Law of Love
Get ready for a very long, long, long insight. Put on your thinking caps and here we go!
A commandment to love? What?! How?! Why?! How can anyone be commanded to love? Can your mother make you love spinach? How about loving your kid brother who just stuck an ice cube down your back?! How can the Torah command us to love HaShem, at all times, even when the going gets rough?
This important question has bothered the greatest of the great and would really take many pages to tackle this big question and find an answer. Instead, we’ll make it short and sweet, turning to the wise Rambam (Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, a.k.a. Maimonides) for guidance.
Here at Shazak, we’ve often spoken about the amazing Mishneh Torah of the Rambam. It was the first complete Code of Jewish Law (and last, never to be replicated), covering all 613 Mitzvos, and to write it was some colossal job! Singlehandedly, without a staff of researchers, the Rambam spent around 10 years completing the Mishneh Torah. Since it had 14 books, some people referred to it as the “Yad HaChazakah” (Add up the word יד – “Yad” – and you get 14).
Besides what is written in the book, what makes Mishneh Torah so brilliant and successful is its splendid order and organization. The Rambam perfectly categorized things, placing them in exactly the right place and giving just the right names to each of the 14 books.
It was perfect!
Without a doubt, the most original of all 14 book titles is the second book of the series, “Sefer Ahavah” (the “Book of Love”). You would expect such a book to be full of this Mitzvah, the commandment to love HaShem. But no. That was not the case.
Q: So what’s in this Book of Love?
A: It contains the following topics:
- Laws of Krias Shema
- Laws of Tefillah and Birkas Kohanim
- Laws of Tefillin
- Laws of Mezuzah
- Laws of Sefer Torah
- Laws of Tzitzis
- Laws of Blessings
- Laws of Milah
Clearly, by naming this book, the Book of Love, the Rambam’s message is clear. “Do these Mitzvos and you will come to love HaShem. It’s the Book of Love.”
In the words of Dovid HaMelech, King David, as he writes in his book of Tehillim: “Ta’amu U’reu Ki Tov HaShem – Taste it and see that HaShem is good.” If you don’t taste it, it won’t work.
BTW #1: The Rambam in his introduction points out the common thread between all these laws in the Book of Love – they are Mitzvos that are constant. Either we do them all the time, have them all the time, or in some way they help us remember all 613 Mitzvos (like Tzitzis).
BTW #2: As we shall soon see, many of the Mitzvos in the Rambam’s Book of Love, are somewhere in the paragraphs of Shema (Krias Shema, Tefillah, Tefillin, Mezuzah, and Tzitzis).
BTW #3: But there’s more… At the very beginning of his Mishneh Torah, the Rambam himself reveals the “Loving and Fearing HaShem Secret”:
It is a Mitzvah to love and fear this glorious and awesome HaShem… But how can one achieve this? What is the best method?
When a person thinks deeply about all of HaShem’s amazing creations, and appreciates His infinite wisdom, at that point, he will immediately love, praise, and glorify Him. He will be so affected by this that he will have an immense desire to know and find out more and more about HaShem and His Creation!
Mishneh Torah, Laws of Fundamentals of the Torah, Chapter 2, Halacha 1-2
BTW #4: And there is even more!
The Rambam’s 14 volume Mishneh Torah starts with the Book of Knowledge. The next one is the Book of Love. Get it? First comes the knowledge about the greatness of HaShem and the wonderful world he created, which then leads to loving Him! Fascinating! Inspirational! Splendiferous!
Now it becomes clear why only Adam – mankind, excluding any other living creature – has the capability of loving HaShem. It’s because Adam was given the brain to think and appreciate HaShem and His wonderful world!