One of the constant commandments that can be performed at any moment of
one’s life and even by thought alone is ahavas Hashem, love of G-d. This
has to be “with all your heart, all your soul and all your resources”
(Deuteronomy 6:5). See also ibid 11:1, 13; ibid 30:16, 20)
The highest level of divine worship – indeed the cornerstone to all
religious life – is to love G-d.
This love overflows to the Torah study and to mitzvah observance. Indeed,
this love ranks as the greatest quality a Jew has and the highest level of
divine service humanly possible (Rabbeinu Bachya, Chovovs Halevovos, Shaar
HaAhavah). What does “love to G-d” mean? And how can man become a constant
fount of love flowing out to his Creator?
Works of literature repeatedly tackle the emotions of love and how it
defines relationships. Songs and poems have been composed to convey
expressions of love (or lost love).
But what exactly is love?
In truth, love defies an easy definition. It roughly translates to the
intense feeling and affection felt by someone towards another “subject”.
(It is inappropriate to apply this to an “object”, e.g. “I love meat” –
which is just an expression of self-love). One is attracted and given over
to the attributes, qualities, values and essence of the other. To
perpetuate this love, it cannot be “defined” or based upon outer,
ephemeral factors such as wealth, beauty, power etc, things that are
destined to fade over the horizon.
Where there is genuine love then there is the fusion of the inner self
with another. Indeed, one’s beloved becomes the point of reference to
his “identity”. This leads to a life-long commitment and pathway towards
altruism (the ethicists observe how the word hav, “to give” is related to
the word ahavah, “love”) his life playing out as a “giver” rather than
Someone who is lovesick cannot think of anything else. All his thoughts –
without exception – are focused upon his beloved. He is infatuated. He
finds it impossible to remove his beloved from his mind every for a
The love of G-d sees man’s soul passionately drawn after its spiritual
essence. It may be exiled onto this world and encased in a physical body.
But the soul longs to unite itself with G-d.
In fact, the Jew is passionately in love with G-d. He is lovesick. All of
his thoughts and every moment of his existence is devoted and focused on G-
d. He willingly devotes every fiber of his life in the worship of his
Master and stands ready to relinquish life itself to sanctify G-d’s Name
(Talmud, Berachos 61b). Any activity outside this obsession is rightly
dismissed as meaningless and irrelevant (Rambam, Hilchos Teshuvah 10:3).
His identification exists only for G-d. For the chosen nation, everything
revolves around his “Lover”: G-d.
Knowing that he cannot possibly function or live without this
relationship, the Jew becomes one with his Beloved G-d. However this love
is not based upon irrational emotions. It is a well thought-out matter,
one of man’s inner convictions upon grasping the magnificence of His
creation (See Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 2:1-2). And it increases
exponentially the more man grasps his indebtedness to G-d for the gift of
life and all the benevolence he has showered upon his creations.
This expression of ahavah leads to becoming echad, one with G-d – the
words ahavah, “love” and echad, “oneness” share the same numeric value.
This is encapsulated in the Shema – we first affirm Hashem as our One G-d
and continue with the instruction: “You shall love Hashem your G-d, with
all your heart, with all your soul and with all your resources”
(Deuteronomy 6:5). And G-d reciprocates by showering His love upon us.
(Indeed, the two-way relationship between G-d and Israel also acts as a
template for the love of husband and wife).
Our love of G-d is not just “another” form of the love. It underpins our
existence and identity.
Judaism is an all-consuming, highest form of love – the outgrowth of our
one love of G-d which finds expression in our mitzvah performance.