more and then some: service for two

There's a subtle change in the Shema between the beginning of the first perek and the beginning of the second perek. In the first perek we are told to love HaShem with all of our heart, soul, and more. In the second perek we are told to love HaShem and to serve Him with all of our heart and soul.

What happened to the 'more,' and why do we have to love Him to serve Him?

I was given a glimpse into two important Jewish ideas today that I think help to answer this question:

The first is that when we get used to ignoring a particular halachah or mitzwah, we become blinded to the importance of that halachah or mitzwah.

The second is that we are instructed in the Talmud that everything is in the hands of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven.

Let's think about these two things, the first means that while we may be aware of many many mitzwoth or halachoth, if we don't actively practice them in our lives, they become dull and meaningless, one-dimensional. Just like an undeveloped character in a novel or a movie, we lose interest and they simply fade into the scenery. Knowing about the mitzwoth and halachoth isn't enough. The purpose of all the 613 mitzwoth, and near-infinite halachoth is to cleave to HaShem. Each one is another channel, another dimension, another medium in the expression of our unique relationship with HaShem. Ignoring a mitzwah is kind of like never touching your spouse because you are content merely with looking at them.

The second lesson teaches us that as long as we haven't internalized that everything is truly in HaShem's hands we will be wasting all of our time trying to control our circumstances. Which basically means we're throwing our lives away. HaShem can handle everything in our lives, we just have to handle the mitzwoth. If we don't make our relationship with HaShem, which is established through the performance of the mitzwoth, the central tenet of our existence, then our existence is going to get very tenuous. All day long we will be chasing after the shadows of oppurtunity and fleeing from fearful imaginations. When we look at the heart of each dilemma - How can I serve HaShem from this place? Then we approach every challenge with the certain knowledge that somewhere in the thick of it is where I will find HaShem.

Taken together we can see the answer, perhaps to our question:

When we're told to love HaShem and serve him with all our life and all our soul, we can see how that love needs to be transformed through the mitzwoth, through the fear of the challenge and through penetrating to the underlying truth. We may fear for our life or for our soul, but when we know the truth, that the only thing to fear is HaShem, then we are filled with so much love that we push forward in His service.

When we're relating to HaShem through pure love, there's always got to be 'more.' However close we are today, perhaps there's something we're overlooking that can bring us closer still. What about this mitzwah or that halachah that I learned but never bothered to get to know?

There's never an end to a good relationship. You can always grow closer, but it has to be through shared experiences. Mitzwoth are just that, sharing an experience with HaShem, as the root of the word mitzwah means to bind.


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