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Thought for the Day: Coming to Loving HaShem Through Mitzvah Observance

It's one of those topics you just don't discuss in polite company.  If you are careful, you can mention "ahavas HaShem"; when you say it in Hebrew it takes the sting out and, besides, you also sound more frum.  Try this, though: say (out loud), "I love you, HaShem."

How did that go?  I know... not so well.  R' Avigdor Miller, z"tzl, said that one should try that exercise once a day in total privacy.  His estimate that after a few years it won't feel too weird, and in a few decades it might even have some sincerity.  Why it's so hard is pretty obvious.  Even belief in HaShem seems to be a completely intellectual exercise.  Appreciating that the Creator and Author of reality wants to have a relationship -- a personal relationship -- with me is a real abstraction.  Now I am supposed to love -- not like I love broccoli or chocolate, but actually "be in love with" seems way beyond the pale.

And is it really so important?  Well... it is a real, live mitzvah d'oraisa; and not one of those esoteric mitzvos that no one ever heard of.  Twice (at least) a day, we all declare: "You shall love HaShem your G-d; with all of your heart/mind, with all of your life, and with all of your might/midos/wealth."  Moreover, it is one the six constant mitzvos; which means that you are expected to have this in the front of your mind every waking moment.

Ok, ok... but "in love"?  Really?  Let's ask the Rambam, that great rationalist.  The Rambam says that loving G-d is supposed to feel like a man who is love sick (his words, "cholas ahava") over a woman.  In fact, the Rambam's description sounds a lot like the intensity of infatuation, but with the richness of a mature relationship.

How do we get from here to there?  Look at where the Rambam put that description of Ahavas HaShem... it's in Hilchos T'shuva at the end of sefer Mada (Knowledge/Science/Metaphysics).  The very next sefer in his Yad (Mishna Torah) is sefer Ahava (love).  Sefer Ahava starts with hilchos k'riyas sh'ma and t'fila.  Then come brachos, shabbos, pesach, n'zikin, etc.  In other words, the Rambam sees the obligation to be in love with HaShem as the logical conclusion of thinking into the nature of reality.  The logical next step is, therefore, declaration of that love (k'riyas sh'ma), building a relationship (t'fila), and then learning and doing what HaShem -- the object of your love -- wants.  Logical.

Oh well, when you put it that way.

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