You Shall Love- Part Four


By Rav Eyal Israel Sternlieb

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

Okay, it’s understandable- to put the emphasis in our life on loving instead of succeeding, to connect to the courtroom of Hashem where I’m loved and I’m just trying to improve myself, instead of having guilty feelings and beating myself up in the courtroom that I invented.

However, in reality, how do we love?  What’s the key?  How should one start?

Love is becoming one with another person, and for this I need to clear a place inside of me, in order to give to someone else the possibility to enter into my heart.

This is the secret of nullification!

Wait a moment… what do you mean to become nullified, in any case I’m already totally nullified and crushed for my family, and I’ve become the official taxi driver of my children, without vacations or sick days.  I’ve become the official shopper for my wife, and this is all in addition to the regular activities of the home, cleaning, changing diapers, cooking for Shabbat, I have nothing else to nullify… if only this would lead to the desired love; however there’s nothing, no love in sight.

Okay, before you stop reading this article in aggravation and go back to washing the floor, let’s try to open ourselves up to a new understanding of what is nullification.

Nullification is a level in the service of Hashem, so it certainly doesn’t mean being erased and crushed.  What is it?

The Mishna[1] says: “Nullify your will before His will.”[2]

The first condition of nullification is that you have a will which you want to nullify.  The situation you described is not nullification but rather appeasement, that is to say that you don’t have any will of your own, rather just an expectation that everyone around you will be satisfied, and this comes from fear that they won’t love or appreciate you.  The subject hiding behind the curtains is you, and therefore you feel small, a victim, and bitter pretty often, because you yourself crush your will…

Love is when there is full, clear, legitimate and respected will in my daily life.

Will in all areas begins with the question which I’m supposed to ask myself everyday- what do I want to eat today, to wear, who do I want to meet, and continuing with what do I want from my spouse and children, and what Torah do I want to learn, what place does my heart desire in the service of Hashem.

And now, when I have will, even when it’s just sprouting, I can choose to direct my will to love Hashem, my spouse and my children, and everyone who is connected to me.

Love appears when I concentrate my will in connecting with the other person, to do good for them and make them happy.

This is “you shall love your fellow as yourself”.  I’ve taken the “as yourself” which is alive inside of me and connected it to “your fellow.”  This is true nullification which brings light and vitality.

One end of the spectrum is when I have no will and I’m just acting out of fear, and the other end of the spectrum is when I’m focusing just on myself and I live in separation.  Nullification is the middle path where I connect my will to the other person.

[1] The main book of teachings of the Sages of the Tannaic period

[2] The Ethics of the Fathers, 2:4

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