by Rabbi Jeffrey A. Adler
Love is a popular topic for discussion these days. Our culture, particularly the religious culture, talks about it all the time. Generally, the mainstream sees love as acceptance of everyone and his quirks, even if those quirks and lifestyles run counter to Adonai and every principle of His Kingdom. People commonly express that they love God, but, how does He see it? How does He define love for Him? What pleases Him? This is vital information, since He makes the rules and we will all ultimately be accountable to Him before the bar of His judgment and justice.
For a helpful insight into this important subject, it is helpful to look at the “V’ahavta”, the passage found in D’varim, or Deuteronomy, 6:5f. This passage, recited regularly with verse 4, the Sh’ma, tells us that it is not enough merely to believe that there is one God. We are also called to have a personal, emotional, connection to Him. “V’ahavta et-Adonai Eloheyka…”; “And,you shall love the Lord your God…” The form of “ahav”, “love”, is in the perfect tense used in a “jussive” sense, seeing the action of the verb as very decisive and strong.
So many times, Biblical faith is described as adherence to rules and regulations. While obedience is obviously valuable and not to be minimized, Adonai created us for much more. “Let us make Man in our image”. That legacy calls for esteem for the One after Whom we are modeled. Throughout Scripture, the Lord refers to Himself as our Father. That relationship is couched in “Honor your father and mother.” There is a powerful emotional bond created by giving that kind of weight to that role in one’s life.
The text further describes the quality and extent of that love. The called for love is to be with “kol levavka”, “with all your heart”. The heart scripturally is understood to be the seat of the emotions. There needs to be passion for Elohim. As children of God, we are His heirs, His family. What concerns Him concerns us. His well-being is also ours. What bothers Him bothers us. His interests are ours, whether we realize it or not.
Verse 5 goes on to state that this love is to be with “kol naphsh’ka”, “with all your soul”. The soul is at the core of each person’s identity. Each of us is a unique, special, creation. In Jeremiah 1:5, Adonai tells the prophet, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…” The verb, “yada” connotes intimacy. The form used here, “y’datika” implies the intensity of the perfect tense. Jeremiah was a special creation into whom God put an infinity of personal thought and intent. Extrapolating this to all of us, we have much personal style to invest into our relationship with El Elyon, God Most High, our Father.
Further, we are told that we need to love the Lord our God with “kol m’odeka”, with “all your strength”. Our relationship is not a casual thing confined to religious services or 9:00-5:00, but, calling for total investment of ourselves into Him. We give all of us to all of Him.
Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things, and incurable- who can know it?” However, chapter 31 says, in verse 33, that the Lord is able and willing to put His Torah within us and write it on our hearts. We have sinned because we haven’t loved God, but, He is able to change us, and draw us into a right relationship with Him. Due to the work of Yeshua’s atonement and the transformational power of the Ruach haKodesh (Holy Spirit), we can, for the first time, become real and pleasing “lovers of God”.
Rabbi Jeffrey Adler is president of the Board of HaShomer and also Rabbi of Sha’arey Yeshua in Indianapolis, IN.