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Thought for the Day: Six Constant Mitzvos And Knowledge of G-d

There are different ways of seeing hidden meaning in hebrew words.  A very common way is gematria - looking at the numerical value of letters and words.  The gematrias are usually interesting and sometimes even reflect deep insights.  I don't look at gematrias as much more than mnemonics to help remember those insights.  Another way to manipulate hebrew words, perhaps less well know but also sanctioned by Chazal is "AT-BaSh": replace Aleph with Tuf (AT), Bais with Shin (BaSh), Gimmel with Reish, etc.  Consider the words "Mitzvah" (Mem Tzadi Vav Hey).  The AT-BaSh of Mem is Yud, of Tzadi is Hey.  That means that if you half way do AT-BaSh on miztvah you get HaShem's four letter name.  It is (at least) a very cool perspective that perfoming mitzvos is much more than a list of rules that we are supposed to follow because HaShem said so; rather the performance of Mizvos has the ability to connect us on a very deep level to HaShem Yisbarach Himself.

There are six mitzvos whose obligation is constant (Mishna Brura, Siman 1, 2nd Biur Halacha, d"h: zeh klal gadol batorah):
  1. Belief in G-d
  2. Belief that G-d does not assign independent agents.
  3. Belief that there is only one G-d.
  4. Loving G-d
  5. Revering/Fearing G-d
  6. Not to go longing for and chasing after forbidden pleasures.
The Ramchal, in his introduction to Derech HaShem, delineates six aspects of our belief in G-d:
  1. G-d exists; His existence precedes all and is eternal.
  2. We can never really know G-d Himself; that knowledge is beyond the capability of a created being.
  3. G-d exists perforce.  That is, the whole concept of existence only has meaning within the context of G-d.  In a sense, He precedes even existence itself.
  4. G-d does not depend on anything else, but everything else depends on Him.  He brings into being and constantly sustains everything.
  5. G-d is absolutely without parts or division.  When we speak of G-d's attributes (His knowledge, His mercy, His kindness), those are completely our perception and not something intrinsic to Him.  From G-d's point of view (so to speak), they are all one: Him.
  6. G-d is unique and cannot not even be described in terms of anything besides G-d Himself.
The number six doesn't appear so often, so I started wondering if the six constant mitzvos could be related to the six aspects of G-d that the Ramchal presents as fundamental.  Three match right of the bat:
First constant mitzvah and the Ramchal's first principle; second constant mitzvah and the Ramchal's sixth principle; third constant mitzvah and the Ramchal's fifth principle.  With that encouragement (admittedly I didn't need much encouragement and I did have almost and hour on my bike ride to work) and some further reflection I came up with the following correspondences:

The fourth of the Ramchal's principles that G-d does not depend on or need anything, but everything depends for its very existence on Him.  That means that I am here right now only because G-d wants me to be exist and live.  He doesn't need me, He wants me; not for what I can do for Him, but just so I can enjoy existence.  The Holy One Blessed be He, the Creator and Sustainer of all... wants me.  Even as I type this I feel a shiver.  Not only that, but "bisvili nivra ha'olam" -- as far as G-d is concerned, it would be worth everything just so He could have me.  Is possible to realize that and not feel love toward my Creator, my Sustainer, my everything?

When asked what is the one thing that causes the most fear, people have different answers: the dark, moving to a new place, starting a new job, etc.  When asked, "But was is so scary about that?" there is only one answer: the unknown.  Not knowing what the dark may be hiding, how we are going to manage with no friends and family, stressing about the expectations and demands of a new boss -- the unknown -- is much worse than actually tripping over something in the dark, dealing with the new place, and giving the new boss what he needs.  The fact that G-d is essentially unknown and even unknowable is terrifying.  Not fear of punishment, but just the fear and awe of having to give Him total trust with absolutely no way of really understanding what that entails.

That leaves constant mitvah #6: not to go longing for and chasing after forbidden pleasures.  Why do we go after forbidden pleasures in the first place?  In the best case it is because we are missing something that we think we need (or deserve) and we see that we can get it by being sneaky.  For example, a parent tells his teen not drink, but the teen sneaks out to drink because he see how much fun it is and figures his parents just don't understand him and his situation and/or that they are just old and don't remember what its like to be young anymore (which may, in fact, actually be true).  However, the Ramchal's third principle of belief in G-d is that everything comes from Him.  That means not only the forbidden pleasure, but also the fact that it is possible to enjoy that pleasure -- and even the enjoyment of that pleasure itself -- all come directly from G-d.  In our example it would be like the teen having to ask his parent to pour the drink for him and to even help him drink it!

In other words, once we internalize the understanding that everything about any pleasure -- the pleasure itself, the ability to enjoy the pleasure, and even the concept of pleasure itself -- is entirely a creation of G-d; then the whole idea of going after a forbidden pleasure goes away.  After all, do I really have so much chutzpah to go and ask for a drink from the very one who told me not to drink?  And if I do have that much chutzpah, then it just lost all of its pleasure because I am not, in fact, actually getting away with anything.  It comes out, therefore, that not chasing after forbidden pleasures is directly correlated with the concept that G-d is the only independent reality and everything else is a creation that depends every moment on Him for its existence.

Whether or not the Ramchal intended his six principles of belief to be related to the six constant mitzvos is really not the point of this discussion.  The correlation is at least intriguing and the ideas are certainly true.  At the very least, discussions like this increase our awareness of HaShem and improve our enthusiasm and dedication to doing His mitzvos.

One last thing... there is another six: the six days of creation.  Your homework is to correlate each of the Ramchal's six principles and each of the six constant mitzvos with each day.

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