Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6: 4–5
In the birth pangs that separated Christianity (a onetime Jewish sect) from Judaism, lots of accusations back and forth were hurled one to the other. For our ancestors’ part we derided the legends of resurrection, virgin birth, and the claims of divinity. Early Christian assaults configured that Judaism was a religion of stern laws and their faith one of love. In its most virulent forms, Christianity divided the deity into two parts, the God of vengeance for Jews and the God of love for Christians. All this notwithstanding, Judaism hardly articulated a place of eternal punishment asserting that “all people had a place in the world to come (heaven).”
Judaism is a religion of love.
- Consider the quote above that surrounds the most important assertion of God’s unity – the Shema.
- Consider the teachings of Leviticus “to love one’s neighbor as oneself!”
- Consider how the evening and morning prayers preceding the Shema are
filled with love talk; Ahava rabba – With a great love have I loved the people Israel and Ahavat Olam – With an Eternal love have I loved the House of Israel.
- Consider the gematria, the numerological interpretation that the Hebrew love equals thirteen and the name of God YJWH equals 26, offering the idea that when one person loves another 13 and 13 = 26 God is present.
- Consider the Song of songs (the subject of our Brown Bag lunch this month page 7) how the sages of old saw in its imagery (some of it pretty salacious) as a reflection of the intimacy of God with the Jewish people.
As the celebration of love is celebrated in our culture by the day dedicated to Valentine, (Some think it is connected to a more ancient Roman festival Lupercalia) we are given an imperative to consider how caring is our heritage and how affectionate is our spiritual legacy. Though it is of Christian origins, Valentine ’s Day is one observance wherein we can all find an excuse to celebrate love from all our traditions.
Wishing one and all a beautiful month
Rabbi Yossi J. Liebowitz, D.D.