Rabbi Zvi Sobolofsky
The degree to which the mitzvah of ahavas Hashem is fundamental to a life of Torah and mitzvos is captured in its expression in krias Shema as well as its presence in our tefillin. As we enter our homes and kiss the mezuzah we once again acknowledge the centrality of ahavas Hashem in our lives. How do we practically fulfill this core mitzvah?
There are several important aspects of avodas Hashem that are vehicles for a proper fulfillment of ahavas Hashem in our daily lives. The Rambam in the end of Hilchos Teshuva equates loving Hashem with knowing Hashem. Just as the love one feels for another person increases the better one gets to know that person, so too the more we know Hashem the more intense our love for Him becomes. How do we attain this knowledge requisite knowledge of Hashem?
The Rambam explains that by delving into His wisdom we can know Hashem, and that wisdom is composed of two parts. First, by studying the intricacies of His creation we can attain a greater understanding of Hashem and thereby enable our love of Him to grow. In Sefer Hamitzvos the Rambam highlights that Hashem revealed the second aspect of His knowledge to us in His Torah. The greater understanding of Torah one achieves, the more one knows, and thereby loves, Hashem. This relationship between ahavas Hashem and talmud Torah appears in the Shema itself. The Sifrei, as quoted by Rashi, notes that immediately after the Torah commands us to love Hashem we are instructed to immerse ourselves in talmud Torah. It is only through a deep commitment to talmud Torah that one can reach the lofty goal of ahavas Hashem.
We usually associate ahavas Hashem with mitzvos bein adam lamakom. And yet, even our service bein adam lachaveiro depends upon internalizing our love for Hashem. Chazal interpret the miztvah of "v'holachta b'drachav - to walk in the path of Hashem" as the source for the mitzvah of chessed; Hashem performs countless acts of chessed and we are supposed to imitate Him. We naturally look to imitate those whom we admire. As such, by following the example of Hashem and performing acts of kindness we express our love and admiration for Him.
Ahavas Hashem also expresses itself in merging our bein adam lamakom with our bein adam lachaveiro. Chazal teach us that part of ahavas Hashem is to bring others to love Hashem. One who exemplifies ahavas Hashem and is pleasant to other human beings will encourage others to lead their lives in a similar manner. We are commanded to love Hashem with all our hearts, our souls, and our possessions. This intense love comes about from our pursuit of the knowledge of Hashem, and it is this love that results in our performance of chessed and sets the tone for our interpersonal behavior.
On a personal note, I am writing this dvar Torah as I am returning from being menachem avel two families who lost sons in Gaza. These kedoshim, as well as our other brothers who gave their lives for the entire Jewish people, have fulfilled ahavas Hashem and ahavas Yisroel in the ultimate sense, "bechol nafshecha - with your entire soul." These young men sacrificed everything so that the Jewish people can live in safety and security. As we approach Shabbos nachamu, we extend our comfort to all of the grieving families and pray that Hashem will comfort His people by rebuilding the Beis Hamikdash and thus enable us to once again know Him even more and serve Him with maximal love.