In this parsha we read the well known passage of Shema, which we are commanded to recite twice daily. Many questions can be asked about this passage, but we will only ask to explain the second verse (Devarim 6:5): “You shall love Hashem your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might”. What is the meaning of these three terms and what is the difference between them?

Obviously even a cursory discussion of Shma would require a whole book. We decided to concentrate on just one verse since it seems to be the most difficult one to understand even on the level of Pshat. Three terms are mentioned in this verse: Levavcha (your heart), Nafshecha (your soul) and Meodecha (usually translated as your might). We will first discuss the basic meaning of these expressions of love that is required from us. This can also help us every time we recite Shma, so we can concentrate on what we are saying.

The Talmud(Brochos 61b) tells us that loving Hashem with one’s whole heart means serving Him with both[1] our yetzer hatov and yetzer hara. Right before this, the Talmud mentions that the righteous people are ruled by their yetzer hatov, the wicked – by their yetzer hara, while average people are ruled by both. The GR”A explains that the righteous use even their physical desires only to serve Hashem. Thus even their partake of food, family relations and other ordinary activity is sanctified. On the other hand the wicked people do everything through their yetzer hara. Even when they learn Torah, their main desire is to become famous or to show off or to find mistakes in other people’s teachings. When they give tzedakah, they do it only to become known as righteous and generous people. At last, average people are “ruled” by both their yetzer hatov and their yetzer hara. Indeed we are required to strive to love and serve Hashem with all our hearts and with all our desires.

The second expression is: “with all your soul”. Our soul shall desire Hashem’s closeness more than anything else in the world. Our soul should be our main component that only uses the body to serve it. Then our thoughts and decisions will come from the soul with which we are commanded to love Hashem.

The third expression used is Meodecha. This word is very hard to translate. Its’ closest grammatical root is the word “Meod” – which means “very”. We are required to love Hashem very very much, as much as possible with our whole being, might and with all our possessions[2]. Moreover, in this world Hashem may not always give us the things we wanted, He may punish us even though at times we may not understand why. Still we are required to love Him regardless which “Mida[3]” (quality) He uses in His Rule over us.

The Zohar(2:27a) teaches us that the three types of love described here are related to the qualities of our forefathers. The love with one’s whole heart including the “right” and the “left” quality of the “heart” corresponds to Avraham and Yitzchak – the forefathers that represented “kindness” and “judgment”. Loving with one’s soul corresponds to Dovid, the author of Psalms. Indeed, the soul of Dovid and of his descendant, Melech Hamoshiach is a collective soul that includes our entire nation. Loving with one’s might and possessions corresponds to Yakov, who gave us all his property for Hashem. According to this, the correspondence of the qualities with which we are commanded to serve Hashem is as follows:

Avraham & Yitzchak had the sefirah of Chesed & Gevurah and taught us to love With both “sides” of one’s heart

Yakov had the sefirah of Tiferes and taught us to love With all of one’s might and possessions

Dovid HaMelech had the sefirah of Malchus and taught us to Love With one’s soul even if one has to die

May we deserve to truly love Hashem, becoming close to Him so that our souls will only desire to cling to the Living G-d and may we deserve to live until the times when Moshiach will come and this will become the aspiration of every living being!


[1] Indeed this is hinted by the way the word “heart” is written here with two letters “beis” – levavecha instead of libecha – with one “beis” (see Chizkuni Devarim 6:5). The right and the left sides of the heart are usually associated with the yetzer hatov and the yetzer hara.

[2] The word “Meod” also hints to possessions as the Talmud tells us. The reason for this is that usually possessions are measured quantitatively (see Ramban, Devarim 6:5).

[3] The word Mida is also related to the word Meod.

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