Would anyone confuse Ahavas Hashem and
It would seem that not. It is hard to even imagine that
anyone would get confused between these two very basic
Both of the mitzvos occur in parshas Voeschanon. The
mitzvah of Emunoh is the first of the Ten
Commandments: "I am Hashem your G-d . . . " The mitzvah to
love Hashem, Ahavas Hashem, is in the first paragraph
of Krias Shema: "And you should love Hashem your G-d .
. . "
Certainly no one would confuse them because they appear near
each other in Devorim. Emunoh, basic faith in Hashem,
is clearly something very different from loving Hashem, and
loving Hashem is not the same as believing in Him. I can
believe that a certain man exists, but that does not imply
that I love him. Conversely, I may love a certain idea even
though it is wildly impractical and far from being real or
What is Emunoh?
Emunoh is knowing "the foundation of all foundations
and the pillar of all wisdom" (Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah
1:1). Notice that Emunoh is knowing a particular
thing. Of course that "thing" in this case is a highly
exalted fact, but nonetheless, Emunoh is knowing a
What we must know to fulfill Emunoh is that "there is
a First Being, and He makes everything else exist, and all
creatures, from the Heavens and Earth and everything between
them have existence only because of the reality of His
existence" (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 1:1). The Rambam
continues in the next six halachos to explain this fact that
must be known and to note some of its details. At the end of
Halochoh 6, the Rambam summarizes: "Knowing this is a
positive Commandment (mitzvas aseih)."
Emunoh is the basis of our lives and also the basis of
everything that we know. It is "the foundation of all
foundations and the pillar of all wisdom" meaning that
everything that there is, is built upon this, and that is why
the Rambam calls it "the foundation of all foundations."
Furthermore, it is the basis of all knowledge and wisdom, and
that is why he calls it "the pillar of all wisdom."
These are not just arbitrary terms of praise that the Rambam
is heaping upon the content of the first mitzvah —
although they are great praise — but rather they are
also technical descriptions that have specific consequences
and meanings. Everything is built upon Emunoh and must
be built upon Emunoh.. Any proposal that is not built
upon this bedrock, has nothing beneath it and is
Just as the world itself stands upon the truth of Hashem, so
our knowledge which is hopefully a mental representation of
what is in the world, must also have Hashem at its base. If
it does not, then it is obviously not truly a representation
of the world.
Once we have achieved this Emunoh, we must love the
One in Whom we believe, as the posuk says, "And you
shall love Hashem your G-d" (Devorim 6:5).
What is Love? And What is Love of Hashem?
In contrast to Emunoh, love is not knowing some fact,
but having a relationship with a loved one. This contrast is
worth developing at greater length.
Belief or knowledge are entirely within ourselves. To
properly fulfill the mitzvah of Emunoh, we have no
need of anything outside of ourselves. For example, to
believe in the coming of the Moshiach, we do not have to have
him, the Melech HaMoshiach. Even though we of course await
his coming every day, we believe in him even though he has
not yet come. Clearly, all the generations that have passed
so far in which Moshiach has not come, have nonetheless fully
fulfilled the mitzvah of believing in his coming.
Insofar as Emunoh is like this, it does not require
the presence of the object of our belief. Emunoh is
like knowledge, but the object of the knowledge is not part
of the knowledge. If I know that a man or a woman exists,
even if it is a specific man or woman, I do not thereby have,
and I have no need whatsoever to have, that man or woman
present in order to complete my knowledge in any way. My
knowledge or belief is complete in every way even if the
object is as far away as could be.
So Emunoh is like knowledge. But love is not something
entirely within us. Rather, it includes a relationship with
something other than ourselves, something outside of
Love is a positive relationship between a lover and a
beloved. Most people would probably say that love is more
than a simply "positive relationship" but it is certainly not
less than that and whatever is additional need not concern us
here (and can only be distracting to consider).
In order to truly love something, that thing must be present.
There cannot be a real relationship between myself and
something else if that something else does not exist, and in
order to consummate the relationship, I must actually have
that thing present.
If we want to love Hashem, in order to fulfill the mitzvah we
have to love Hashem, we need to have Him present, as it
As we approach the fulfillment of the mitzvah of Love of
Hashem, we can assume that we have already fulfilled the
mitzvah of Emunoh. We already know and believe that "there is
a First Being, . . ." etc.
But where is He? The dry knowledge that He exists does not
bring in its wake any relationship with Him.
I must search for Him; I must find Him; and I must love
How does one seek Him? How does one find Him?
The Rambam teaches us in the following sections (Hilchos
Yesodei HaTorah 2:2): "And how is the way to love of Him?
. . . one contemplates His deeds and His great and wondrous
creatures, and one sees from these the wisdom of G-d . . .
The end of that chapter and the following two are devoted to
a presentation of the details of what the Rambam calls "His
deeds and His great and wondrous creatures," whom he
recommends that we contemplate in order to see "the wisdom of
G-d — that it is immeasurable and unbounded."
Some of the subjects that the Rambam deals with in these
three chapters were also subjects that were dealt with in the
Rambam's day by non-Jewish intellectuals and researchers.
There is a very widespread conception that what the Rambam
brings in these chapters was refuted or disproved in the
course of scientific progress over the eight centuries since
the Rambam wrote his Mishneh Torah.
However it is clear, even to someone who only reads the
Rambam's presentation in a very superficial way, that this
conception is wrong for at least part of the matters that are
brought in these chapters, and it can even be said that the
majority of the material in these chapters is of this
In my opinion this conception is entirely mistaken. These
matters, generally speaking, were not disproved but merely
abandoned. Researchers, "men of science," put these matters
on the side, defined them as outside of the realm of
scientific interest, and raced ahead with explosive
development of what they regarded as within their boundaries
of interest. However no serious questions were even asked
upon what the Rambam actually said.
What are the first details about "His deeds and His great and
wondrous creatures" that the Rambam actually presents? "All
that Hakodosh Boruch Hu has created in His world can
be divided into three categories: Some are creatures composed
of both matter and form . . . (like the bodies of man, of
animals, of plants and the metals) . . . Some are creatures
composed of matter and form, but they do not change, . . .
but their form is eternally fixed . . . (and they are the
Heavenly spheres, and the stars within them and their matter
is not like other matter and their forms are not like other
forms), and some are composed of form without any matter
— and these are the angels . . . "
The Rambam continues, explaining what angels are, and how
they are distinguished one from another, and the nature of
this distinction, and that these matter-less forms are living
and they recognize the Creator, and they know Him in a very
great way . . . " The Rambam continues in this vein, covering
important insights into the way HaKodosh Boruch Hu
knows Himself, and other such insights.
In the time of the Rambam, these matters were considered
areas of interest for a typical scientific researcher. The
scientists of our day in fact see themselves as the heirs of
those researchers. But it should be clear that none of the
statements in these matters was ever disproved or even could
be disproved by empirical science. It was all just shoved
aside as being outside the area of competence of modern
science whose interest is self-limited — strictly,
arrogantly, and with false and somewhat silly pride —
to the sensible world. Anything that is not fully sensible is
elbowed aside with, in some unfortunate cases, a disdain that
has no foundation. (Of course, it is well-known that there
are many modern scientists who are fully religiously
observant.) Modern science tends to look down its nose at
those matters which are outside its self-limited area of
competence, for example, refusing — or trying to refuse
— to allow them to be taught in the same classrooms.
End of Part I