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With an eternal love have You loved your people Israel, by teaching us the Torah and its commandments, laws and precepts. Therefore, Adonai our God, we shall meditate on Your laws when we lie down and when we rise up, and we shall rejoice in the words of Your Torah and Your commandments for ever. For they are our life and the length of our days, and we shall reflect upon them day and night.

O may You never remove Your love from us. Blessed are You, Adonai, Who loves your people Israel.

The second of the prayers surrounding the Shema praises God for showing love to the people of Israel. How did God manifest love to us? By interrupting, for one unforgettable moment, the immutable laws of the universe (which we have just acknowledged in the previous prayer) in order to make a personal appearance to us at Mt. Sinai. There we received the Ten Commandments, i.e., the cardinal principles that would provide the underpinning for an entire structure of laws and precepts by which we would need to regulate our lives.

By creating human beings with free will, God gave up the power to dictate our behavior. Instead, God offered us the Torah: so that we might freely choose to govern ourselves by the laws built into the universe itself, and without which our lives would descend into chaos. By limiting God’s power, and yet sharing with us the Rules of the Universe, the Eternal One manifested incredible love for us, as well as confidence in our ability to make the right choices.

We express our gratitude for God’s love in the ahavat olam prayer in the evening, and in the ahava raba prayer in the morning.

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