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Manifestations of Love of God

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

The first paragraph of the Shema, which is recited daily, contains the mitzvah of loving God. The Talmud (Yoma 86a) explains a fulfillment and manifestation of this mitzvah as follows: “Abaye said: As it was taught: ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’ (Deuteronomy 6:5), which means that you shall make the name of Heaven beloved. How should one do so? One should do so in that he should read Torah, and learn Mishna, and serve Torah scholars, and he should be pleasant with people in his business transactions. What do people say about such a person? Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah, fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah, woe to the people who have not studied Torah. So-and-so, who taught him Torah, see how pleasant are his ways, how proper are his deeds. The verse states about him and others like him: ‘You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified’” (Isaiah 49:3).

When a person truly loves and appreciates someone, they want others to also recognize, love, and appreciate that person. Similarly, when one truly loves God, one behaves in a way that causes others to love and appreciate God. This is one manifestation of the mitzvah of loving God.

There is another interesting manifestation of this mitzvah discussed by the Seforno in Parshat Re’eh. The Torah speaks of a false prophet who performs miracles and then instructs people to join him in the service of idols. The Torah states: “You shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the Lord, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul.” The Seforno explains why this is a test of one’s love of God: “When you consider someone who speaks against God to be an enemy you will have tested before Him to be one who loves Him.” When one loves someone, one considers people who speak against one’s beloved to be enemies. Similarly, when one truly loves God, one sees those who speak against God to be enemies.

We live in a world where many speak against God and His Torah. Let us not heed their voices and, in protesting their approach, show our love and commitment to God and His Torah. We should ensure we follow the ethical, moral, and pleasant ways of the Torah, and, thus, engender others to be drawn to love God and His Torah.