He encourages us to aspire to truly love Hashem, even if we feel far from that ideal.
He encourages us to be real.
If a person is a cold philosopher, a stoic who is capable of uttering grand banalities, noble statements that are remote from his own emotions, the Torah language doesn’t care for such people.
Only a man who lives his ideals is respected.
That’s why all the great men of our past were revered only for personifying their ideals.
Furthermore, so many courses & books exist to train people to speak & behave in a more appealing manner.
Body language experts offer tips on how to utilize body language & facial expressions most effectively.
Some people write in a convincing manner. A column appearing in a newspaper or blog grants the writer a credibility they may lack in reality.
Degrees (whether religious or secular) also confer a certain credibility, whether the degree-holder deserves it or not.
Sometimes, a person who comes off as extremely appealing actually covers up a contemptuous persona.
Probably, we've all been fooled by people like this.
I don't mean people who are going through a hard time or responding in a less-than-ideal manner to stressful moment.
I mean people who consistently put on an act—people who consistently feel contemptuous of others, but cover it up by tons of appeal.
It's some comfort to know that even if these people enjoy widespread popularity & support, Hashem is actually thinking, "Ugh. Definitely NOT my type!"
Love of Hashem Means Loyalty to Hashem
In other words, you need make your Judaism an integral part of every bit of you:
You have to have everything Jewish, even Jewish eyes.
You look only at kosher things.
You have to have a Jewish stomach and a Jewish mouth.
No question about it. You cannot talk about things that a Jewish mouth doesn’t say.
A Jew can't say dirty words.
Nivul peh, bad language, is a very big sin among Jews.
But of all the things you must have, more than a Jewish mouth and Jewish hands and Jewish feet, you must have also a yiddishe kop.
That's what makes a Jew – a Jewish head – a head filled with good thoughts.
Avoid the non-Jewish stuff & embrace the Jewish stuff.
A lot of people don't realize how bad Judaism considers foul language (nivul peh).
In recent years, Israelis adopted the foulest English words as slang (with even frum youth unwittingly repeating these words—especially those who privately watch American movies on cell phones).
And because foul language now appears everywhere—professional blogs, popular NON-fiction books, podcasts, and much more, its commonality falsely lends it acceptability.
So many Jews pereceive nivul peh as a cultural & generational issue, rather than a serious prohibition of its own.
Now Rav Miller delves into HOW to start loving Hashem.
Love God-Based Love Leads to Real Love
For decades (at least since the 1970s), the surrounding Western culture harps on the need to love yourself.
Of course, when the upswing in narcissism & other personality disorders (among other behaviors) made them realize self-love wasn't all it's cracked up to be, they started with self-compassion.
That was better, but all this emphasis on "self" hasn't helped.
For all the psychologists, self-help, self-awareness, and drive for self-esteem, we find ourselves in a world growing progressively narcissistic.
The love, compassion, and esteem you feel for yourself should derive from an appreciation of Hashem and the human soul He gave you, in addition to the Tzelem Elokim (Divine Image) He imbued in you.
As the Pele Yoetz presents in the chapter titled Love of Self, your self-love should drive you to behave MORE responsibly & with HIGHER integrity, not less.
I have a Tzelem Elokim—yay me!
You have a Tzelem Elokim—yay you!
Every human being on earth (even the most physically deformed & mentally deficient) possesses a Tzelem Elokim—yay them!
A Tzelem Elokim is unique among all Creation.
Among all the plants, marine life, wildlife, fowl, insects, planets, comets, starts, and the most beautiful rainbow, not one other creation in the entire universe possesses a Tzelem Elokim—only a human being.
What is the Yetzer Tov? And How Do We Access It?
Wars, immigration, upheavals, economic hardships, lifestyle changes, and cultural mores created frazzled & distracted parents.
It also created absent parents (both figuratively & literally).
Many people do not know how love feels.
So Rav Miller explains how to start on the journey of loving Hashem.
First, he says, start off with the yetzer tov.
He describes the yetzer tov (page 8):
And the answer is that the yetzer tov is a mysterious quality which we possess within ourselves.
It's the quality of wisdom, a great native wisdom that comes from within.
In English it's called conscience, but I don't want to make it small by using that word because when you attach that word to it, immediately it means nothing.
But in the ancient times conscience had a great meaning; it derives from the Latin word con science, ‘with knowledge’ – it means a native wisdom that derives from the human mind.
That’s the Yetzer Hatov!
Meaning, He expelled something of Himself via His "Breath" into Man.
No other creation merited life this way.
Quoting Mishlei, Rav Miller states that every single human being is "is a wellspring, a deep fountain of wisdom."
He explains further (page 9):
Only that we have to bring it forth.
You have to lower a bucket into your mind and draw forth that wisdom of the yetzer tov, that perfection of achieving ahavas Hashem, that is concealed deep within.
How do you lower a bucket and bring forth this depth of greatness that is inside of you?
By means of thinking.
To love Hashem with the yetzer tov means to summon your abilities and draw forth from the depths of your natural wisdom all the thoughts that will help you love Hashem.
From pages 9-12, Rav Miller describes in compelling, witty detail all the ways we can get in touch with our gratitude & appreciation for all Hashem does for us.
A Simple Program of How to Use Your Yetzer Hara to Love Hashem
For example, people tend to indulge in behaviors that make them feel good, but of which Hashem disapproves.
