzadok HaKohen writes that when a person does Teshuva, then whatever experience he has had in life can be utilized to serve HASHEM. Not only things that were learned from Holy Books but even odd life encounters can become useful tools to serve HASHEM with love. Please excuse me if I dip into my deep past and draw an example from a less than holy source, but it has helped me enormously and I am still learning from it many years later. It was 1974, Thanksgiving, and my brother bought a couple of tickets for himself, me, and another friend to attend a concert at Madison Square Garden to watch Elton John play. It was exciting and beyond for us American kids who grew up on a heavy diet of modern pop and rock music. We were really enjoying it when something totally unusual and unexpected happened. The star of the night, Mr. John, announced in the middle of the event that he was inviting on stage a good friend and he proceeded to welcome John Lennon.
Now John Lennon was a Beatle and the Beatles had an almost deity-like status among young people all over the world for more than a decade. The place went wild. My brother was hitting me in my ribs with his elbow and shouting, “It’s a Beatle Bobby, it’s a Beatle!” They played one song, a new bouncy tune, “Whatever Gets You Through the Night” and after that something amazing occurred that remains etched in my psyche. They played an old original Beatle song, “She was Just Seventeen…”. Madison Square Garden was pulsing “like one man with one heart” as John Lennon with ease plucked the guitar strings and everyone danced and sang along. It was one of the most magical and unifying events I have ever witnessed or been a part of.
Years later I found my way to Yeshivas Ohr Somayach in Monsey and there I started to learn how to learn Torah and Daven like a Jew. I remember one Rebbe explaining why we lift our heels when reciting in Kiddusha, “KADOSH-KADOSH-KADOSH” – (“HASHEM is the Master of Legions and the whole world is filled with His glory). He told us that the angelic world which is wildly greater than anything we could ever imagine is responsive to whatever minor moves we make down here to honor HASHEM. At the time that we are reciting Kedusha and subtly raising up our heels, the Heavenly universe is jumping and dancing with an ecstasy that we could never estimate. My mind immediately flashed back to the nearest experience I had ever had to that which the teacher was describing. When I have the presence of mind to remember it has helped me to focus and visualize the grand import of what I am doing during that otherwise banal religious ritual. Yes, I am like that Beatle on the center stage of the universe gently plucking those strings and generating an indescribable pulse of sublime unity. This is lesson number one.
Years later I felt comfortable sharing this experience and insight with smaller and larger audiences. Some told me that I could easily revisit the concert on the computer and so I became curious to see if my memory was matched by the recorded record and there it was exactly as I had remembered. I could not find myself in the audience, but I certainly remember being there and how it felt. The camera is scanning the crowd and there is John Lennon’s wife with her lips pursed nervously and rubbing her hands like the mother of the Bar Mitzvah boy in the women’s section. It seemed odd to me that she was not enjoying it like everyone else. So, I scrolled to read an article. I was shocked by what I learned there.
He had not played music in public for many years prior to this appearance and it was his last public performance. He was afraid of his shadow, afraid of failing. It hit me with such force. Someone who with a few movements could electrify a room of 20,000 people was scared to try. I realized that we may not realize the importance of the moves we make and how powerful we are.