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Devarim - Va'etchanan

“AND YOU SHALL LOVE HASHEM YOUR GOD”

By: Rabbi Barak Bar-Chaim

In the reading of Shema, which is recited twice daily, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our possessions. Our commentators explain that although emotions cannot be commanded, the Torah is commanding us to take practical steps to elicit certain emotions. The question then becomes: Which steps bring about the emotion of love towards God?

Maimonides (Mishneh Torah Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah Chapter 2) states: “What is the path [to attain] love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify Him, yearning with tremendous desire to know God's great name, as David stated: ‘My soul thirsts for the Lord, for the living God’ Psalms 42:3.” Maimonides teaches us that contemplating the wondrous intelligence and brilliance contained within the created universe, elicits feeling of awe and love within us. We are being commanded to open our eyes and see the spectacular inner intelligence in the world around us. 

In his Sefer Hamitzvot Maimonides explains another technique to bring the emotion of love of God to the fore. “We are commanded to love G‑d, that is, to meditate upon and closely examine His commandments and His works, in order to understand Him; and through this understanding to achieve a feeling of ecstasy. Maimonides quotes the Sifri that proves that Torah study brings one to love God. Immediately following the command to love God in the Shema, the Torah commands us to place the words of the Torah on our hearts (study them deeply) and then to teach Torah to our children. We learn from this that deep Torah study brings one to a greater connection and love of God. 

The classic work Chovot Halevavot suggests a different technique for attaining feelings of love towards God. He suggests that one contemplate the tremendous blessings that are present in one’s life and the kindness that God has shown one in the past. One is filled with love for the creator of all things, who, despite His infinite greatness, has showered kindness upon us lowly beings. 

Contemplating the majesty and brilliance of the universe, connecting with God through delving into the infinite wisdom of the Torah, and feeling gratitude to God for all our blessings, not only lead us to the love of God, but also spells out a wonderful recipe for a meaningful and joyful life.“And You Shall Love Hashem Your God”

In the reading of Shema, which is recited twice daily, we are commanded to love God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our possessions. Our commentators explain that although emotions cannot be commanded, the Torah is commanding us to take practical steps to elicit certain emotions. The question then becomes: Which steps bring about the emotion of love towards God?

Maimonides (Mishneh Torah Hilchot Yesodei Hatorah Chapter 2) states: “What is the path [to attain] love and fear of Him? When a person contemplates His wondrous and great deeds and creations and appreciates His infinite wisdom that surpasses all comparison, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify Him, yearning with tremendous desire to know God's great name, as David stated: ‘My soul thirsts for the Lord, for the living God’ Psalms 42:3.” Maimonides teaches us that contemplating the wondrous intelligence and brilliance contained within the created universe, elicits feeling of awe and love within us. We are being commanded to open our eyes and see the spectacular inner intelligence in the world around us. 

In his Sefer Hamitzvot Maimonides explains another technique to bring the emotion of love of God to the fore. “We are commanded to love G‑d, that is to meditate upon and closely examine His commandments and His works, in order to understand Him; and through this understanding, to achieve a feeling of ecstasy. Maimonides quotes the Sifri that proves that Torah study brings one to love God. Immediately following the command to love God in the Shema, the Torah commands us to place the words of the Torah on our hearts (study them deeply) and then to teach Torah to our children. We learn from this that deep Torah study brings one to a greater connection and love of God. 

The classic work Chovot Halevavot suggests a different technique for attaining feelings of love towards God. He suggests that one contemplate the tremendous blessings that are present in one’s life and the kindness that God has shown one in the past. One is filled with love for the creator of all things, who despite His infinite greatness has showered kindness upon us lowly beings. 

Contemplating the majesty and brilliance of the universe, connecting with God through delving into the infinite wisdom of the Torah, and feeling gratitude to God for all our blessings not only lead us to the love of God but also spell out a wonderful recipe for a meaningful and joyful life.

Thu, August 22 2019 21 Av 5779