“And you shall love Adonai your God…” (Deut. 6:5).
“And you shall love your neighbor as yourself…” (Lev. 19:18).
The above two commandments are among those that Rabbenu Bachya ibn Pakuda (1040) described as among the hardest in the Torah to fulfill. Obligations of Heart (Hovot Halevavot) are near impossible. For example, consider the idea of ‘loving God’ or ‘loving your neighbor’. Can you command love? Well, try it and get back to me. Just walk up to someone and say (command), ‘love me’. If you get slapped, its not my fault.
So, how is it that we are commanded something that is beyond our ability?
I believe, regarding love of God and love of neighbor, that we need to understand ‘love’ not as a force or emotion that we need to cultivate within us, but rather as a natural occurring characteristic within every person. We are naturally loving, compassionate, beings reaching for transcendence and meaning. So, what gets in the way of this natural expression? The usual suspects: Fear, Insecurity, Anxiety, a sense of feeling overwhelmed with our work, school, and other obligations.
How would your day look different if you did not suppress your natural instinct to love?
-Rabbi Tsafi Lev, Rabbinic Director