Yacov Nordlicht – Parsha Va’etchanan – Loving G-d

In this week’s parsha, we find the tzivui from Hashem of “v’ahavta es Hashem Elokecha”. On this commandment of loving Hashem, many meforshim ask a very simple question. How is it possible that Hashem can command us to love Him? Love is something that a person feels in his heart, either you love someone or you don’t! How is it possible to command a person to love? And furthermore, many commentaries explain that this commandment isn’t merely a positive commandment like the rest of the commandments, rather it’s one of the foundations of Torah Judaism. If that’s true, then why did the Torah wait until sefer Devorim, the last sefer of the Torah, in order to reveal to us this tzivui?

The Rambam himself anticipates this question and offers an answer that the real commandment isn’t on the actual feeling of love, rather it’s a commandment to look around the world at the greatness of Hashem’s creations, which will undeniably lead to feelings of love for the One who created them. This idea is reiterated by the Rambam in the end of Hilchos Teshuva where he says that a person comes to a level of ahava for the Ribbono shel Olam through da’as, knowledge of Hashem and His presence. This yesod is also echoed by the Maharal in his sefer Nesivos Olam in which he states that by a person internalizing the oneness of Hashem until he feels that there is nothing which exists separate from Hashem’s shechina, fulfills the mitzva of ahavas Hashem.

However, maybe we can offer another answer. When a couple first become engaged and begin their pre-marriage classes, one of the first classes nearly always given is focused on how develop a love for your wife. The way I heard it was that the core of the word (which also often represents the essence of that word) ahava, love, is hav, which means to give. The true way that a person can develop a love to his wife is really giving to her.

But if we really think about it, there could be a husband or wife who materially give a lot, yet they’ll still feel a distance between them and their spouses. The reason may be because even though they may be giving things here and there, they aren’t giving themselves. In order to give to someone to create a love for that person, you have to be able to give yourself to that person. Once you do that, you can truly be able to develop a feeling of love.

The same is true with Hashem. The Ohr Hachaim says in this week’s parsha, the pasuk which follows the mitzvah of ahavas Hashem is “…..asher anochi mitzavcheh hayom al levavecha”, “that I have commanded today on your heart”. Says the Ohr Hachaim that this pasuk following the tzivui of ahavas Hashem isn’t a coincidence, rather the only way to get to ahavas Hashem is by “putting the words on your heart”. And the only way to ingrain the words of Hashem into ourselves is by completely giving ourselves to Him. This is the explanation of the commandment, to love Hashem. It isn’t so much on a feeling, rather it’s on the act of giving yourself for Hashem. And maybe that’s also why it’s written here, at the end of the Torah. For Hashem is telling us that there are 613 ways for us to give ourselves to Him. It’s only up to us to make the choice to do them.

In life, man’s nature is to give himself to something. Rabbi Ezriel Tauber says that it’s this exact innate drive which yields such fanatic sports fans nowadays. Hashem gave us this drive to give ourselves to something. It could be an ideal, a job, or even family. So when a person stands in the middle of shmoneh esrai, or when he learns a blatt Gemara, what does he think about? The Ribbono shel Olam, or his work? That reveals to the person what he’s really giving himself to. The drive is there. The only question is how we use it.

 

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