- Love for Hashem's Kindness & Goodness toward you. (love based on reward)
- Love because Hashem overlooks your transgressions & freely forgives you, even atoning for your sins. (love based on fear)
- Love on account of Hashem's Infinite Greatness & Unfathomable Glory, and on account of your reverence for Hashem's Essence – and not because you expectations to get something from Hashem or because of you fear of punishment for disobedience, but just pure love. (pure love, the highest form)
Please note that loving Hashem for what He gives you or that He forgives you are still VERY, VERY GOOD forms of love.
Ultimately, we want to reach the level of pure untainted love (#3). But the other forms are still fantastic.
So here are some exercises to increase the above forms of love:
Exercise #1 to Increase Your Love based on Reward
- Think about all the times Hashem has answered your prayers. Say out loud, "Thank You, Hashem, for making sure I didn't miss the bus when I asked You for help," and any other incidents you can think of, whether major or minor.
- Think about how good you feel when you've done a mitzvah or overcome your yetzer hara, and think about the wonderful reward waiting for you, a nice chunk of which you receive in This World too.
- Think about the positive middah k'neged middah acts you've received that are clearly connected to something positive you've done. (You can also write these down.)
- Think about how good it is that you were born or became a Jew, and how much reward you get for that.
Unless you've already undergone a positive Near Death Experience, imagining Heavenly Reward isn't so possible within our narrow 3-dimensional world. So I think the best thing to do is try to hook on that emotion of pleasure. You could also dance, especially for the last one.
Maybe there are other, better ways to do it, but that's all I could think of. Suggestions are welcome!
Exercise #2 to Increase Your Love based on Healthy Fear
- Think of something you've done that was very bad or makes you burn with shame to this day, but that you never got caught for or never suffered consequences from (as far as you can tell, anyway). Think of how nice it is of Hashem that He didn't punish you for it. Apologize for it now & thank him for not walloping you.
- Think of the times you spoke lashon hara or made a snide comment or spewed an angry word or words of kefirah, and how your tongue never fell out. Yishtabach Shemo! Apologize to Hashem & thank Him for not harming the very apparatus with which you sinned. Hashem keeps you going even when you use your God-given gifts against Him.
- Think of all the things you've seen that you shouldn't and how Hashem never struck you blind. Yishtabach Shemo! Thank Him for that. It's so nice of Him. You keep disobeying Him and He keeps taking really good care of you and giving you second chances thousands of times.
- Feel free to keep on going with the above using other parts of your body or your possessions. LUXURIATE in the relief you feel for His Great Mercy upon you.
Exercise #3 to Increase Your Love based on Pure Love
But giving it my best shot, I think that...
- ...thanking Hashem for both the good & the bad is one way to this. Thank Him for 1 minute or 5 or 20 or more. Or write down 20 or 100 gratitudes to Hashem.
- ...imagining unimaginable things, like the vastness of the Universe, the comets & asteroids zooming through space, all your thoughts (including the unconscious ones), your intricate bodily processes that you don't even sense – and think about how Hashem has complete mastery of them all, that He is fully aware of it all, that He created it all and causes it to continue to function so smoothly. Then think about how everything Hashem does for you & knows about you...He does this for every single one of the billions of people on the planet all at the same time ALL the time.
(To be continued...)
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Click here to continue to Part 3.