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GOOD MORNING! What is the greatest pleasure in your life? Love of your spouse? Love of your kids? How about Love of God? Could there be a greater pleasure than that? Would you believe that we are commanded to have this pleasure?
"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your possessions." (Deut. 6:5).
It must be possible. God doesn't command us to do the impossible!
Loving God is also one of the Six Constant Commandments -commandments that are upon us at all times and in all places!
(The other 5 Constant Mitzvot:
- Know there is a God.
Don't believe in any other god.
- Know that He is One.
- Fear God.
- Don't follow after your desires.
- Know that He is One.
For more information, go to: aish.com and search on "6 Constant Mitzvot").
First, the definitions: What is "Love" - the pleasure one has in focusing on the good in something or someone. As Maimonides writes:
"A person can only love according to the degree he knows the object of his love. If he knows a little, he can love a little. And if he knows a lot, he can love a lot." (Laws of Teshuva 10:6)
A parent may have a drug using, lazy, dropout and still love him. If you ask the parent why s/he loves him, s/he will tell you, "Because he has a good heart, he's a good kid." What about the drugs, laziness, dropping out of school? The parent replies, "He was in with a bad group, I should have helped him more" - or some other reason to not focus on the negative. One can only love by focusing on the positive.
What is "God"? The Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor. The One who made the whole universe and everything in it, keeps it going and Who has a relationship with everyone and everything in it.
What is Love of God? It is the pleasure in focusing on the good that He has given us in our lives and in the world.
We all have difficulties and challenges in our lives. As hard as they may be, a person who believes in a loving God understands that they are meaningful and beneficial. Though the challenge may seem insurmountable, God never gives us a challenge that we cannot handle.
For example, pain is something we all wish to avoid. However, the pain reflex helps preserve us from great harm. Imagine if you didn't feel pain and only found that your hand was resting on a hot burner when someone pointed out the flames. Pain can also be a wake-up call to look into our deeds so that we will correct them as well as serve as an atonement for past mistakes.
Difficulties in life should be looked upon as meaningful. We should ask ourselves "Why me?" - but not with an accusatory tone. The Torah teaches that the Almighty loves each and every creation and has an individual relationship with each of us. He wants only our good. He only gives us what is good for us.
Perhaps the most important lesson we owe our children is to teach them that the Almighty loves them - just as they need to know that their parents love them. A child may eventually get over the feeling or the fact that a parent doesn't love him. However, if one is taught that God is against him and hates him, it creates a very bitter life.
I often hug my children and ask, "Who loves you?" They learn early to respond, "Mommy and Daddy." And then I ask and "Who loves you most of all?" And they learn early to respond "Hashem" (a commonly used Hebrew name for God). And sometimes they just respond, "Mommy, Daddy and Hashem loves me the most."
There are two ways to love God. The first is to look at His Creation - the beauty and the intricacy of everything from the micro to the macro. Maimonides writes:
"What is the path to love (and awe) of God? When one ponders God's great and wonderful acts of creation, and sees in them a genius that has no comparison, then automatically a person will love, praise, glorify - and deeply desire to know the greatness of God." (Foundations of Torah 2:2)
Second, read His words - the Torah. When people say they love an author, it is because they read his book and were moved by the book. To know God and to Love God, it certainly helps to read His Book. Torah study is the way to discover the path of meaning. The Torah is called Torat Chaim - literally the book of "Instructions for Living" - and is God's communication to the world. It is the ultimate repository for wisdom on how to succeed at marriage, parenting, community building, and fixing the world. (I highly recommend the Artscroll Stone Edition of the Torah available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.)
The Mitzvah to love God is to be constantly preoccupied with the pursuit of closeness to God. God is always there. If one does not feel the closeness of God, it is not God Who moved. It is up to us to choose to deepen the relationship. For as the Kotzker Rebbe once said: "Where is God? Wherever you let Him in."
Torah Portion of the Week
This week we conclude the ten plagues with the plagues of locusts, darkness and the death of the first-born. The laws of Passover are presented, followed by the commandment to wear Tefillin, consecrate the first-born animal and redeem one's first born son. The Torah tells us that at some time in the future your son will ask you about these commandments and you will answer:
"With a show of power, God brought us out of Egypt, the place of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us leave, God killed all the first-born in Egypt, man and beast alike. I, therefore, offer to God all male first-born (animals) and redeem all the first-born of sons. And it shall be a sign upon your arm, and an ornament between your eyes [Tefillin], for with a strong hand the Almighty removed us from Egypt." (Exodus 13:15)
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
In this week's portion the Almighty gives the first commandment to the Jewish people as a whole - to decree the beginning of the Jewish month. This is important for setting the date of each Jewish holiday. It is so important that when the Greeks were persecuting us at the time of the Hanukah story, they forbade the Jewish court to decree the beginning of the new month. The Torah states:
"This month shall be for you the first of the months (referring to the month of Nisson when Pesach occurs. The new year of the reign of king starts with the month of Nissan. The new year for the creation of mankind starts with the month of Tishrei)." (Exodus 12:2)
What lesson for life can we learn from this verse?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein commented that the month of Tishrei is the month of the creation of the world. The month of Nissan is the month of the exodus from Egypt. Both months are lessons in our awareness of the Almighty's power.
The first lesson is that the Almighty is the Creator of the universe. The second lesson is that of hashgacha pratis, Divine Providence. The Almighty controls the events of the world and therefore He is the One Who enslaved the Children of Israel and He is the One Who freed them. The Torah is telling us in this verse that the lesson of the Almighty's guiding historical events is even more important than the lesson of the creation of the world.
One can believe that the Almighty created the world and this might not make any difference in a person's behavior and attitudes. However, once a person is aware of the supervision of the Almighty in daily events, he will improve his behavior. Moreover, his trust in the Almighty will free him from worry. The month of Nissan is the first month of the year and by remembering this we remember all that is symbolized by the Exodus. This will have a major effect on what we do and think.
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 30:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:41 Hong Kong 5:52 Honolulu 6:00
J'Burg 6:43 London 4:26 Los Angeles 5:02
Melbourne 7:13 Miami 5:44 Moscow 4:41
New York 4:53 Singapore 7:03
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You can't love what you don't know.
Prayers for the good health of