Friday, August 10, 2012

All You Need Is Love

By Michael Hirsch

This week's Torah portion includes one of the most enigmatic verses in all of the Five Books of Moses: " And now, Israel, what does the Lord, your G-D ask of you? Only to fear (be in awe of) the Lord, your G-d, to go in all His ways, and to love Him, and to serve the Lord, your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. To observe G-D's commandments, and His statutes, which I have commanded you today, for your benefit" (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

Gee, is that all?!?! As I said, enigmatic. It would take a thesis-size paper to include the various and sundry commentaries on these verses, which on the surface are beyond strange ("What is G-D asking of us, only to achieve perfection). For the moment, let us focus on but one aspect—the verse presents the two extreme measures by which one serves G-D: either out of fear/awe ("yir'ah"), or out of love ("ahavah").  Which approach is "preferable"?

I believe we are presented with a number of clues. In last week's Parasha, V'etchanan, we read the first paragraph of the Shema ("Hear, Oh Israel,…") which begins, "And you shall love the Lord, your G-D with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might/wealth."  This week, we have the second paragraph, which begins, "And it will be, if you heed My commandments, which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord, your G-D, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul…" (11:13).

At this point, the scoreboard reads: Love-2, Fear/Awe-0. And the Parasha concludes with the tie-breaker: "For if you will carefully heed this entire commandment  which I have commanded to fulfill it; to love the Lord, your G-D, to walk in all His ways, and to cling to Him" (11:22). Conclusion: the ultimate way to serve G-D is through love. One stands in fear/awe of a flesh-and-blood military a/o political leader. Do we love them? Hardly.

We may carry those feelings over to the omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient Almighty. As we are told in this week's Torah portion, when the nations of the world heard of all the miracles G-D had performed, all the displays of might, the conquering of the two mightiest military figures of the day (Sichon and Og) without the loss of a single combat soldier, they quaked in fear and awe.

It is our "job" as Jews to rise above that, to serve G-D out of love. Out of an appreciation for all He has done for us in the past, all He does on a daily basis, and all He will continue to do in the future. In the inimitable words of The Beatles: "All You Need Is Love."

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