ובזה יובן מה שכתוב

With this explanation — that even a fear and love of G‑d which remain concealed in one’s mind and heart suffice to infuse one’s fulfillment of the commandments with vitality, thereby perfecting and elevating them, we will understand the verse:1

כי קרוב אליך הדבר מאד, בפיך ובלבבך לעשותו

“For this thing is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it.”

The verse states that it is easy for one to fulfill Torah and mitzvot with all three “garments” of the soul — thought, speech and action. The words “with your mouth” refer to speech, “with your heart” — to thought, and “that you may do it” refers to action. In a deeper sense, however, “your heart” refers not only to the power of thought, but also to the heart as the seat of the emotions — love, fear, and so on. The verse is telling us, then, that it is within easy reach of every Jew to fulfill the mitzvot with a feeling of awe and love of G‑d. Concerning this, the Alter Rebbe poses the question:

דלכאורה הוא בלבבך נגד החוש שלנו

At first glance, [the statement that “this thing is very near to you]…in your heart” seems contrary to our experience — in our experience we find that it is no simple feat to acquire a spirit of love and fear of G‑d.

והתורה היא נצחית

(2Yet the Torah is eternal),3 hence it could not refer only to Moses‘ generation — “a generation of understanding” — but must hold true for our own age as well.

שאין קרוב מאד הדבר, להפך לבו מתאוות עולם הזה לאהבת ה׳ באמת

In our experience we see that it is not a “very near thing” to change one’s heart from worldly desires to a sincere love of G‑d, for by nature one is inclined toward the former.

And as is written in The Duties of the Heart,4 “Desires for worldly pleasures are unable to dwell in the heart together with a love of G‑d.” In order to attain a love of G‑d, therefore, it is necessary for one to change his nature from one extreme to the other — by no means an easy matter!

וכמו שכתוב בגמרא: אטו יראה מילתא זוטרתי היא

Indeed, commenting on Moses‘ statement: “What does G‑d ask of you, but to fear Him?” the Talmud queries:5 “Is fear of heaven a small matter?”

This indicates, as the Rebbe points out, that even in Moses‘ generation (and surely in subsequent generations) it was no simple matter to acquire a fear of G‑d.

וכל שכן אהבה

And if this is true of fear of G‑d, then how much more so — a love of G‑d, for fear of G‑d is generally more easily attainable than love of G‑d.

Thus, not only our experience, but also this quotation from the Talmud seems to contradict the verse which states that fear and love of G‑d are “very near to you.”

וגם אמרו רז״ל דצדיקים דוקא לבם ברשותם

Moreover, our Sages also said6 that only tzaddikim have control over their hearts — to arouse a love and fear of G‑d whenever they so desire.

This latter quotation intensifies the question, as the Rebbe points out. Not only is it not “very near” to us to achieve a love of G‑d, but on the contrary, it is possible only for tzaddikim, who are a minority. Surely the Torah does not address only tzaddikim; how, then, can it state that a love of G‑d is very near to us, indicating that our heart is in our control, that we can divert it from mundane desires to a love of G‑d?

אלא דלעשותו רצונו לומר: האהבה המביאה לידי עשיית המצות בלבד

But the words “that you may do it” refer to a love which merely leads to the fulfillment of the commandments, although, strictly speaking, it is not an actual love.

The author thus interprets the words “that you may do it” as a qualification of the earlier phrase “for it is near to you…with your heart.” What is “near to you with your heart” (i.e., What sort of love is easily attainable)? That love which pertains to action (“that you may do it”).

Thereby we may also understand the order of the words in the verse. The words “in your mouth, in your heart, that you may do it” refer to the three “soul-garments” of thought, speech, and action, as we have observed earlier. However, the order in which they are listed in the verse is difficult to understand, for it seems to be neither an ascending order (action, speech, thought) nor a descending order (thought, speech, action). Why is the middle faculty, speech, put first, followed by thought (“in your heart”), and then action (“that you may do it”)? However, according to the interpretation of the words “that you may do it” given here, this is readily understood. These words follow immediately after the words “in your heart,” for they serve to explain and to qualify them: the love of which the verse speaks here (“in your heart”), is that which leads to action (“that you may do it”).

שהיא רעותא דלבא שבתעלומות לב, גם כי אינה בהתגלות לבו כרשפי אש

This means the hidden desire of the heart; even if it does not burn openly like a flaming fire, yet it can still lead one to fulfill the commandments.

ודבר זה קרוב מאד ונקל לכל אדם אשר יש לו מוח בקדקדו

This matter of arousing a love which remains hidden in the heart is very easy and very near to every man who has a brain in his head.

כי מוחו ברשותו, ויכול להתבונן בו בכל אשר יחפוץ

For his mind is under his control even if his heart is not, and with it he can meditate as he pleases, on any subject.

וכשיתבונן בו בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, ממילא יוליד במוחו על כל פנים האהבה לה׳, לדבקה בו בקיום מצותיו ותורתו

If, then, he will contemplate with it on the greatness of the Almighty, he will inevitably generate — in his mind, at least — a love of G‑d, to cleave to Him through the performance of His commandments and the study of His Torah.