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!

4 Comments

  1. Thank you for yet another insightful comment on how to gain wisdom from Torah. I have long maintained that both faith and love start with an act of will, and having then made the commitment, both faith and love will grow in maturity through practice. Unfortunately I have struggled to justify my view, but you have provided the substance that I have been looking for.
    It is a sad thing that Christianity has drifted so far from its Jewish roots, in this context to the point of teaching that both faith and love are the gifts of a loving God and that there is not much we can add. I suspect that this theology has developed from a jaundiced view of “works”, as if there was nothing we should do in this life to grow spiritually closer to God, again failing to understand the true purpose of Torah and God’s instructions for living therein. Thank you for your Torah teaching, it continues to enrich my life immeasurably.

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  2. Shalom. Rabbi

    I do have a question dear Rabbi Yaakov Menken… Is it not written that H-shem is Love? Is it not written that the L-rd our G-d created all the Heavens and the Earth, and all that was in it? If H-shem is love Rabbi, and all creation came to be – through Love, then wouldn’t it not be so – that love resides in us, to begin with? If this is true… Then why would one acquire what they already have in perfect portion? If we try to acquire more, would not that be futile? For does not G-d give one the appropriate allotted amount to begin with? He did when concerning the manna and its portion, when given unto our people in the desert. No one, regardless of what amount they collected, ended up with more or less than anyone else. So… how can we acquire what we already have, if it is what H-shem instils in us? Do we develop emotions? or is it the amount of experience with each emotion,(creating a chain of intensity) that is built up?

    You do admit this in the following sentence of the following paragraph… ” The first is to appreciate everything that has been given to you.”

    Is it not written that it is H-shem whom increases our love for Him? Isn’t it also written, that the human heart know and desires only evil? If the Human Heart only desires evil, as it is written, than how is it that we can increase our love for G-d? Thus it must be H-shem Himself who increases our love for Himself shouldn’t it?

    Interesting reading your articles.

    Shalom.

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  3. I want to thank you Rabbi Menken, for your wise and generous words. I will share them this morning wih my Donna when we do our Torah study. May you have a blessed day, a blessed month and a blessed New Year!

    Larry Snider

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  4. Sometimes when I read torah I get overwhelmed, and I start to weep a little. I used to think it was some kind of guilt feeling, and then I actualized that I was not guilty. So, I kind of wrote it off, that the weeping was because of hard circumstances I was going through and that I was just experiencing stress. After reading a parsha today I realized that the weeping was just due to the love I have for torah and g”d. Such a blessing, and to think after all this time I thought I was experiencing guilt. I feel so much better….your contributions are so much a joy!

    Shalom, Mitch

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