Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky

Loving Hashem in Many Ways

The mitzvos of Ahavas Hashem and Yiras Hashem - to love Hashem and to fear Hashem - appear to be fundamentally different from one another. Yet, the Rambam teaches us that we attain both of these feelings in the same way. In the Rambam Hilchos Deos we are taught that to achieve the proper fear and awe for Hashem we must look at the greatness of His works. By contemplating His awe inspiring creation, we fulfill the mitzva of Yiras Hashem. Similarly, in the Rambam Hilchos Tshuva we are instructed to focus our thoughts on the grandeur of Hashem's world thereby enabling us to feel the proper love toward our Creator who performs such acts of kindness for us.

If observing the natural world must instill in us these lofty feelings of awe and love for its Creator, how much more so should the witnessing of miraculous events enable us to attain Ahavas and Yiras Hashem. Not surprisingly, following the greatest miraculous event ever - Krias Yam Suf - the Torah testifies that the Jewish People reached new heights in Yiras Hashem. "The nation feared Hashem" (Shemos 14, 31) was the fitting response to witnessing the hand of Hashem. However, no explicit mention is made of Ahavas Hashem. Did the Jewish People attain this other lofty goal after experiencing the miraculous act of kindness bestowed upon them?

The answer can be found in the opening pesukim of the song of Az Yashir recited immediately after Krias Yam Suf. "Zeh Keli V'anvehu - This is my G-d and I will glorify Him" (Shemos 15, 2 ) - the word "V'anvehu" is subject to many interpretations. Rashi suggests that it is rooted in the word "noi" meaning praise and beauty. Moshe and Bnei Yisroel will sing to the world the praises of Hashem. Rashi refers to Shir Hashirim in which the pesukim elaborate the Jewish People's rendition of Hashem's praises to the nations of the world. Rashi then quotes the Targum which interprets "v'anvehu" as related to the word "naveh" a place of dwelling. According to the Targum, Moshe and Bnei Yisrael are promising to construct a sanctuary in Hashem's honor. Chazal in Maseches Shabbos offer two additional interpretations of the word "v'anvehu." The first is similar to Rashi in identifying the word with beauty, but rather than referring to praises of glory it alludes to beautifying Hashem's mitzvos. This phrase is the source for the halachic principle of hiddur mitzva. The second interpretation of Chazal views the word "v'anvehu" as a combination of two words, "ani v'hu - I and He”. This refers to the obligation to emulate Hashem. Just as He is merciful and kind so too are we expected to deal with others with gentility and kindness.

These four interpretations of "v'anvehu" compliment one another. The Rambam in Hilchos Tshuva describes Shir Hashirim as an expression of the mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem. "V'anvehu" according to Rashi, as the song of praise of Hashem is the response of love to the events of Krias Yam Suf. The interpretation of the Targum that "v'anvehu" refers to the construction of a home for the Divine Presence is similarly a response of love. After experiencing the miraculous event of kindness bestowed upon them, Moshe and Bnei Yisroel yearn to remain close to Hashem. A Mikdash is the vehicle to maintain closeness.

The two interpretations of Chazal also reflect the intense love for Hashem that was kindled at the moment of Krais Yam Suf. Hiddur mitzvah reflects a desire to not merely fulfill mitzvos as an obligation, but rather as an expression of love. One does not suffice with the minimum requirement necessary, but rather one beautifies each mitzvah as a voluntary show of love. The second understanding of Chazal that "v'anvehu" refers to emulating Hashem also highlights our feelings of love. We desire to be close to those we admire. By acting with kindness to others as Hashem does to the whole world we indicate our love and admiration for Him and His ways.

Krias Yam Suf, as the ultimate realization of the hand of Hashem, brought about intense feelings of Yiras Hashem and Ahavas Hashem. By singing Hashem's praises, building a Mishkan, performing mitzvos in a beautiful manner and emulating Hashem's ways,we continue to express this love that began on the shore of the Yam Suf.

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