The Duties of the Heart
Gate Ten: "Loving G-d Wholeheartedly”
"But is it actually humanly possible to love G–d?" Ibn Pakudah asks at
this point, despite the instructions he'd given us in the last chapter.
The question is certainly legitimate. After all, we and He are utterly
disparate; and while it's said that "opposites attract", it doesn't seem
true of such utter opposites as ourselves and G-d Almighty. Yet Ibn
Pakudah affirms that it's indeed plausible for us to say that we can love
Him -- as much as is humanly possible.
He posits that there are actually three degrees to which we humans can
fully love G-d to the best of our abilities: with what we own, with what
we're comprised of, or with what we are. For we can dedicate everything we
own to His service, we can imperil our health and well-being for His
name's sake, or we can be willing to relinquish our very lives if that's
somehow appropriate (though it's vitally important to recall that that's
only very rarely called for by our faith; and any willingness to go so far
is more a gauge of one's love rather than a requirement of it).
And indeed some rare souls were willing to do all of that if they had to,
to mark how much they loved G-d. In fact, our forefather Abraham
demonstrated as much, as well as others of his stature. So we see that it
*is* humanly possible to truly love G-d. But it calls for G-d's direct and
outright intercedance, since it's normally beyond human capacity and all
but unnatural, so few of us have what it takes.
Hence it's clear that loving G-d isn't simply yearning for Him or
venerating Him affectionately as we might imagine (though that's certainly
laudible). It's far more comprehensive than that. But most of us can
express a great degree of love for G-d by being generous with our means
and by extending our spiritual reach, as well as by taking advantage of
For as Ibn Pakudah informs us, "even if we express a love for G–d ... in
the expectation of getting something in return for it, or because we fear
(retribution) in this world or the world to come (if we don't) ... but we
(still and all) try to fulfill mitzvot all the time, then G-d will
strengthen us and help us arrive at true love."
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman and Torah.org