The Need For Emotional Connection
The Ramchal teaches us that the basis of our Service of Hashem is Devarim 10:12 in Parshas Eikev: “And now, Israel, what does Hashem, your God, ask of you?
– Only to fear (be in awe of) Hashem, your God,
– to walk in all His ways,
– to love Him,
– to serve Hashem, your God, with all your heart and all your soul,
– to observe the mitzvos of Hashem and His decrees, which I command you today, for your benefit.
We are quite good at doing the mitzvos, but many of us have trouble with the emotional components, specifically that of loving Hashem. We know we are supposed to love Hashem, but do we actually experience that love emotionally?
Without a strong emotional connection to Hashem, our mitzvos become rote, our davening becomes rushed, and we look to our possessions, our vacations, our vocations, and the worlds of sports, entertainment, and social media for emotional stimulation. It’s very possible the spiritual malaise effecting large segments of our community is a result of a lack of a strong emotional connection to Hashem and Torah.
How Can We Develop Love
Rabbi Yitzchok Kirzner zt”l taught that to develop our Love of Hashem, we should work on Loving Our Fellow Jew, which is a commandment in its own right.
Love means to have a strong emotional connection. Most people have a strong emotional connection with their spouses, their children and their parents. But when we walk into Shul, with how many people do we actually feel a strong emotional connection?
To develop our love of our fellow Jews, we have to identify and relate to their positive qualities. These positive qualities include:
– At the root of every Jew is a pure spiritual soul.
– Every Jew is part of the collective soul of the Jewish people which unites us all.
– Every Jew is a child of Hashem and is loved by Hashem.
– Every Jew in our community plays a part in creating an environment where we can grow through Torah and Mitzvos.
– Every Jew in our minyan, is instrumental in increasing the likelihood that Hashem will accept our Tefillos.
We’ve identified a few positive qualities that give us the ammunition to develop our love.
Think About It
Having identified the positive qualities, we have to actively and repeatedly think that we love our fellow Jews because of their qualities. Thinking that we love someone is instrumental in actually developing that love. We shouldn’t be sidetracked by the fact that we love our spouses, children and parents more then our Shul members. We are obligated to love every Jew and each Jew has inherent positive qualities that form the foundation of love as we’ve illustrated above.
Actively thinking about our love of our fellow Jews is critical to developing that emotional capacity – and using it to love Hashem. So on a regular basis we can look around our Shul, and think about how we love this person, and that person, etc..
When we develop the practice of experiencing emotional love on a regular basis, we can then use that capability to Love Hashem. Our prayer books are filled with praise of the positive qualities of Hashem which give us many reasons to love Him. We have to actively think about how we love Hashem. It’s not enough to know it intellectually, we have to develop that love, by regularly thinking and feeling that we love Hashem.
It’s interesting that Chazal have put a special focus in the Three Weeks on developing a love of our fellow Jews. This is followed by the month of Elul, where we focus on love of Hashem as indicated by ‘Ani L’Dodi V’Dodi Li’ – ‘I am for My Beloved and My Beloved is for Me’.
Loving people and loving Hashem are commandments that are achievable. We can start on the right track every day in Shul with thoughts of Love. Don’t worry, nobody will know, but don’t be surprised if we start feeling them loving us back.