We learn from the avodah (holy service) of walking toward the Mizbe'ach (Altar) that your feet also play a part in coming close to Hashem—in other words, it's physical movement too.
How to Cultivate Holy Feet
Shir HaShirim (Song of Songs) 7:2 also praises the shoed feet of Am Yisrael. Not everyone wore shoes back then, but when you set out on a journey toward Hashem, you needed shoes.
How do we access this today?
Rav Miller offers the example of a successful professional man who comes home after a busy, demanding day of work.
But after that full day, he still needs to go to shul to daven Maariv. He needs to go to the Beit Medrash to learn Torah.
As Rav Miller describes on page 6:
He wants to sit on the couch with his legs up on a chair – why not; he had a long day.
But he reminds himself of the words of Dovid Hamelech and he picks up his weary body and goes straight to the house he loves most; to the house of his Best Friend to sit there as long as he can.
And his wife understands that; she says, “When you go there, take me along with you. I can’t go in body but I’m there in spirit.”
Sometimes she has to urge him too; she says, “Hurry up, you might miss maariv.”
And so he takes the hint and gains an alacrity and she has a 100% share.
She goes together with him even though she’s busy at home.
Making the Most of Your Moments in a Shul
No, you need to sit down for a moment—even if you're in a hurry.
Even better, daven or learn something during that moment.
As you pass by a shul or yeshivah, Rav Miller advises going in and just sitting for a bit.
Luxuriate in the ambience.
And say or think to yourself: “I’m sitting here now in the beis haknesses because I’m doing what I can to be physically close to Hashem.”
When you come to do your daily davening (or for some women, your Shabbat davening), Rav Miller advises you to say, “We’re happy that we are using our feet to walk closer to Hashem.”
How to Utilize Talmidei Chachamim: A User's Manual
So another way to come close to Hashem is to get yourself near a real talmid chacham.
Because my husband's regular kollel where he'd been learning for several years now (he works too, BTW) kept closing due to covid-19 restrictions and then made demands for vaccinated learners only, my husband started learning at a kollel closer to home.
This kollel was run by a very sweet & humble talmid chacham who lived in an old-fashioned world of Torah. This kollel attracted like-minded avrechim.
And I saw how my husband's countenance changed just as he prepared to go out the door to learn there. When he spoke about the rosh kollel, his face developed a soft, awed look.
And even though my husband carries the super-kosher Hadran cell phone, he felt embarrassed entering the kollel with even the Hadran cell phone—and even with the phone in his pocket & completely shut off.
No one said anything to him about it or lectured or criticized—apparently, everyone is super nice there.
But just the atmosphere affected him this way. A super-filtered cell phone in muzzle-mode still felt "wrong" in such a place.
This clearly results from the Shechinah obviously resting on one who is a genuine talmid chacham—one whose Torah is in his heart, in addition to his head.
On pages 9-11, Rav Miller offers practical suggestions to achieve this.
Frankly, I found the reading a bit painful because it really made me feel the loss of the people he mentioned, like the Satmerer Rav, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Aharon Kotler, and Rav Kaminetzky.
But it's important to read it anyway.
Kiruv Starts at Home
This isn't PC nowadays, but over the long term, it's true.
You really get so affected by whom you associate with.
The Pele Yoetz & Orchot Tzaddikim emphasize this too.
Kiruv is a popular fashionable mitzvah in our times and it's definitely important, no doubt.
I definitely benefited from people involved in kiruv!
After all, I was not born into a frum family. So a big thank you to all those who helped me out along the way (and to those who still help me—still a work-in-progress, after all!).
However, involvement with the irreligious isn't has simple as presented, especially nowadays. Because of an increasingly corrupt value system reaching mainstream acceptance, it's even worse now than it was in Rav Miller's time.
So you should seek to live near frum neighbors, if you possibly can.
BTW, in my opinion, this offers healthy pushback against the well-meaning pressure to do kiruv.
At one point, my husband & I worked in kiruv. Once, my husband was the rav of a small shul and another time, we were part of a kiruv kollel.
Sounds fulfilling & idealistic, but it wasn't. These things really are not as la-dee-dah & straight-foward as presented.
I'm very much a clean-up-my-own-backyard-first personality, so outreach really knocked me off balance.
Some people can do it really well and Hashem made them for kiruv.
But most aren't, whether they want to admit it or not.
We frummies have enough to work out with each other, so for the majority of frum Jews, it's best to focus on that.
Choose Your Connections Wisely
As much as possible associate only with good ones.
Don’t visit the others, don’t let them visit you.
As much as possible cling to the good people, the frum people.
Look for good neighbors, good chaveirim and good teachers.
That’s the derech in life to bring yourself closer to Hashem.
Pele Yoetz & Orchot Tzaddikim and the Kli Yakar all say the same thing.
Unfortunately, due to an overidealistic interpretation of both ahavat Yisrael & sinat chinam, we are often pressured to go overboard in connecting with others & giving the benefit of the doubt in an unhealthy way to people who don't really fit the halacha.
You can note a person's positive aspects while still recognizing that the certain behaviors are not okay.
You never need to find approval for outright forbidden behavior.
Doing so transgresses the prohibition against chanifah—often translated as "flattery," but it really means so much more than that. Chanifah basically means showing approval of behavior that Hashem does not approve of.
Orchot Tzaddikim includes an entire chapter just on chanifah—very worthwhile reading!
Or you can read what the Pele Yoetz says about it here:
If you read the actual words of Chazal—and not just what you hear in a well-meaning lectures or articles—you'll learn the following:
Respectfully keep a distance from people who bring you down while look to spend time with people who elevate you
People sometimes maintain harmful relationships of frequent contact with people who do not influence them positively.
I did this too and it's a big challenge later to get that cynical, mocking voice out of your head.
On the other hand, the people on a much higher level left an imprint that remains with me until today.
Some were great people older than me, and one was younger than me, but very good & wise.
They don't have to be the greatest tzaddikim in the world; they just need to be better than you. That's a great start.
Luckily, Hashem brought me to encounters with people much greater than me—regardless of how "regular" they seemed on the outside.
Here are some posts on those experiences:
The Final Words on Closeness to Hashem
And the people who come close to Him in this world...You who cling to Hashem physically in Olam Hazeh...you will live forever and ever with Him in the Next World.
Kirvas Elokim; that’s our success and that’s our happiness forever and ever.
And don't forget to check out the Practical Tip on page 15!