This week’s reading contains “Shema Yisrael” — “Hear, oh Israel, the L-rd our G-d, the L-rd is One.” [Deut. 6:4] And what is the next verse? “And you will love HaShem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” The commentaries explain that this commands every Jewish person to be so consumed by love of G-d that he or she is prepared to give up his or her last penny, or, in fact, his or her life. [Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki explains that there really are people who would actualize the old joke about the person who, when mugged (“your money or your life!”), responded “I’m thinking!”]
But how can the Torah demand that a person love? How do you require emotion?
There are two ways to develop an emotion like love. The first is to appreciate everything that has been given to you. Gratitude towards a person, such as a parent or spouse, makes you love them more, and so to with G-d.
The other goes still deeper — and, at its root, offers one reason why Judaism involves so many Commandments. When you do something for someone, that in and of itself instills love for that person in your own heart. Parents, especially, see every day that love in the heart is enhanced by love in action, by investing energy and effort into a child.
Whether between man and man or man and G-d, each and every day we are offered countless opportunities to choose to follow G-d’s Will. And when we follow His Will with a deep understanding of His love for us, and motivated by our love for Him, then that causes us to love Him more.
The Sages tell us that “the study of Torah is equal to them all.” When we study G-d’s Torah, we observe His Commandment to do so, we perceive His incredible wisdom, and by doing so with love, we increase our love of G-d and His Torah at the same time.
As you may know, on Wednesday night there was a massive Siyum, a celebration of the completion of the entire Talmud, following the order of “Daf Yomi” by which men learn a folio of Talmud each day. It’s the world’s biggest unified program of Torah study — and strictly speaking, today is the day the new cycle begins. Today, right now, is an auspicious time to start learning… something. Something on your level, on your schedule, pursuing knowledge of His Torah.
May we all grow in our understanding of Torah, and our love for Our Creator!