Mesilat Yesharim states that all the components for personal perfection in serving Hashem are found in the verse Devarim 10:12-13.
And they are:
- To fear Hashem Elokecha
- To walk in all of His Ways,
- To love Hashem
- To serve Hashem with all your heart & all your soul
- To keep all the mitzvos of Hashem & to keep all His Laws
To achieve this, says Rav Miller, takes learning (you need the knowledge to know how to keep the mitzvot and also to know what are His Ways) and making a mental & emotional shift.
If you're male, learning Shas can bring you very close to Hashem.
Rav Miller also recommends learning the following 3 books cover-to-cover many times:
- Mesilat Yesharim (Pathways of the Just)
- Chovot Levavot (Duties of the Heart)
- Shaarei Teshuvah (Gates of Teshuvah)
That's pretty heavy-lifting, as Rav Miller notes.
This learning is very important.
But there is also an easier way...
100 Happy Feelings a Day
A hundred times a day you have to thank Hashem.
Now, whether it means technical brachos [like "Baruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech Haolam"]...or saying your own words, “I thank You Hashem for this. I thank You for that,” it’s all included – a hundred times a day we have to thank Hashem and that’s going to bring you to all of the great qualities.
The hakdama, the preface to yirah and ahavah and all good things in that possuk [verse], is to make a hundred brachos every day.
But in short, Rav Miller emphasizes the importance of feeling the gratitude 100 times a day.
Whether you say a halachically worded bracha (like al netilat yadayim) or your own expression of gratitude, you need to actually feel it.
Why do we say brachot?
Rav Miller quotes his rebbe from Slabodka, who quotes the Kuzari:
"It adds pleasure on pleasure when one says blessings."
If you've ever followed Rav Miller's advice and really looked at all the positive attributes of an apple, then said borei pri ha'etz with kavanah, and then bit in...the apple tastes DELICIOUS.
It is a sign of the strength of the yetzer hara that we get cooled off from saying blessings with warm kavanah because saying the brachot makes everything taste, smell, and feel better!
That's all excellent, but not enough.
Instead, Rav Miller emphasizes:
"You must be happy and grateful to Hashem one hundred times a day!"
Falling in Love with God All Over Again
You have to read it. It helps so much.
Here's one sample of something you can do right away (if it's daytime by you).
Rav Miller says:
“Why is the sky blue?” ... And I’ll tell you a secret – it's good you came here tonight. There’s a reason why it’s blue.
It’s for you to enjoy the sky.
The color blue is soft and sweet on the eyes (Chovos Halevavos, Bechina 5), and you’re expected to enjoy it.
Isn’t that a good thing to practice? See if you can do it tomorrow morning.
Seeing a blind person or a toothless person should awaken gratitude within those of us who are not blind or toothless.
Finally, at the end of the day, you say Bedtime Shema with all its accompaniments, and you go to sleep (page 16):
So as you fall away into dreamland you’re still thanking Hashem.
That’s the last thought you have as you drift off into your sweet sleep. “Thank You, Hashem, for giving me a pillow and a mattress and for giving me the gift of sleep. I love You, Hashem.”
And in a few hours we’ll be getting up again to say modeh ani again and to start loving Hashem all over again.
It all sound so nice.
Anyway, to sum it up, this kind of gratitude is self-transforming.
This is how you make yourself into a true eved Hashem.
This is how you achieve the 5 goals commanded in Parshat Eikev.
Let's conclude with Rav Miller's final words: