Thursday, February 7, 2008

How to Attain Love of Hashem - Bilvavi

Rav Shwartz, in Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Vol. 2, perek 23, writes about attaining Ahavas Hashem, love of Hashem. He points out the well known fact that there are two types of love; dependant love and independant love (Avos 5:16- כל אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר--בטל דבר, בטלה אהבה; ושאינה תלויה בדבר, אינה בטילה לעולם). One of the things that's so great about learning Bilvavi is that Rav Shwartz just gives over the most simple, and yet profound ideas from a new and refreshing angle that I'd never heard before. He says that this is really a two-stage process.

I'd always looked at the Mishna in Avos as saying that you should strive not to be like one who loves Hashem with a dependant love, but rather, you should love Hashem independant of anything. But Rav Shwartz says that instead, dependent love is one necessary and extreemly important stage along the path to attaining independent love of Hashem. This idea of looking at אהבה שהיא תלויה בדבר, dependent love as an ideal to be strived for, was new to me. I don't know whether this will be true of others or not, but this is a major point.

So how does one attain dependent love and independent love? And what's the difference between them, exactly?

He says that one attains dependent love of Hashem by meditating each day (during the Bilvavi's recommended 1 hour hisbonenus & periodic brief hisbonenus'n throughout the day) on the good things (hatava) that Hashem does for him. Hashem gives a person all of the physical things he has, all of the emotional blessings and health that he has, and all of the kochos that allow him to "accomplish" all of the things that he accomplishes. By thinking about this, the person should ask himself, "Why is Hashem doing all of this for me? It must only be because He loves me." And this constant recognition of all that Hashem does for him will create a feeling of love for Hashem.

One problem with this is that to the extent that a person experiences yisurin, suffering, he will not feel that Hashem is doing good to him. And this, in turn, will prevent him from attaining Ahavas Hashem.

There are two methods of overcoming this difficulty when trying to attain Ahavas Hashem, notwithstanding the yissurin, on the road to attaining dependent love. Both represent two different ways of seeing how the yissurin, the "bad" things, are really "good," and are another way of Hashem doing good to/for the person.

One method is for the person to think of other times in his life when something "bad" happened to him, and he was very upset about it at the time. And then, the person looks back and sees how, after time, this event turned out to be good in the end. A person can then think, "Just like all of those other times where I saw how something "bad" that happened to me turned out to be Hashem actually doing "good" to me, so too, today's yissurin also are Hashem doing something good to/for me." And this can allow the person to avoid his yissurin being an obstacle to attaining ahava hateluya b'davar, dependent love.

The other way is to realize that not only do we not understand how the "bad" is really good, but also to realize that we don't even understand how the "good" is good!!! Tehillim 92:6: "מְאֹד עָמְקוּ מַחְשְׁבֹתֶיךָ." "You're thoughts are very deep." If you think about how you are finite and you can never even hope to comprehend the depth of the good done by the Infinite One, much less how the "bad" that He does is really good. When one is mevatel themselves and connects to Emunah, and doesn't even try to use his intellect to understand why or how what Hashem does is for his benefit, for the good, then he can truly believe and feel that everything Hashem does is good, and use that to attain love of Hashem.

He says that this second level of attaining dependent Ahavas Hashem is the closest thing to Ahava She'eina t'luya b'davar, independent love. This is so since it is not really dependent on one's specific circumstances in life. No matter what those circumstances are, he uses those circumstances as evidence of how Hashem does good to him, and he uses this to attain Ahavas Hashem.

He goes on to also explain what independent love is, and how to attain it, but this post is already too long, so IY"H, I will write about that at another time. May we merit to work on attaining Ahavas Hashem, whether dependent or independent!

-Dixie Yid

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Anonymous said...

I love it! A new Rav Kook and a new Bilvavi in the same visit!

Anonymous said...

Don't forget to finish it...such a cliff-hanger. Shkoiyach. Gut purim!