Q. Recently we learned in the parsha the greatest mitzva of loving Hashem mentioned in the Shema. How can one be commanded and compelled to love anything? After all love is fundamentally a feeling of the heart and emotion that you either have or you don’t. How then can one be ordered to adore something he distastes, or to enjoy what one dislikes?
A. Rabi Akiva Eiger zt’l comes to our rescue with a true and simple answer. He maintains that Ahavas Hashem is actually a natural human response that even a child with some cognizance and awareness can easily attain. As the pasuk (Mishlei 27: 19) reads “kamayim hapanim lapanim ken lev ha’adam le’adam – Like water reflects faces, so too, do the hearts of people.” If one is treated with love, one will naturally respond back with love. All it takes is to realize and comprehend that one is being loved and cared, for that natural human reaction to kick in.
He further explains why the bracha we recite just before the Shema ends with; ” The One that chose His Nation Yisrael with love. When we realize the great and constant love Hashem always has for us, we also react with feelings of love to Him. All it takes is realizing and comprehending all the incredible great and good things the constant chassadim, kindness and favors He always does for us. That would make this great mitzva a simple one to follow.
Rabbi A. Bartfeld