Working on Love

In regards to the concepts of ahavas Hashem and yiras Shomayim there are many different hasogos, different levels of attainment. For those of us just getting started on the path to growth, this can be very difficult, especially ahavas Hashem. It’s easy to find it difficult since our normal concept of love relies on perception or knowledge of a particular person or thing, then desiring some aspect of it or having warm feelings towards the object of love, such as love parents have for their children, spouses between one another, or love between friends. It says in Pirkei Avos that love that rests upon something else, meaning loving someone because they give you chocolate per example, will be nullified. So the concept of love in the first place cannot rely on any benefit or pleasure derived from the object of love, rather it has to be unconditional to be truly called אהבה, love.

The Gematria of אהבה (love) is אחד (one). From this Gematria, we can learn much about the true nature of love. True love is recognizing the unity of all things within Hashem Yisborach, since there is nothing other than Him, like it says אין עוד מלבדו. To sit and contemplate those words, repeating them under the breath, is a powerful meditation technique that helps in that awareness.

The Baal HaTanya writes a wonderful eitzah (advice) for coming to love Hashem in perek 44 of Likutei Amarim. He says there that even as every Yid has a natural love and fear of God, it’s concealed within the neshomoh, requiring help to express this properly. He recommends there that one should accustom oneself to think thoughts relating to Hashem’s awesomeness every day. Even if this feels awkward at first, he teaches us there that eventually it will become natural and we’ll come to feel true awe and fiery love of Hashem through doing this exercise. It is important to love Hashem all the time, it is a mitzvah we mention multiple times per day in K’rias Shma. The Zohar in the Hakdama brings that true ahavas Hashem is not to love the things Hashem gives us, but rather that we should love Him no matter what happens. It says there that sometimes Hashem will give us lots of nice things, make life very easy, then all of a sudden remove all of that in order to test us and test our own assertions in regards to Hashem and our love for Him. The ideal way to handle this is to simply daven, to talk plainly before Hashem like between friends. Once recognizing that Hashem is also expressed through problems, like Rebbe Nachman teaches in Likutei Moharan, then we can transcend the challenge and attain true ahavas Hashem and d’veikus with Hashem to the degree we are able.

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