"You shall love the Eternal your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might" (Deut. 6:5).
Two Well-Dressed Friends
Two friends, both well-dressed, but what a difference! Jack works in a high-profile position in a prestigious firm. He has a well-stocked wardrobe, yet he does not get very much pleasure from his many suits. Jack would prefer to walk around in a casual shirts and blue jeans, but he knows that if he didn't wear the finest suits and the sharpest ties, he could end up losing his job.
Charles, on the other, loves the feel and look of elegant clothing. His closet is filled with dozens of fancy suits, ties, fine shirts and dress shoes. Charles loves shopping for new clothes and wearing the latest style.
Both friends wear expensive clothing, but we can see clearly the difference in their attitudes towards clothes if they were to meet a famous clothes designer.
Jack, who wears fancy clothes only because his job, will feel a certain sense of resentment when meeting the designer. If the designer had not invented these clothes, there would be no need to buy them and wear them!
Charles, on the other hand, would be excited and even grateful to have the opportunity to meet the person who designed such wonderful articles of clothing. For Charles, this person enabled him express himself with beautiful suits.
Love and Fear
The difference between Jack and Charles is the difference between a person who serves God out of fear and one who serves God with love.
Those whose service is based on Yirah, fear of Heaven, will feel a certain resentment that they must carry the burden of Torah and mitzvot. Like Jack and his business suits, they keep mitzvot out of a sense of duty and obligation. They want to do the right thing, but they would be a lot happier if there were fewer rules and laws.
Those who serve God with love, on the other hand, perform mitzvot with a true feeling of gratitude. They are delighted with the opportunity to fulfill God's Will, and are appreciative of each mitzvah. They see the Torah as a way to connect to God, a vehicle that enables their inner soul express its love for its Creator.
Rav Huna taught that a scholar who fails to recite a blessing before studying Torah will not merit to have children who are Torah scholars. Why is this?
When we recite a blessing before Torah study, we indicate our appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to study God's Torah and perform His mitzvot. Only a person with this positive attitude will succeed in passing on these values to the next generation.
(Adapted from Meshalim Ve-gam Sipurim Le-no'ar ule-kol Beit Yisra'el, p. 57)