If we think about the Torah, and God’s greatness, it is inevitable that we will come to love Him.
By Ari Enkin, rabbinic director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is Va’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11). In it, we come across the most fundamental passage in all of Judaism: The Shema. The Shema is, in its simplest form, the declaration of the Jewish faith: “Hear all of Israel – The Lord is our God – the Lord is one.” The Shema is recited three times each day. It is recited as part of the morning service, the evening service, and then again before bed. In certain situations, it is recited even more than three times a day. We clearly see how fundamental the Shema passage truly is.
One of the verses in the Shema is: “And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources….’And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your hearts”
We MUST love God. Unconditional love, no matter what comes our way.
The commentators ask: How can a person be commended to love something or someone? Isn’t love something that either comes naturally – or doesn’t? What’s going on here?
A number of sages, including the famous Rambam, (Maimonides) address the issue with the following explanation:
…. ‘And you shall love the Lord your God’…I do not know how one is to love Him. Therefore, the Torah says ‘And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your hearts…’ from this a person will come to recognize He Who spoke and created the world.
Hence, the Rambam is saying perhaps, that by putting “these words” – referring to words of Torah and inspiration- upon our hearts, then we will come to love God. If we think about the Torah, and God’s greatness, it is inevitable that we will come to love Him.
I once saw a question asked by Rabbi Shalom Berezovsky in his work, Nesivos Shalom: If loving God is so important (and indeed it is!), why did the Torah wait until now, in the Book of Deuteronomy –essentially the end of the Torah- to give us this commandment!? One would think that the Torah should open with the commandment to love God – not conclude with it! Or maybe it could have been stuck in with the Ten Commandments. It surely would have fit nicely with the first of the Ten Commandments. (“I am the Lord your God”).
Isn’t this a good question?
The answer that Rabbi Berezovsky gives is that all the commandments of the Torah, especially that of studying the Torah, are preparations and “training” in order to enable us to love God. Love is not automatic. It has to be developed and nurtured. Only after we’ve read the entire Torah, and we’ve internalized all that God has done for us, can we come to love Him.
After the creation of the world, the exodus from Egypt, the giving of the Torah and all its priceless commandments, and preparing for entering the Holy Land of Israel: NOW can we truly have the solid foundation for loving God. So indeed, it makes sense that the mitzvah to love God is actually one of the last. It can now be truly sincere.
Shabbat Shalom from Israel!