Parsha Mitzvot – Vaetchanan-Eikev-Introduction To Sefer Ahavah
Vaetchanan and Eikev include many of the Mitzvot – Concepts from the second volume of the Rambam’s Yad HaChazakah, Sefer Ahavah – The Book of Love. I attach the following transcribed & unedited essay as an introduction to the theme of Sefer Ahavah: we are up to Sefer Ahavah. The Rambam always chooses a pasuk to introduce a Sefer. And the pasuk he uses for Sefer Ahavah, which is the second of the fourteen books of Yad HaChazakah is “Mah Ahavtih Toratechah”, how much do I love your Torah, ‘Kol HaYom Hih Sichatih’ that in the entire day it is my conversation, it is all I speak about all day is your Torah.
So the Rambam is definitely bringing across one point and that is that there are two ways to understand him calling this book Sefer Ahavah. Either it could have been referring to our love of G-d or it could be referring to G-d’s love of us or for us.
When he chooses this pasuk to introduce the Sefer and he says, “Mah Ahavtih Toratechah”, how much have I loved your Torah, the entire day is the source of my conversation. Obviously Sefer Ahavah means ‘our love for G-d.’
So right away you know that any of the mitzvot that are included here are mitzvot that are there to help us express our love for G-d, which is really a very powerful point because we know that anytime you have an emotional type mitzvah, a conceptual mitzvah, you really need something to put it and make it practical.
Again with something we have said a thousand times why you always need a cup of wine when you make a berachah over a concept. Like Kiddush, Havdalah, wedding, why do you always have a cup of wine? Because you want it to be something tangible you have to have the wine there so you have a physical expression of the concept.
So right away we know, even before we have begun any of the sections of Sefer Ahavah or any of the specific mitzvot in Sefer Ahavah that they are specifically to help us practice or put into physical terms our love of G-d. It is simply that.
Now what else strikes us about the pasuk is that instead of speaking about our love of G-d or for G-d the pasuk says ‘Ma Ahavtih Toratechah’, how much do I love your Torah. Which means that it is not only that we are being given a chance to express our love, our emotions, in a physical way but that we feel that we have a tangible expression of G-d’s love for us beyond life.
Obviously life is a gift from G-d. Look around you, all of the different blessings that we have are gifts from G-d. But Torah is a much deeper expression because Torah is a way, not only of giving something to someone, but giving them and saying, “When I gave you something, this is what it means.”
If I give someone a gift and I say, “Here, here is a gift.” And I do not write a card with it, it is not quite the same as if I wrote a card. And you see that people who get a gift from someone they really care about often read the card before they open the gift because the card will mean more to them then the gift. And usually if the card says, “Oh, love so-and-so,” you know a nice Hallmark card and a lot of so-and-so, you know there is a little lump because you really want there to be more then just a general expression. You want there to be some explanation of it.
You have plenty of marriages where one spouse will always buy gifts for the other spouse. And it is simply a way of making up for what the spouse is not giving in meaningful ways. Buying jewelry and perfume and what else is it you want. So you could buy anything it is you want and it is a way of avoiding certain levels of intimacy or avoiding other things that you really want to have.
What Torah is a way of saying, “Not only have I given you things, but I have written you a love letter with it.”
So the love that is expressed through these mitzvot in Sefer Ahavah, the Book of Love, is not simply a way to help express our love for G-d in physical ways but it is an expression of love in physical ways for a love that we receive in very physical ways that all of these physical gifts come with an explanation.
Now the next thing is just the introduction in the Sefer is the fact that the end of the pasuk is Kol Hayom Hih Sichatih. That the entire day, it is all I talk about. Which means that it is something on my mind all the time.
Now what is on my mind? Is it my love for G-d, or G-d’s Torah, that is on my mind all the time? Or is it the Torah that is the source of my conversation. How much do I love your Torah? The entire day. The entire day it is my conversation.
So now what it is telling us is it is obviously giving us a clue that some of these mitzvot will obviously be talking mitzvot. But some of them are other things you have to talk about the mitzvah. It has to be important enough for you that you talk about it not only in the context of the mitzvah. So that would mean that every mitzvah here is a mitzvah that goes beyond its immediate context. It is something that you will talk about all the time. Audience: “Which is what we are doing.”
What we are doing here, we are talking about it a little too much. But why do we not just stop?
Audience: “Do you think that what you ever say is that but people that perform mitzvot without the content of what is fulfilling and putting your Neshama into it, it is empty. Basically what here it is saying is that it is the love put into it.”
Well said. You might as well give the class.
Audience: “I just want to show you that I am learning something from you.”
I am learning something from you too.
Audience: “What is that?” To be open-minded.
The different section in Sefer Ahavah are the laws of Kriyat Shema, the laws of Shemona Esrei, and included in the laws of Shemona Esrei are the laws of Birchat Kohanim. Obviously if the Rambam puts one law with the other that is the Rambam’s way of sending you a message. So we will have to figure out what that message is and you know since Claudio is so hot today I am sure he will figure it out. The next are the laws of Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah. Now they have more in common then the fact that all of them have to be written in parchment and with a quill. So that is the connection between these three mitzvot. There is more to them then that, okay? Audience: “What about physical manifestations?” They are all physical manifestations, yes. That is true. Then comes the laws of Tzizit. So if it was physical manifestations, Tzizit would have been with Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah. Next part is the laws of blessings and the next comes the laws of circumcision.