3.19 Types of Love

Based on Chovos HaLevavos - Shaar Ahavas Hashem (Chapter 2)

In order to describe the different types of love that one might have for God, the Chovos HaLevavos employs the metaphor of the different types of love that a servant might have for his master. This comes in three kinds:

(1) A servant might love his master because the master treats him kindly;

(2) A servant might love his master because the master overlooks his misdeeds and grants him forgiveness;

(3) A servant might love his master simply because of the master's own inherent greatness and not because of any favor that the servant expects to receive.

These are the ways in which we might also love God. The third is the highest and most pure form of love. This is the love referred to when the Torah says to love God with all our heart, soul and might (Deuteronomy 6:5). These three things refer to demonstrating our love with our bodies, our money and our honor. All three are necessary because some people value their bodies most of all, while others value their money above all, and still others value the honor their most (see Talmud Brachos 61b).

Heart, soul and might also reflect the different ways in which people might love one another. Some people are willing to be generous to their loved ones with their money; others, with their money and their bodily efforts; still others, with their money, their bodily efforts, and their very souls. This was the love between David and Jonathan, of whom it was said "He loved him as he loved his own soul" (I Samuel 20:17). The Torah therefore stresses that love of God must include all three of these components. One must be willing to sacrifice all of them in order to fulfill God's will.

The Sages also explained that to love God with all of one's heart means to utilize both the good inclination and the evil inclination in the service of God. To love Him with all of one's soul means even if He takes one's soul. With all of one's might means even if He takes all of one's possessions (Brachos 54a).

Finally, "with all" might mean to the exclusion of all else. Anything else we love must be for the sake of God. If we love something else, it must be something that pleases Him. In this way, our love for other things will be a subset of our love for God.

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