It has previously been noted that the higher level of love can come about only after one’s fear of G‑d is total. However, the lower level of love may sometimes come about, as shall soon be explained, even without being preceded by the fear of G‑d.
והנה בחינת אהבה זו, פעמים שקודמת ליראה, כפי בחינת הדעת המולידה, כנודע שהדעת כולל חסדים וגבורות, שהם אהבה ויראה
This [latter] category of love sometimes precedes fear, according to the quality of the Daat which fathers it, as is known. (For Daat incorporates both Chassadim and Gevurot, which are love and fear; Chessed is love and Gevurah is fear. Daat reveals both these emotions. Thus, binding one’s Daat intensely to the greatness of G‑d gives rise to both feelings, fear and love,
ופעמים שהחסדים קודמים לירד ולהתגלות
and sometimes the Chassadim descend and manifest themselves first).
The Chassadim may sometimes precede the Gevurot; this means that Daat may sometimes evoke love before fear.
ולכן אפשר לרשע ובעל עבירות שיעשה תשובה מאהבה הנולדה בלבו, בזכרו את ה׳ אלקיו
Therefore it is possible for a wicked and sinful person to repent by virtue of the love that is born in his heart at the time he remembers the L‑rd his G‑d.
Although up to the point of his repentance he was wicked, and lacked a fear of G‑d, still there may be born in him a love for G‑d that will lead him to repent.
ומכל מקום, היראה גם כן כלולה בה ממילא, רק שהיא בבחינת קטנות והעלם, דהיינו, יראת חטא למרוד בו, חס ושלום, והאהבה היא בהתגלות לבו ומוחו
At any rate, fear, too, is included therein — in the love, as a matter of course, except that it is [there] in a state of “minuteness” and “concealment”, namely, as the fear of sin — of rebelling against Him, G‑d forbid, while the love is in a revealed state in his heart and mind, so that consciously the individual is only aware of a love for G‑d.
אך זהו דרך מקרה והוראת שעה בהשגחה פרטית מאת ה׳ לצורך שעה, כמעשה דרבי אלעזר בן דורדייא
However, such a case — where the wicked and sinful person should suddenly attain a love of G‑d and become a penitent — where love precedes fear is an extraordinary occurrence, and an “emergency prescription,” through G‑d’s particular providence as the occasion requires, as happened with Rabbi Elazar ben Durdaya, who had been sinful, and suddenly became a penitent, repenting out of a love for G‑d. Indeed, so intense was his penitence that it caused his soul to depart his body.
This was an “emergency prescription” required for that occasion. For it is written that Rabbi Elazar ben Durdaya was a gilgul — the reincarnated soul — of Yochanan the High Priest, who served in that office for eighty years and then became a Sadducee. All the Torah and mitzvot fulfilled by Yochanan were elevated through the transmigration of his soul into the body of Rabbi Elazar ben Durdaya, whose life-story followed the reverse course, that of a sinner who ultimately repented out of his love for G‑d.
אבל סדר העבודה הקבועה ותלויה בבחירת האדם, צריך להקדים תחלה קיום התורה והמצות על ידי יראה תתאה, בבחינת קטנות על כל פנים, בסור מרע ועשה טוב
However, the [regular] order of divine service, which is determined by and depends on a man’s choice, is to begin with the fulfillment of the Torah and mitzvot through yirah tata‘ah in its state of “minuteness” at least, departing from evil and doing good, i.e., refraining from committing any sins and performing all the mitzvot,
להאיר נפשו האלקית באור התורה ומצותיה
so as to illuminate his divine soul with the light of the Torah and its commandments,
ואחר כך יאיר עליה אור האהבה
whereupon the light of love will also shine upon it,
כי ואהבת בגימטריא ב׳ פעמים אור, כידוע ליודעי ח״ן
(for the word ve‘ahavta, (“And you shall love [the L‑rd your G‑d]”) has a numerical value twice that of or (“light”), as is known to those who are familiar with the Esoteric Discipline [of the Kabbalah]).
Thus, first must come the illumination earned by the fulfillment of Torah and mitzvot; only then can one be granted the illumination of experiencing a love of G‑d.