A Guide to Loving God by Shimon Cohen


In Parashat VaEtchanan, we are commanded to perform the Mitzvah of loving Hashem. This Mitzvah requires man to use his emotions.  The question is, are emotions really in mans’ control? (This same question is asked by the Ibn Ezra in regard to the Isur of “Lo Tachmod,” coveting.)  The Sefat Emet states concerning this Mitzvah that if Hashem wanted us to follow it, it must be in our control.

When discussing love from the heart, he makes an analogy to a man who built a pipe to bring fresh water from the local well to his home.  He realized that for the water to stay clean, he must cover the well to keep the mud and dirt out of it.  Also, he realized he had to wrap the inside of the pipe to keep it from rusting. The same goes for our hearts: In order to truly love Hashem, we must keep our hearts clean, and we must truly have the love in our hearts.

The Dubner Maggid gives a similar analogy.  As his story recounts, there was a certain villager who brought his garment back to the tailor who had made it, and told him that it did not fit. The tailor looked at the man and started to laugh, because the villager was wearing an old tattered garment under his new garment.  The tailor explained to him that since he had the old garment underneath, of course the new garment would not fit!  Love can only fill a person’s heart if he has a clean heart, with nothing else taking its place.  The Torah states (Devarim 6:6), “VeHayu HaDevarim HaEileh Asher Anochi Metzavecha HaYom Al Levavecha, “And these matters that I command you today [to love Hashem] shall be upon your heart.”  They should be directly upon it, so that nothing else is there.

The Rambam (Hilchot Teshuvah 10:3) presents an additional meaning to the Mitzvah of loving Hashem. He adds that the proper way for a person to love Hashem is the same way a man would love a woman. This means when he is sitting, standing, eating drinking, and at all times of the day, Hashem should be on his heart at all times.       

Of the abundant lists of the 613 Mitzvot, Rav Sa’adyah Ga’on’s is the only one that doesn’t include loving Hashem.  Of course, there is a major question as to why he didn’t include it as a Mitzvah. Rav Yerucham Fishel Perla offers a somewhat technical answer. He writes that it is omitted because there is both negative and a positive Mitzvah, so Rav Sa’adyah Ga’on does not include both. For example, he does not include the Mitzvah of, “VeNikdashti BeToch Bnei Yisrael,” “I shall be sanctified among the Children of Israel” (VaYikra 22:32), because he already included the same Mitzvah in its negative form,  “VeLo TeChalelu Et Sheim Kodshi,” “And do not desecrate my holy name” (VaYikra 22:32).

The Rambam also writes (Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 2:1)that we must recognize Hashem’s great deeds for mankind. When one recognizes Hashem’s hand in everything, and he sees how great Hashem is, he reaches the true nature of loving Hashem.   The Sifrei states that when the Torah writes, “VeHayu HaDevarim HaEileh…,” it is saying that one must recognize what Hashem has done.  When a person studies Torah and performs Mitzvot, then he can truly love and cling to the words of Hashem. Hashem bestows Mitzvot for all of Bnei Yisrael, and just because someone else may be more intelligent or may be able to understand a Derash or a Pasuk more in depth than another, it does not matter, because whatever a person can do is good enough for Hashem.  Each person can love Hashem at a different level, but Hashem will still love each person the same.

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