Friday, August 03, 2012

VaEschanan 5631 Second Ma'amar

The first parsha of Kri’as Sh’ma is written towards the end of parshas Va’Eschanan.  The second pasuk of Kri’as Sh’ma states, “וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה' אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל-נַפְשְךָ .../You shall love God your Lord with all your heart and with all your soul …” (Devarim 6:5)  This pasuk, indeed the entire Kri’as Sh’ma, is so familiar to us that it is sometimes difficult to step back and really try to understand what is required of us in practical terms.  Practically speaking, what does it mean to love God with all our heart and with all our soul?

We find various explanations in Chazal.  The Midrash on this pasuk says that “with all your soul” means with all the various attributes that make up the soul.[1]  The commentaries understand this to mean that we must dedicate the attributes that comprise our mental faculties towards God – our wisdom, intelligence, understanding, imagination, recall, etc.

What tool can we use to direct all of our mental faculties towards God?  The Sfas Emes quotes a pasuk in Tehillim, mentioned in the Midrash explaining the first pasuk of Kri’as Sh’ma, “ה' אֶחָד/God is One.” (Devarim 6:4) The pasuk in Tehillim (73:25) states, “מִי לִי בַשָׁמַיִם וְעִמְּךָ לֹא-חָפַצְתִּי בָאָרֶץ/Whom do I have in Heaven and when I am with You I desire nothing on earth.”  The plain meaning of the pasuk is that we do not desire to worship any god but God.  The Sfas Emes broadens the meaning to include everything.  The pasuk is teaching us to desire nothing at all but God on earth.  There actually is nothing else but God and His will in Heaven and on earth.  This is the meaning of “God is One.”  Realizing this, we will naturally dedicate all our mental faculties towards Him.

The Sfas Emes applies this concept to loving God with all our heart as well.  Just as the soul is the seat of the intellect and includes all our mental faculties, so too, the heart is the seat of our feelings.  To realize that every feeling that we have, exists only because God gives it existence is to understand at the most fundamental level Chazal’s maxim that one does not even bump his finger unless it was decreed above.[2]  We are truly, whether we realize it or not, like an axe in the hand of the wood chopper.

This deepens our understanding of “ה' אֶחָד/God is One.”  It implies that there is nothing else but God.  Everything, but God, exists only because He wants it to exist.  Therefore, His love is in everything including in our very feelings.  Realizing this, helps us to use all our feelings, as well, to love Him.  This is the meaning of, “וְאָהַבְתָּ אֵת ה' אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ בְּכָל-לְבָבְךָ/You shall love God your Lord with all your heart.”

[1] Devarim R. 2:37
[2] Chulin 7b

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