One really common yetzer hara results in the desire to cut down another person—even without any provocation from the other person.
Many people do not feel good cutting down an innocent person, but some people feel really good doing this.
(Or they invent a reason to justify themselves.)
However, if they realize that—no matter how cute, funny, clever, and superior they appear in their own misguided mind (and possibly in the eyes of their society or Twitter followers)—Hashem really hates that behavior...and then they can decide to change.
They decide to change for HASHEM.
They develop an interest in HIS approval, and not the jollies of their yetzer hara or their snarky peers.
This motivation is very powerful.
Rav Miller gives examples of both wives & husbands who indulge in this, with a simple program of change (starting with baby steps).
Here's part of the example of such a wife on pages 12-13 (boldface mine):
Let’s say she knows that when her husband comes back from work and she is tired and exasperated from being with the children all day long, that’s when she sometimes lets go with a barb at him.
So she makes a plan; “When my husband comes home today, I’m going to show my love to Hashem by controlling my yetzer hora; I’m going all out for Hashem!”
As she hears him unlocking the front door, she steels herself and says, “I am making a shvuah that for the next fifteen minutes, I won’t say anything unkind.”
She should swear! Fifteen minutes you can risk.
And for those fifteen minutes, she’s all sugar and spice and everything nice.
It’s a quarter of an hour of loving Hashem!
Don’t disdain that – it’s a tremendous achievement!
The evil inclination of anger and arrogance and dissatisfaction is going to be his ladder to climb the rungs of ahavas Hashem.
“Out of love for You Hashem, I’m going to do one of the hardest things that a man can do in this world – I’m going to break my bad middos.”
So as he is fumbling with the doorknob, let him stop for a moment and say,
“I take upon myself in the next half hour just to keep quiet. No matter what my wife will say, I am not going to say anything mean. If I can’t say anything kindly, I will keep my mouth shut.”
For a half hour.
Of course after the half hour he will let go!
But that’s a good beginning because for a half hour he loved Hashem with his yetzer hora.
After that, maybe next week, he might increase it to an hour; he might add on the mornings too.
It’s a good idea by the way, to love Hashem in the morning too.
By striving to overcoming your negative aspects, you show Hashem you love Him more than you love your yetzer hara.
And that's a MASSIVE accomplishment.
In this way, promises Rav Miller, you will actually develop into a better person.
You'll be happier too.
If you speak to people who actually do this, they'll tell you they feel better & happier than when they used to indulge their yetzer hara.
Not tzaddikim, but regular people—works in progress—will tell you this.
How to Use Our Most Common Bad Middot for the Good
Use your bad middot for good deeds.
Rav Miller offers examples of kavod, contrariness, and hatred.
These are considered very bad middot. If you read mussar books, they detail what is so bad about these middot.
However, most people struggle with them to some degree—especially kavod (the desire for honor).
So you can flip it around and use it for good.
Rav Miller notes that many devoted Torah-learners do so out of kavod (at least partly).
It's not such a bad thing (though taken to an extreme, it is).
I've known people who behave with greater warmth, hospitality, and chessed with kavod as a big part of their drive—but they are effective & pleasant to be around.
(We're not talking about the abusive hypocrites who act nice to your face, then ravage you behind your back.)
I've seen people take great pride in not speaking or hearing lashon hara.
Some take pride in dressing tsniusly (with modesty & dignity).
Some people take great pride in avoid arguments or dissension. They beam as they uphold the middah of shtikah (silence).
This kind of kavod developed a bad name because when people uphold halacha out of kavod, most of us find them very annoying.
("Holier than thou" comes to mind...)
Also, the modern American value of honesty denigrates the above ("They're not REALLY as good as they seem—they're doing it for the wrong reasons, so they're FAKE!") & completely nullifies even the best deed ONLY because the MOTIVATION wasn't perfect.
People are never perfect.
If you dig, you'll always find a less-than-saintly motive (unless it's someone on the level of the Baba Sali or Rav Aryeh Levine).
Note: We're not talking about the people who use kavod to hurt & abuse others, or to carry out activities lacking in all ethics.
Kavod—a certain amount of pride, people-pleasing, approval-seeking, the need to feel significant or good—is common trait within every person.
The mussar greats stated that humility is one of the hardest middot to achieve—meaning that kavod is one of the hardest to uproot.
So if you have it anyway (even as you struggle to rid yourself of it), then why not use it for good?
Contrariness, a middah which has been destroying society, can also be used for the Torah path.
So while the rest of society is rebelling against good things & dragging the world down with it, you can rebel against the bad things.
For example, you can say, "I'm NOT going to watch non-Jewish movies!"
"I'm NOT going to shake hands with the opposite gender!" (Hopefully, you're polite about this.)
"I'm NOT going to ascribe everything to chance!"
And that's using contrariness for the good.
Hate is harmful when directed toward some types of people, but good when directed at others.
Today, Rav Miller notes, "hate" is a dirty word.
No matter how awful someone is, you're only supposed to feel "soooorrry" for them.
That leads a person to insist on indiscriminately rehabilitating people, including those psychopaths who enjoy the pain & destruction of others.
But Rav Miller assures us that we can feel free to use our tendency for hate to hate things like atheism, immorality, and murder.
Because Hashem hates those things.
Don't forget to check out the practical tip on page 17!