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B'siyata d'shmaya - With the help of Heaven



by Haham Eliezer Papo, Sarajevo (Ottoman Turkish Empire) 5545 / 1785 CE

There is no virtue greater than the love of God; it is the basis for the entire service of the Almighty-and indeed-all of Judaism. The service of God inspired by love differs qualitatively from that inspired by fear.

To love God is one of the 613 commandments. It is a precept which is fulfilled by remaining continuously aware of it. This great commandment can be fulfilled only when you attain the recognition that it is proper to love your Creator with an intense love.

Commandments involving thought alone can be continuously fulfilled, for you are always thinking. It is therefore necessary to take great efforts to keep away all inappropriate and negative thoughts.

It is natural to love someone who benefits you, especially someone who provides you with all your needs. You may wonder: "How can I possibly repay this person who has treated me so generously? Were I to live a thousand years, I would be unable to thank him enough!" You would likewise certainly love someone who saved you from illness or great pain. If the person saved you from death, your love would increase greatly. It is then clearly many times more fitting to love the Creator Who is the source of all the good in this world. It is God, blessed-be-He, Who put in the heart of His creations the desire to help one another.

If you suffered many vicissitudes and were saved, you are obligated to love God Who saved you, redeemed you, and showed you compassion in your difficult times. This is all the more true if God, in His mercy, spared you from the evils which normally befall this world.

King David said, "Every soul (neshamah) shall praise God" (Psalms 150:6). This is interpreted to mean that we are obligated to praise God for each and every breath (neshimah).

How can we Jews adequately praise God for His unlimited kindness? He does not even punish us measure for measure for our sins! We should focus on the details of all the blessings God has bestowed upon us from the day we were conceived, and on all the many evils-both apparent and hidden-from which we were spared.

All of our material benefits are inconsequential as compared to the spiritual gifts God has bestowed upon us-which are the true, incomparable good. A Jew should rejoice in his Maker Who chose us from all the peoples, gave us the true Tora, and planted eternal life within us. He sanctified us with His commandments through which we will merit to inherit the blessings of the World-to-Come, and chose us to serve Him and to bless His Name.

You can reach a higher level of love when you attain the incomparable virtue of serving Him without thought of reward. Consider how much honor the King bestowed on the humble ones whom He chose to serve Him. How many great things has God done for us beyond our comprehension! In truth, you should rejoice over the good things that happen in this world because through them you are able to reach the greater good, namely, the service of the Almighty. Desire life and blessings only because they will assist you in the service of God, blessed be His Name.

God gave His Tora to all of Israel. He furthermore endowed some individuals with strength, health, peace and tranquilityenabling them to dwell in the House of Study. Others have been additionally blessed with wisdom and understanding, enabling them to conduct their lives properly and uprightly. With these manifold blessings they are able to find favor in the eyes of God and man.

Love the Eternal with a powerful love. Appreciate the wealth of blessings you have received and recognize that you are unworthy of many of them. These thoughts should permeate your heart until it burns with a flaming love for your Creator.

Another kind of love stems from intelligence. This is called the love of exaltedness. Since a wise person loves perfection, it follows that he loves God Who is the true Perfection. The more you engage in Tora study, fulfill God's commandments, and walk in His ways, the more will your love for God increase; conversely, the laxer you become in your study of Tora and fulfillment of the mitzvot, the more will your love wane.

Sins create a barrier between man and God. They confuse the mind, block good from reaching us and make us to be incapable of concentrating on loving and fearing Him. It is therefore important to devote specific times each day to studying such holy books as Reishit Hokhmah, Howt HaLevavot, Sefer HaBerit and similar texts.

The love and fear of God can be aroused from mundane things. For example, if you enjoy any pleasure of this world, contemplate: "If I love these things that are meaningless and ephemeral, how much more should I love the Creator Who is the source of all good things of life!" You will then free your thoughts from the love of material things to cling to the love of your Master. In a similar vein, whenever you fear something, tell yourself, "Why should I fear something transitory? I should fear God instead!"

The degree of your attainment of the love and fear of God will depend on the extent of your commitment to studying Tora with all your heart, soul and might. When you are as happy in fulfilling God's word as you would be upon discovering a treasure; when you are concerned lest you waste even a moment without studying Tora or fulfilling mitzvot-you will have achieved a proper level of love for your Creator.

Be eager to fulfill God's word even if it involves a material loss. You will thus demonstrate that your love for Him exceeds your love for your possessions.

While attending to your worldly needs, keep in mind that their ultimate purpose is to help you serve God. All your deeds should be for the sake of Heaven, as the verse states: "Know Him in all your ways, and He will straighten your paths" (Proverbs 3:6). This is a great Tora principle. If you keep it in mind you will not stray from the proper path.

There are many kinds of love incumbent upon a person-all of them flow from the primary love, the love of God.


This is from Haham Papo's Pele Yoetz (An Encyclopedia of Ethical Living) which is available in all Jewish bookstores. The Pele Yoetz was first printed in Constantinople, Turkey in 5585 /1825 CE. It was popular among both Sephardim and Ashkenazim across Europe and Asia. The work has been printed in Hebrew, Ladino, Judeo-German, Arabic and German.