3.21 - Signs of One Who Loves God
(Based on Chovos HaLevevos, Shaar Ahavas Hashem chapter 6)
People who love God exhibit a number of signs.
First of all, they reject a surplus of material things, as these distract one from the service of God.
People who love God have a visible “fear” (yirah, meaning awe or reverence) of Him, as per Exodus 20:16, “that His fear be on your faces so you do not sin.” Fear of punishment is a lesser level of yirah; if one were immune to punishment, this fear would dissipate. The higher level is awe of God’s greatness. This kind of yirah is with one always and never goes away. This is what we mean when we speak of “God-fearing people.”
Another sign of one who loves God is that he doesn’t care whether others praise him or criticize him when he encourages them to do the right thing.
One who loves God will give up anything at all – even his life – in order to fulfill God’s will, as per Psalms 44:23, “Because of You, we are killed all day long.”
A person who loves God constantly mentions Him. He praises and thanks God all the time as per Psalms 71:8, “My mouth will be filled with Your praise, all day with Your glory.” He does not, however, use the Name of God lightly, such as in curses or unnecessary oaths.
One who loves God qualifies his commitments with “God willing” or similar words. This is because he recognizes that he may die before being able to fulfill his word, or that God may simply not desire that he be successful.
Such a person tries to direct others towards the service of God, from the highest king to the lowest commoner, as King Solomon wrote, “So that a wise person might hear and add to his knowledge, and a person of understanding may acquire insight” (Proverbs 1:5). Even if a person achieves the highest levels of devotion to God and has the most impeccable personal characteristics, his merit would not equal that of a person who leads others to the service of God, whose merits increase exponentially.
A person who loves God rejoices in his positive traits – which is very different from being egotistical about them – and he mourns over his sins as per Psalms 119:136, “My eyes run with streams of water because they do not observe Your Torah.”
The one who loves God fasts by day, if he has the physical ability to do so. He prays at night, which is a simpler, more sincere form of prayer since one has solitude and is unaffected by the “observer effect.” This is reflected by such verses as Isaiah 26:9, “My soul yearns for You in the night,” and Shir HaShirim 3:1, “By night on my bed I sought the One Whom my soul loves….” King David also refers to nighttime prayer many times in the Book of Psalms.
Another sign that one loves God is that he delights in Him (“I will rejoice in Hashem; I will glory in the God of my salvation” – Habakkuk 3:18). He longs to be close to God and His Torah (“I have taken Your laws as a heritage forever for they are the delight of my heart” – Psalms 119:111). He reveres those who fear God (“I am friend to all who fear You” - Psalms 119:63).