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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Va'etchanan

LOVE - WITH ALL YOUR HEARTS

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The "Twin Towers" featured in this Sedra are the monumental pillars of the 10 Commandments/Aseret HaDibrot, & the Shema. They are similar in that each contains both laws & feelings, thus appealing to both our bodies & our souls.

In the 10 Commandments, we find strict rules that entail physical activity, such as keeping Shabbat, avoiding idol worship, telling the truth, etc, as well as emotional activity, such as believing in Hashem, showing honor (to
parents) & refraining from impure thoughts (Lo Tachmod).

The Shema also has its own physical laws - such as putting on Tefilin, or placing a Mezuza on our homes – as well as the emotional component of loving G-d & taking the Mitzvot seriously, "to heart" (V’hayu ha’d’varim….al
l’vavecha).

Famously, the Shema instructs us to pursue a full & comprehensive love of the Almighty, one that encompasses the willingness to give all of ourself, including our material possessions ("kal m’odecha") or even our very
lives, if necessary ("b’chal naf’shecha").

The pasuk says we should love G-d "b’chal l’vavecha" – with all our hearts – in the plural – as opposed to all our heart – which would have been written "b’chal lib’cha." Rashi, noting the unusual word, says it means we should
love Hashem "with both our inclinations;" the Yetzer Ha-Tov as well as the Yetzer Ha-ra, the good & the bad.

What, exactly, does this mean? I thought that we were supposed to be working continuously at eradicating, or at least, suppressing our Yetzer Ha-ra?!

The fact is, all the many midot which Hashem places within us have both positive & negative applications & aspects. Mercy, for example, is generally a wonderful trait, but not when it is shown to a terrorist. Courage is exemplary, but it can also lead to dangerous risk-taking. Even love, that most beautiful of virtues, can be destructive if it is overused to spoil a child, or to smother a spouse.

At the same time, traits which appear to be in the "bad" category can be turned around: Stinginess, for example, is praiseworthy when we are protecting the assets of a friend; jealousy can motivate us to fulfill our potential;
even hate can be constructive, when we direct it against injustice, corruption or evil – all too handy targets.

In short, the Shema says: "Listen, people, I, G-d, have given each of you a complex, advanced ‘skill-set.’ Use it to the fullest, every bit of it, the "good" and the "bad." Do it – and I will love you!"
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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