This article draws on sources too numerous to list, but main credit goes to essays from the book 60 days for Six Million, and Head to Heart by Gila Manolson.
We say ‘Veahavta’ in Shema every day. But what does it mean? How can you be commanded to love something? Or someone? Isn’t love spontaneous and based on something?
Let’s take a look at the actual definition of love. Without pulling out a dictionary, we can basically define the word by its use, in two ways.
One. I love chocolate ice-cream! I eat it all the time! I always get chocolate whenever I have a choice.
Two. I love my best friend. She’s so nice and considerate. Why shouldn’t I go visit her when she’s sick? She’d do it for me!
Type one: I love this thing. (You can substitute ice cream for book, or movie, or game, or dinner, or anything, just change the verb accordingly ;) ) Interacting with it makes me happy, and I do it whenever I can. This is the type of love that people have for objects, and tragically, at times, for other people. (That’s a whole other essay!)
Type two: To care about something, because of the thing itself. You love your friends because they are who they are. Even if they can’t do anything for you at the moment, you care about them because you know how good they are, and how much good they do for you every day, and you want to reciprocate.
(It’s tough to put such an abstract concept in words. But you get the idea, right?)
G-d showers blessings on us every moment of the day. He gives us everything we need, but also more. Some people need certain challenges, but G-d doesn’t give them to us unless we need them. He doesn’t want to hurt us, just to help us grow.
Every little thing was made by G-d. When the warm sunshine lands on your face- G-d is saying hello. When you have a peaceful dream; that is G-d giving you a smile. Every little good thing that happens is G-d giving to you- just because He can. Sure, you can dismiss it as a coincidence, but why? Isn’t it nicer to know that there is someone up there who only wants the best for you? Who is ready to listen and help? Who is truly in control and can do anything?
It might seem at times like G-d wants a lot of us, but in truth so many of the commandments are for our good, if you look deeply enough. And those with no obvious reason? Well, is there an obvious reason for love either?
G-d isn’t asking for lip service, nor just to preform commandments because ‘that’s what we have to do’. G-d is asking us to serve him with love- because he loves us. Because he pours blessing on us. Because, even in the darkest times, as much as we want the challenge to end and the pain to be over, G-d wants to stop it a thousand times more.
So, before Shema, take a deep breath and think of one nice thing that happened to you that day. One that’s not necessary for you as a human being, but that happened- just because. And say thank you.
Love is two sided. Even the most patient person can’t love someone ungrateful and greedy. G-d will always love us, but in order to feel that love- we need to reciprocate. You can’t pay G-d back for the thousands of breaths you take every day, or for all the other ‘mundane’ kindnesses and necessities. But you can try. That’s all He wants. That’s what He’s waiting for. What are you waiting for? Go!
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