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Parshas Vaeschanan

Ahavas Hashem-To Love Me is to Know Me
by Rabbi Yosef Levinson

"V'ahavta eis Hashem Elokecha-And you should love Hashem your G-d" (Devarim 6:5).

In the Shema that we recite daily, we are commanded to love Hashem. The Sifri asks a very fundamental question, how does one love Hashem? The Mizrachi expounds on the Sifri's question. Love is only possible when one knows and recognises the object of his affection. Concerning Avraham Avinu, Hashem said: "Ki yidativ l'ma'an asher yitzaveh es banav" - "For I have known him because he commands his children" (Bereishis 18:19). Rashi writes that "For I have known him" is a term of endearment. One who cherishes someone, draws him close and knows him and becomes familiar with him. How is it possible then for a human being to love Hashem? We cannot see Him and our understanding of Him is severely limited.

The Sifri answers that we come to Ahavas Hashem through fulfilment of the next passuk - "V'hayu hadevarim ha'eileh asher anochi mitzavecha hayom", "And these words that I command you today". Through learning Torah and observing the mitzvos, continues the Sifri, "ata makir es Hashem u'midabeik b'drachav", "one will come to recognise Hashem and attach themself to His ways". The Mirrer Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt'l (Daas Chachma U'mussar 1:63) explains that by learning Torah, one literally becomes attached to Hashem and is in His presence. When we are so close to Him, we can recognise Him and emulate His ways.

We can see this concept in the following Midrash. The Midrash explains the passuk "Vayikchu li teruma" - "And you shall 'take' for me teruma" (Shemos 25:2) with a mashal (parable). When someone sells one of his possessions, he usually severs his connection to that item. The buyer does not take the previous owner home with him! However, when Hashem gave us the Torah, He told us - kaviyachol (so to speak), You are purchasing Me along with the Torah.

The Nefesh HaChaim (4:6) elaborates on this theme. He explains that when we toil in Torah, Hashem is echoing each word that we utter at the same time. As we find in Gittin (6b), R'Avisar and R'Yonason had a disagreement regarding the p'legesh b'givaa. When R'Avisar met Eliyahu Hanavi he asked "What was Hashem doing at the time of our disagreement?". Eliyahu answered, "He was studying the subject of p'legesh b'givaa, and saying 'My son Avisar said this and my son Yonason said that.'"

This is the meaning of David HaMelech's words, "Tov li Toras picha mei'alfei zahav vakesef" - "The Torah of Your mouth is better for me than thousands in gold and silver" (Tehillim 119:12). David rejoiced when he toiled in Torah for he appreciated the meaning of the Torah of "Your mouth". Each and every word that he was presently learning was not just said by Hashem in the past at Har Sinai, it was also being repeated by Him here and now.

Toiling in Torah is the means to be medubak u'mechubar to Hashem, to be attached to Him. "Araissa v'Yisrael v'Kudsha Brich Hu chad hu" - "The Torah and Yisrael and Hashem are all one" (Zohar, Acharei Mos). This feeling of closeness and attachment is true Ahavas Hashem. Not only does a Talmid Chacham, Torah scholar who is totally immersed in Torah feel attached to Hashem, he is a living testimony of Hashem's existence.

Reb Boruch Ber Leibowitz, the Rosh Yeshiva of Kamenitz ztvk"l travelled to the United States to collect desperately needed funds for the Yeshiva. During his stay in New York, Mayor Jimmy Walker presented him with the key to the city of New York. At the presentation, Mayor Walker remarked, "Rabbi Leibowitz disproves Darwin's theory of evolution. A holy person like him could only be created by G-d."(All for the Boss, Ruchoma Shain p.66). Even a gentile mayor can perceive some of the holiness emanating from a tzadik who is totally engrossed in Torah and avodas Hashem.

We might ask: "We observe the mitzvos and devote ourselves to Torah learning, yet many of us do not have this feeling of closeness to Hashem?" In order to feel close to Hashem we have to perform mitzvos with enthusiasm. There has to be a feeling of freshness. If we learn Torah and observe mitzvos out of force of habit, we will not experience d'veikus with Hashem. This is why the Sifri answered that love of Hashem comes through fulfilling the passuk "And these are the words that I command you today." We have to approach the Torah each day as if it is being given right now. With this attitude we will merit to be "makir es Hashem u'midabeik b'drachav". We will recognise Hashem and attach ourselves to His ways.

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