Introduction to Jewish Meditation – Part 20

Three Ascending Levels of Love

In particular, our verse speaks of the three levels of ascending love for God: “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Our sages teach us that “with all your heart” means “with both your inclinations, with the good inclination and the evil inclination”; “with all your soul” means “even if He takes your soul”; and “with all your might” means “every measure that He measures to you, thank Him exceedingly.”

In accordance with our present meditation, we may see reflected in these three ascending levels of love the three previous continuous commandments of the Torah:

The redemption from Egypt, from the house of bondage, is the redemption from being enslaved to our evil inclination. When freed from slavery to the evil side of our personality, we are able to elevate it, to employ it in our service of God, to love God with our whole heart, with both of our inclinations, good and (elevated) evil. It is indeed the elevated evil inclination (the source of all passion) that ignites the spark of love, transforming “love as water” (the innate love of the good inclination) into “love as fire.”

To totally renounce idolatry, not to bow down to an idol even at the expense of losing one’s life, is the explicit meaning of loving God “with all your soul”—”even if He takes your soul.”

To thank God for every measure He measures out to us in life is to recognize His infinite mercy over all. Whether experienced as good or bad, all derives from God’s absolute goodness and mercy, which if not revealed to us now, will become revealed in the future. As explained above, this recognition is implicit in the mitzvah to unify God—”Hear, O’ Israel, God [the merciful One] is our God [our life-force], God [the merciful One] is one.”

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