One aspect of coming close to Hashem is in the mind & the heart: thinking about Hashem, striving to perform mitzvot l'Shem Shamayim, with the best motivations.
But Rav Miller emphasizes that movement is also indispensable in coming close to Hashem. That's why the parsha mentions walking toward the Mizbe'ach (the Altar); you need to actually move.
Likewise, Hashem also commanded the people to walk up to the Beit Hamikdash 3 times a year – with their animals for korbanot.
Imagine how inspiring it must have been to be in your home or yard and see a group of fellow Jews dancing & singing along the road as they went up to Yerushalayim.
And the throng of singing & dancing Jews only grew bigger because other Jews they passed joined them along the way.
Why Hashem Loves Your Feet
Rav Miller notes that in the olden days, not everybody wore shoes regularly. But for aliyat haregel (Pilgrimage to the Beit Hamikdash), people certainly needed to put on shoes.
So Hashem loves Am Yisrael for this act of donning footwear because that footwear enabled them to come to the Beit Hamikdash – it enabled them to come close to Hashem.
Even without the proper intentions (which are very valuable), just the act of walking toward Hashem is beautiful in His Eyes.
We don't have that privilege today, tragically.
We will again – hopefully very soon! – but what should we do in the meantime?
With No Beit Hamikdash, Where Should We Walk Today?
Let's take a working man who, when he comes home, prefers to relax on the couch with a newspaper.
But instead, he picks up his legs and heads to the shul or the beit medrash.
This makes Hashem very happy; this is using his legs to come close to Hashem.
And if his wife understands, Rav Miller says it's as if she's saying, “When you go there, take me along with you. I can’t go in body but I’m there in spirit,” then she gets full reward in this too.
If his wife says, "Hurry up; you might miss Maariv," Rav Miller promises her 100% share in his mitzvah – including his walking to there. Even if he drives, he still needs to walk to the car and then get out of the car to walk from his parking place into the shul.
And as long as the wife's heart is committed to these acts, she gets 100% share even if she's at home occupied with other things.
And just sitting in the shul is still a great thing. It feels like nothing, but it's great.
In fact, let's look at the halacha of going back to get your coat if you forget it in shul; you can't just go into the shul and grab your coat.
No, says Rav Miller, you need to sit down for a minute. It's good to learn or say Tehillim during that minute, but everyone should know that just sitting there is really good too.
It is a mitzvah all on its own.
If you are just sitting in a shul or beit medrash, even if you do nothing else, you should still feel really good about it.
On page 8, Rav Miller describes exactly how to do this (boldface my addition-MR):
Yes; just for the mitzvah of sitting, it pays to come in the beis haknesses. Isn’t that a good idea?
You pass by a beis haknesses or a yeshiva and you don’t need it; you weren’t planning on going inside.
But you walk in and sit down just for the mitzvah of sitting there. It’s a good idea to try it some time.
Let’s say you’re riding in the car and you’re passing a beis haknesses or a yeshiva.
It’s an opportunity to practice up walking closer to Hashem.
Stop, walk in, sit down for a minute and think, “I’m doing this for a purpose.”
And what’s the purpose? The purpose is to physically come close to Hashem.
Of course, you want your mind to also become close, but that’s not so easy.
But that your body should come close is much more simple to accomplish, so you should grab the opportunity.
Sit there for a minute and think about that – “I’m sitting here now in the beis haknesses because I’m doing what I can to be physically close to Hashem.”
Walk with Hashem to Buy a Home in a Frum Neighborhood
This, Rav Miller says, is to show us how important it is to draw close to great people. That's a form of drawing close to Hashem because they represent Hashem's Will; Hashem loves them very much.
On pages 11-13, Rav Miller offers compelling examples (some very witty, some very serious) about how to draw close to great Torah people.
Another way to draw close to Hashem is to live in a frum area, an area with frum homes, yeshivot, and shuls.
Rav Miller goes into this very descriptively on pages 13-15, including his own recommendation for a kol korei (a public call to action).
He explains the practical positive ramifications of doing so, and also notes that people living outside frum neighborhoods suffer the creeping influence without even realizing it.
Draw Close to Hashem by Associating with the Right People
It's important to avoid living near an am ha'aretz (an ignoramus). Even if he is a pious am ha'aretz, he can still influence you negatively.
Even where you sit in shul is important; sitting next to a serious davener is essential.
Rav Levi Yitzchak Bender was so firm about this that even though he & other truly good Jews desperately needed to be near the heater during the harsh Ukrainian winters, he and the other truly good Jews davened away from the nourishing warmth because a lowly person insisted on holding court there with his vulgar chatter.
(Please see Learning Spiritual Growth from the Low-Life Butcher who Eventually Achieved a Good Name on the happy ending to that story.)
Rav Miller describes the time when a newly frum man, an idealist, began attending his shul.
Unfortunately, this idealist sat next to "a leitz – a ba’al loshon hara who was constantly ridiculing people; speaking against the rov, making fun of the gabbaim and the president. He was a patpaton [one who engages in useless chatter] – he would sit and tell you all the slanders against the people in the shul."
And why was that guy talking so much in shul anyway? That's not allowed either.
Anyway, the idealistic new baal teshuvah got turned off and left.
I wonder why the leitz didn't do the same. After all, he was clearly so unhappy himself with the shul. Why did he stay if he was so disgusted with it?
I sure wouldn't like to be in the leitz's shoes on Yom HaDin. He chased a newly frum guy out. What miserable responsibility!
What's Our Goal?
Rav Miller notes that even virtuous people haven't always clarified their goal.
And that goal is coming close to Hashem.
We can ask ourselves, "Is what I'm about to do, say, or think bringing me closer to Hashem...or farther?"
We may not be able to do this all the time, but we can build up over time.
Every step in the right direction counts A LOT.
May we all merit coming close to Hashem Yitbarach.