To know the Almighty with an obsessive love


Parashat Yisro is preeminently the parasha of the Asseret Hadibrot (the Ten Statements). The first of these dibrot begins with the famous words, “Anochi Hashem Elokecha (I am the L-rd your G-d), Who took you out of the land of Egypt), out of the house of bondage.”

In his Commentary on this verse, the Ramban notes that the phrase, “Anochi Hashem Elokecha,” is a positive commandment, that Hashem tasked Moshe to “teach and command them [the Jewish people], in order that they should know and believe that Hashem exists, and He is their [sole] Elokim. This means, He is, and He was, and everything stems from Him, according to His will and [unlimited] ability. [Moshe also needed to instruct them that] He was their Elokim, and they were therefore obligated to serve Him.”

In Mishneh Torah, the Rambam formulates the mitzvah of Anochi Hashem Elokecha in this manner: “The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know (leida) that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.”

The Rav expands upon the Rambam’s formulation and in so doing helps us to attain a deeper appreciation of what it means to know Hashem: “To know (leida) means that our conviction of the existence of G-d should become a constant and continuous awareness of the reality of G-d, a level of consciousness never marred by inattention.”

This, in turn, strongly parallels the Rambam’s understanding of the love one should develop for Hashem: “What is the proper [degree] of love? That a person should love G-d with a very great and exceeding love until his soul is bound up in the love of G-d. Thus, he will always be obsessed with this love as if he is lovesick. [A lovesick person’s] thoughts are never diverted from the love of that woman. He is always obsessed with her; when he sits down, when he gets up, when he eats and drinks. With an even greater [love], the love for G-d should be [implanted] in the hearts of those who love Him and are obsessed with Him at all times, as we are commanded, with all your heart and with all soul.” (Hilchot Teshuvah 10:3)

These ideas are reflected in the pasuk we recite at the conclusion of the first paragraph of the Aleinu: “And you shall know (v’ya’da’ta) this day and consider it in your heart, that the L-rd He is G-d in Heaven above, and upon the earth below; there is none other (ain od melvado).”

With Hashem’s help and our fervent desire, may this guide and inspire us as we strive to draw near to Him, each and every day, v’chane yihi ratzon.