Thursday, August 02, 2012

ahavas Hashem

1. Ramban comments on the pasuk, "V'ahavta l're'acha kamocha," that the Torah uses the term "l're'acha" as opposed to "es re'eacha" because it is impossible to literally love someone as much as oneself, as use of the preposition "es" would connote. The best one can do is admire certain traits in another person, or, as Chazal reformulate the mitzvah, not do harm to another person.

When it comes to ahavas Hashem, the Torah does use the preposition "es" -- as we say every day, "V'ahavta es Hashem Elokecha..." One's love for Hashem must equal one's love for self and even exceed it, to the point that one would even give up one's own life.  (see Netziv).

2. "V'shinantam l'vanecha..." is not the mitzvah of talmud Torah -- we know there is a mitzvah of talmud Torah from other places. As the Ksva v'Kabbalah explains (he says this is pashut pshat in the parsha), the entire first perek of shema is one long elaboration of the mitzvah of ahavas Hashem. If you love something, you want to tell others about it. If you love Hashem, then you tell your children about it by teaching them Torah.

3. How can the Torah command having an emotion?  You can't force someone to love?  The Sefas Emes answers that love of G-d is innate.  L'mashal (my analogy, not his): You don't need to command or force a mother to love her child -- there is an innate maternal bond and only a psycopath or someone who willfully tries to undo that bond can break it.  (This is very similar to R' Elchanan's explanation of the mitzvah of emunah.  Belief comes naturally; it is only ta'avah that gets in the way). 

Am I wrong in reading the S.A. as finding an element of an issur aseh in the mitzvah of ahavah, i.e. don't undo the natual bond of love with G-d?  If that is true, the parallel to "v'ahavta l're'acha kamoch" as understood by Chazal (don't do unto others...) is clear (Rashi in Mes. Shabbos writes that "re'acha" actually refers to Hashem).


  1. Anonymous5:58 AM

    >>> L'mashal

    aren't we the "child" in relation to Hashem,
    rather than the "mother" (who loves her child
    naturally)? the question was our "love of G-d"

    >>> is clear

    what is meant here?

    don't undo your natural bond of love with others?
    (which isn't Chazal's reformulation), or

    don't undo the other's natural bond of love with
    G-d? (where ahavah is used equivocally, is used
    two ways at once/double-counted; moreover, if
    our fellow has his a mitzvah not to undo his own love of G-d, must we be told not to interfere with it? don't we already know not to interfere with the mitzvah performance--across the board--of our fellow?), or...?

    1. Anonymous11:45 PM

      ...or, to reformulate the question, what exactly is the aseh
      of the "issur aseh" "don't do unto others [what you would not
      want done unto you]"? for the issur of the aseh 'do unto others...' would seem to be 'don't fail/cease to do unto others...'?

      aren't we still faced with the original impossibility kashya
      (of paragraph 1)? can one really be as sensitive/alert to (universal) aversions for another, as he is for himself?
      on the other hand, Chazal seem to presuppose the possibility of equal defense: Rav Eliezer says that one's fellow's honor
      should be as dear to him as his own (Avos 2:15); says Rav Yosi, one's fellow's money (2:17); but perhaps these, as personal ideals rather than halachic imperatives, can stand as is without reformulation?

  2. Anonymous1:04 AM

    I think the proper understanding of "Ahava" is loyal keeping of the mitzvot, which at its height includes the emotion that is brought on by performing them. Thus the commandment is really to keep the mitzvot. With the understanding that Shma is the acceptence of ol malkhut shamayim, we learn that ahava is an ahava of action-to keep the mitzvot. that is also how we explain the commandment to love God with "meodekha". how can we love God with our "means" or "might"? Because it refers to action. I think this is the best way to understand it, and I think ibn ezra on the spot supports my reading, as does rambam's explanation of the mitzva in hikhot kriat shema. accepting ol malkhut shamayim isn't a feeling, it's a commitment to keep the mitzvot.
    additionally, perek dalet is focused on trying to reach this kind of avodat HaShem. see my post

  3. chaim b.9:28 PM

    You are making it sound like ahavah is just a tnai in kiyum hamitzvos, but from the fact that it is counted as an independent mitzvah indicates that it is more than that. Also, see the Rambam in Teshuvah 10:3 who defines ahavah as an emotional experience. (Not that you are wrong -- it most definitely is also an ingredient in shmiras hamitzvos as well.)

  4. Anonymous2:52 AM

    Not a condition, an aspiration. I definitely agree with you that it's more than a condition. certainly, part of this is the emotional experience.