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What Would You Like?

In the past month, we have been focusing on the middah and mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem. First, we discussed how the more we recognize all the gifts Hashem has given us, the more we will love Him. This is especially true if we can remember that Hashem doesn’t just give us gifts and then walk out of our lives; rather, He gives us so much because He is intending to forge an everlasting relationship with each of us personally.

Next, we explored how each of us can access a deep, natural, inborn love of Hashem if we can remember that He is the Source of our existence. We cannot breathe, move, or even exist without Hashem. This total and utter dependency on Hashem means that we are connected to Him with a deep bond that can never be broken. When we focus on this deep connection and closeness, it can bring about feelings of love for Hashem, our Source and our Creator.

Finally, we discussed how there is a universal truth that giving causes love, so the more we give to Hashem, the more we will love Him. But since Hashem owns everything already and doesn’t need anything, the way we can “give” to Him is by using our strengths and possessions for doing mitzvos. We can also give to Hashem by “giving up” things for the sake of doing Hashem’s will, especially when it is hard for us to do so.

Just Feeling the Love

A person might wonder: Is it possible to love Hashem without keeping halacha? Is it enough if I just love Hashem in my heart, without doing any mitzvos?

The answer can be explained by way of a mashal (comparison):

Imagine it is 6-year old Chaim’s birthday. He wakes up in the morning and bounces down the steps, all excited to see what his family will do to celebrate. “Good morning Chaim!” his mother says. “Happy birthday! I made you a delicious zucchini omelet for breakfast!”

“A zucchini omelet?!” Chaim echoes. “But Ima knows that I hate zucchini and I can’t stand the smell of eggs! What kind of birthday breakfast is that?” Chaim feels upset and wonders if his mother truly loves him or cares about what he likes.

Of course, mothers are sometimes overwhelmed or do not have the time or resources to do everything their children want. But the more that a parent finds opportunities to show their child that they care about their child’s likes and dislikes, the more it shows the child how much they love them. When you love someone, you care to find out about their preferences.

When you love someone, you care to find out about their preferences.

The same is true with Ahavas Hashem. If a person truly loves Hashem, they will naturally feel a desire to “make Hashem happy.” They will learn Torah and review halacha and invest all their energies in finding out what Hashem wants us to do in all situations. Every time we are careful to say a bracha before we eat, or to not move something muktzeh on Shabbos, it is a demonstration of how much we love Hashem and want to be careful to do whatever will please Him the most.

For this reason, the Orchos Tzaddikim1 writes that a person can only maintain his love of Hashem if he focuses all of his energies on fulfilling mitzvos properly. Someone who does not know the details of mitzvos cannot be said to truly love Hashem.

Someone who does not know the details of mitzvos cannot be said to truly love Hashem.

Additionally, we can now understand why many seforim write that Ahavas Hashem (love of Hashem) is connected to Yiras Hashem (fear of Hashem). They go hand in hand. The more I love Hashem, the more I will be afraid of doing anything that might damage my relationship with Him. Just as a parent would never want to hurt their child – you might even say that the parents are “afraid” of hurting their child – so too, when someone loves Hashem, they will be constantly afraid of doing anything to “hurt” Him.2

As we move on to learn about another middah next month, let’s keep these concepts in mind and make an effort to be extra careful about keeping halacha. The more we show Hashem how careful we are to keep halacha, the more it demonstrates our love of Hashem and our desire to have an ongoing, deep, loving relationship with Him.

Sources: [1] Orchos Tzaddikim: Shaar HaAhavah; [2] Haksav V’Hakabbalah on Bereishis 22:12

Your Challenge

Once a day, do something to be careful about halacha while thinking, “I am being very careful to do this (or not do this) because I love Hashem and value my relationship with Him.”

FOR EXAMPLE:

  • Be careful to daven on time or before zman tefillah has passed.
  • Resist the temptation to bite your nails on Shabbos.
  • Resist the temptation to say lashon hara.
  • Be careful to wash netilas yadayim properly, making sure that the water covers your entire hands. (To learn the laws of Netilas Yadayim, see this shiur or this video.)
  • Say Asher Yatzar slowly, being careful to pronounce every word properly.
  • When you are about to eat something but are not sure what the brachah is, go look up the brachah or ask a Rav.
  • (Did you know? The Halachah Hotline of the Five Towns has Rabbanaim available on call to answer your halachah questions! Call 516.239.2500)

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