Love of God - Whose Obligation Is It?

Rivka Olenick
Shimon the Righteous was one of the last of the Men of the Great Assembly. He used to say: "The world stands on three things - on the Torah, service and deeds of kindness." Pirkei Avos 1:2
In developing one's love of God, avas Hashem men and women have to be involved in the three things that the world stands on - Torah, service and good deeds. There is no other way to love God. A person can have an appreciation for the entire system of Torah, but how can one have a real appreciation for the system unless one learns what the system is? How can anyone be involved in service, performing the commandments if we don't understand what the commandments mean? If performing deeds of kindness are based on the Will of The Creator than every person has to know what His will is, and why and how we perform it. So, doesn't everyone, male and female have a chiuv, an obligation of avas Hashem, love of God?
"But how come I don't have an obligation to learn Torah?" women often ask. Why does one need an obligation to obtain knowledge? Obtaining this knowledge is voluntary. Would you involve yourself in learning and love of God only as an obligation - isn't there a need to know what your real purpose in life is which is to develop love of God?
After the Torah reading on the Sabbath we say: "It is a tree of life for those who grasp it, and its supporters are praiseworthy. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace. Lengthy days are at its right; at its left are wealth and honor. Hashem desired for the sake of its righteousness, that the Torah be made great and glorious." Didn't God give the Torah to us to maintain its' greatness and to continuously glorify it's greatness? The Creator has given us all the wonderful gifts life has to offer, family, our homes, our physical needs met and the means to sustain our lives. The Sabbath, the holidays, and the opportunity for continuous enjoyment that thought and wisdom provide are also gifts! We express our appreciation for the greatest gift of Torah through the obligation of love of God and we do this with sincere gratitude. Isn't our existence based on fulfilling a purpose? Isn't that purpose to fulfill the Will of God and have love of God? Isn't this the only reason we were created? It is. So, a woman may learn as much as she wants in any area voluntarily if that's what she desires. To enhance her love of God, she is obligated to learn and understand the commandments that were given specifically to her: taking challa and candle lighting and the laws of family purity given to married woman. All three commandments were given to her so that she may continuously sanctify her home all of her life. The mitzvah of procreation for man cannot be realized unless it is placed in the care of women through her immersion into the mikvah. This mitzvah is absolutely essential to Jewish life and it is her responsibility to protect it carefully and to guard it. Obligation in this mitzvah is a prerequisite in fulfilling her purpose as a wife and when understood thoroughly greatly enhances her love of God. It would benefit all women to examine this commandment much more carefully whether you are married or not yet married - it is the foundation in preserving Jewish family life. It is woman alone who engages her entire being into this commandment. There are no external objects needed in this commandment - she is the ritual vessel - she is completely immersed in the process of purity. God has endowed her physically and intellectually with the means to perform this commandment that can have a deep and profound effect in connection to her devotion and love of God.
In the Shemonah Esri we recite the blessing for Insight and we ask the Creator to provides us with wisdom, insight and discernment. Men and women, ask God that these attributes be given to us. We need them in order to fulfill our purpose, to have greater awareness and understanding of our lives and to set up our lives according to its' true purpose. Knowledge itself is a reward, a gift and it is an investment in the self, the soul that is part of one's involvement in one's perfection. This investment in the self is what keeps a person strong and brings peace of mind. Love of God is an obligation we all have. All the popular novels people "just can't wait" to read are really very empty and hollow compared to the ideas contained in Torah. When we "just can't wait" to read these novels do we make any investment in the self or in our purpose - are we receiving any reward and do our minds really feel fulfilled and are we genuinely happy? No, there is no investment or reward, the fulfillment is momentary and happiness is an impossibility. Precious time is lost and our minds are filled with waste! It is so much more mentally exhilarating when we "just can't wait" to learn ideas. The quality of the happiness that results is genuinely satisfying - it is real happiness.
God commanded Jewish men to be the transmitters of the Torah. Torah is our greatest and most precious gift ever given and is absolutely essential for having love of God. Every Jewish man needs to take their obligation much more seriously and make it a priority in life if they haven't. Women are also transmitters of Torah, that begins in their home but women are not obligated in time bound commandments that men are bound by. Nevertheless, men and women need to make Torah the center of their existence and encourage each other to understand and uncover the truths of Torah. As we each align ourselves with truth, which is true reality that brings all of us onto the path of God- the path, the way, the derech that He provided for us.
"Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving the created beings, and bringing them near to the Torah." Pirkei Avos 1:12

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