Halacha L’Moshe MiSinai
Volume 2: Number 5
Mitzvah #3: Loving G-d
It is a positive commandment to love G-d with all one’s heart, spirit and might.
Hafetz Hayim: This is based on Deut. 6:5. This is the way toward love for Him: When we will meditate on His activities until we comprehend Him to the extent of our ability, the heart will become inflamed with a love for Him; this is the love that is essential for us. … A man cannot love the Holy One except through knowledge, by comprehending Him; through this knowledge the affection comes. Therefore a person needs to set himself solely to understand and grow wise through he fields of wisdom and comprehension that convey the glory of his Maker, to the extent of the ability that a person has to understand and realize.
There are two problems with this Mitzvah. The first is how can we be commanded to love G-d? How can we be commanded to love anyone? Love is an emotion that cannot be commanded. And yet, we are commanded to love someone every day. We can choose a spouse to love. We can choose to have children to love. But Children cannot choose their parents and yet they have to love them. You could argue that much of the mental illness in the world is because children are trying to love a parent that is not worthy of that love. The love of G-d therefore is like the love of a parent. Why do we love our parents? We love them because of all the things that they give us; the most important thing is life itself. They gave us our life so we love them in return. It is the same with G-d. G-d gives life to us and to the universe, so we express our feelings by returning the love that G-d gives to us.
The Hafetz Hayim then goes on to insist that to properly love G-d we need to have knowledge of G-d. We have to contemplate the nature of G-d and to the extent that we as finite creatures can comprehend the infinite, we need to translate that knowledge into love. How do we do this? Think back to the days when you were a young child in your parent’s home. How could we show our parents we love them? We would tell them we loved them, but from time to time we did not follow their rules and they would get mad at us and we would wonder if their love would come to an end. That is a very scary thought. So what could we do, what did we know we should do, in order to show our parents that we love them?
Usually the answer would be pretty clear. If our parents would nag us to clean our room, than we would clean our room without being nagged. If our parents would remind us every night to take out the garbage, than we would take out the garbage without being reminded. I would venture to say that even if our parents are long deceased, we still show our love for them by many of the simple things we do everyday, from making the bed every morning, to eating a good breakfast, to being honest in our business or wearing clean underwear. Think about it, every minute of the day we can think of things we do because of the love we have for our parents and because of that love, not wanting them to be disappointed in our lives. So it is with G-d. We have the Torah. We know what G-d wants from us. So we live our lives trying to learn and understand Torah, G-d’s law, and by observing these commandments, without threat of retribution, we show our love of G-d. It is our knowledge that makes our love possible. That is the lesson of the Hafetz Hayim.
Next Week: Mitzvah #4: Fear G-d