The Torah can command us not to eat this, or not to say that, or not to go there, but how does the Torah command us to have an emotion?

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

This week’s Torah portion is Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11), and in it we read about the second set of the Ten Commandments that were given to Moses. Those with a good eye will notice that although the two versions of the Ten Commandments are very similar, they are not identical. Although we won’t be getting into the differences in this week’s column, I do want to give you some homework to do: Compare the fifth and tenth commandments in the two versions of the Ten Commandments.

We also come across the first of three sections of the famous Shema prayer in this week’s reading. After proclaiming that God is One (the MOST fundamental principle of Judaism), we are told that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

The question is asked, however: The Torah can command us not to eat this, or not to say that, or not to go there…. but how does the Torah command us to have an emotion? Can the Torah command us to love vanilla or butterscotch or sardines if we really don’t? So how does the Torah command us to love God?

Indeed, the Torah cannot command an emotion, but it can give us the training and skills to develop an emotion.

As the Midrash (rabbinic literature) says:

Regarding the verse ‘And you shall love the Lord your God…’, I do not know how one is to love God. But the verse continues,‘And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your hearts…’ It is from this that a person will come to recognize He Who spoke and created the world.

So there‘s the secret to developing a love for God. By immersing ourselves in these words, words of Torah,  we will naturally come to love God, and by extension, by continuously thinking about God and recognizing the small miracles and conveniences He sends our way, we will certainly come to love Him.

The commentators also ask, regarding this passage: If loving God is so important and fundamental, why do we find this commandment only at the very end of the Torah? Deuteronomy is the last of the Five Books of the Torah.

The answer is similar to what we have discussed. Since a love for God can only develop after study, contemplation and the performance of mitzvot (Torah commandments), the Torah had to wait until the end, until we have seen all that God has done for us, not to mention the creation of the world and the development of mankind. Only then is it possible to love God. If the Torah had opened with a commandment to love God, many people may have just shut the book! At this point in the game, however, the logic in a commandment to love God is certainly apparent.

For more insights by Rabbi Ari Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below:





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