Introduction to Jewish Meditation – Part 19

Love

To the right is the commandment:

 And you shall love God your God
with all your heart, 
and with all your soul,
and with all your might.”

This is the mitzvah to love God (ahavah). Love of God is the emotion that motivates the fulfillment of all the 248 positive commandments of the Torah.

Oneness Bears Love

In the Torah, this verse follows the previous one (“Hear, O’ Israel…”), indicating that loving God is the natural result of contemplating His unity. For actually, it seems odd that one should be “commanded” to love something: either you love it or you don’t. One associates “commandments” with action, rather than with emotion. Indeed, the Ba’al Shem Tov teaches that this commandment is not an injunction for one to directly “turn on” in his soul the emotion of love, but implies rather that one is to contemplate the unity and greatness of God, which will thenspontaneously arouse love of Him. For if God is in fact the ultimate source of all reality, who could desire anything other than Him? And conversely, if everything else we perceive indeed possesses no intrinsic reality, why bother devoting one’s energy to it?

“Love as Water” and “Love as Fire”

This commandment is placed to the right, since, in Jewish imagery, the right side is associated with the emotion of love and the attribute of loving-kindness. As noted above, right corresponds to south, symbolizing the feeling of warmth toward God and Israel. The Ba’al Shem Tov (the founder of Chassidut, from chesed, “loving-kindness,” the right) would place his right hand on the heart of a Jewish child and bless him to be “a warm Jew.”

The experience of warmth is referred to in Chassidut as “love as fire.” Indeed, the numerical value of the entire phrase “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” is identical with that of the word for “flame” (shalhevet, 737). Our sages allude to the ever-ascending love for God as “a fully ignited flame.” One ignites the flame of love by meditation on the unity of God–“God is one.” In Chassidut, we are taught that without meditation, one may manifest his innate love for God as “love as water,” but only by the deep and sincere meditation of the heart, searching for God with one’s entire being, does one bear in his soul “love as fire.”

On the first day of creation–the day that corresponds to the sefirah of chesed and the direction of right–God created light (the source of warmth). We are taught that God hid the original light within all of creation, for it is indeed the Divine creative power with which God created all of reality, His power of love. In every generation, the righteous reveal the hidden light by learning and teaching God’s Torah, His blueprint of creation, with love. The very word for “love” in Hebrewahavah, is an acronym for: OHakadosh Baruch Hu — the light of the Holy One, blessed be He.

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