Section: Questions Category: Hashkafa
|Hashkafa - Ahavas Hashem|
|Submitted by Jake Answered by Rabbi Tzvi Frank|
You are quite right. The mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem is certainly not a simple physical attraction. In fact, according to classic commentaries quite the opposite is true. Inhibiting ones attraction to the physical is a precursor to working on Ahavas Hashem.
Ahavas Hashem is a work of a lifetime that requires much introspection, meditation, character refinement, perseverance and self-control.
The Chovos Halivavos dedicates the last and highest shaar to this lofty attribute and enumerates fourteen requirements that one must undertake before aspiring to become a true Ohev Hashem. There are many different levels in Ahavas Hashem. Every individual with his own personal character traits has specific obstacles that he will have to overcome to reach his own level of Ahavas Hashem. No two people are the same.
The full answer to your question is somewhat beyond the scope of this forum as it isn't a simple formula or concept to memorize. Learning through the classic sources is crucial for a thorough understanding of this mitzvah and applying oneself to the principles contained in these works takes hard work but is most definitely attainable.
Your second question regarding giving up ones life in the service of Hashem is inextricably intertwined with a good understanding of the mitzvah of Ahavas Hashem. Your premise that a person can reach greater heights by perfecting himself further were he alive is perplexing. Can a person reach a greater spiritual level than allowing his physical life be taken due to his spiritual conviction? Has this person not elevated himself to the highest possible level of spiritual perfection? A person who voluntarily gives his life has wholly internalized the idea that the spiritual transcends the physical. This person has come to the absolute recognition that his whole physical entity exists only for its spiritual potential.
How is it possible for someone to perfect himself to a higher degree than total perfection???
May Hashem never have to test us to the point that we must give our lives to demonstrate our Ahavas Hashem. May we rather have the opportunity to demonstrate our total Ahavas Hashem through LIVING Ahavas Hashem to our fullest potential as is articulated in the Chovos Halivavos mentioned above as well as in numerous other sefarim that deal with this lofty concept.
Hope this helps.