Tzemach Tzadik - Chapter 2 Love of Hashem Rabbi Yehuda Arye Leone da Modena


Back to chapter 1 about love in general

Translated by Ralph Anzarouth and an anonymous friend

Love of Hashem

Love of Hashem will develop in man after he has acquired two virtues, namely faith and hope. A man cannot come to love of Hashem without first believing in His existence as the only One, the first and the last in all creation, living forever and existing for eternity. Therefore, the sentence containing the acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven opens with (Deut. 6, 4): "Hear, o Israel, that Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One". After we acknowledge His existence and His unity we say (Deut. 6, 5): "And you shall love Hashem your G-d etc.". Thus he must hope and expect to unite with Him and to benefit from the aura of His presence. In fact, out of these two an intense and strong love of Hashem will be born and persist in man to the extent that for the sake of this love he will despise this world and its pleasures and everything will be so valueless in his eyes that he will carry out the will of his Creator. As it says in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes 1, 13) "I devoted myself to investigate and enquire into wisdom etc.", (Eccl. 2, 4) "I increased my deeds, I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards, I laid out garden and orchards etc."; in conclusion, [king Solomon] said that he came to recognize that everything is vanity, and for this reason he said in the Song of Songs1 (8, 7): "An abundance of water cannot extinguish the love and rivers cannot wash it away; if man were to squander all his assets to acquire love, he would reap only scorn".

Our patriarch Abraham offered his only son and bound him to the altar out of love for Hashem. Many of the early devout men gave themselves up to martyrdom out of love for Him. The most outstanding example of this is Rabbi Akiva whose martyrdom was related at length by our Sages of blessed memory (Talmud Bavli, treatise Berachot 61b): the [Roman] regime issued a decree against all Torah activities and Rabbi Akiva continued to bring groups of people together to learn Torah. He was caught by the Romans who flayed his skin with iron combs while he rejoiced in the suffering and recited the Shema2 until his soul departed from him as he uttered the word "One". These martyrs and others like them looked into and recognized the futilities of this world, in which man can only receive honor at the cost of his fellow man's humiliation. He cannot become great unless his fellow man is diminished. He will not become richer unless his fellow man becomes poorer. This can be compared to a large table with a small tablecloth spread upon it. Each one of the diners wishes to draw the cloth to his side and in doing so he uncovers the table in front of his fellow diners.

In the end, one who dedicates his love to worldly things will come to mourn and cry all the days of his life. On the other hand, one who loves his Creator, will rejoice and delight forever. As our Sages of blessed memory said (Talmud Bavli, treatise Sotah 31a): "Rabbi Shimon ben Elazar taught: the merit of one who serves G-d out of love is greater than the merit of one who does so out of awe, since the former lasts two thousand generations and the latter lasts for one thousand generations, as it is written about the former (Exodus 20, 5): "And He bestows kindness upon those who love [Him] for [two] thousands" and concerning the latter it is written (Deut. 7, 9): "For those who observe His commandments [out of awe, merit lasts] one thousand generations3.”

Our Sages also told there about two students who studied with Rava: one told him that he dreamt about (Psalms 31, 20) “How great is the good which You have reserved for those who hold You in awe” and the other told him that he dreamt about (Psalms 5, 12) “All those who find shelter in You will delight forever and those who love Your Name will triumph in You".
Rava said to them: “You are both perfectly righteous, one of you out of love and the other out of awe". In fact, where it says (ibid.) "Will delight forever" it is speaking about those who love Hashem, as the verse concludes "and those who love Your Name will triumph in you"; since their suffering in this world will pass and come to an end, whereas reward is eternal and everlasting in the World to Come4. Happy is the one who waits and reward will come to him.

Notes of the translators:
[1] King Solomon is the author of both Kohelet and the Song of Songs.
[2] The acceptance of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, see above.
[3] The Author is hinting to a subtle Talmudic explanation. Both verses (the one promising one thousand and the one promising [two] thousand) refer to both attitudes (love of G-d and awe of G-d); but in the verse from the Deuteronomy the number “Elef” (one thousand) is written close to those who observe His commandments (out of awe), while in the the verse from the Exodus, the number “Alafim (thousands) is written close to those who love Him. Therefore this teaching attributes a bigger merit to the latter versus the former.
[4] Literally: a world which is completely long (see Rashi comment to Talmud Bavli, treatise Chulin 142a).

The whole book Tzemach Tzadik in Hebrew (printed in Rashi characters) can be downloaded in PDF format and read online at Chapter 2 about love of G-d is found at pages 9-11.