Monday, July 15, 2013

Shabbat Nachamu: Va-Et'chanan

Deuteronomy 3:23–7:11  

Love The Lord 

Moses' message to relate to God through love, not only through fear, is especially relevant in the modern age. 

By Rabbi Bradley Artson ;The following article is reprinted with permission from American Jewish University. 

What is the proper emotional attitude to take toward God? In our day, as in the past, religious human beings divide into two general camps.

Some argue that we must fear and venerate God, while others stress the need to love God.

The two modes of relationship, fear and love, have a long history within Judaism. Both yirat shamayim (fear of heaven) and ahavat ha-Shem (love of God) find ample attestation in traditional and modern writings. While most Jews retain elements of both, individuals and communities tend to stress one tendency over the other.

The natural consequence of a stress on fearing God is to expect human-divine relating to work in one direction. God commands and people obey. Halakhah (Jewish law) is treated as immutable because people, including community leaders, are overwhelmed by a sense of their own inadequacy and insignificance. The highest form of human response becomes complete, unquestioning acquiescence.

While fear of God may be important as a secondary value, preventing the diminution of God into a rubber-stamp of our latest preferences or our most egregious shortcomings, there is a long precedent that gives priority to relating to God in love.

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