#BlogElul 23: Love

#BlogElul graphic

It’s Elul again!

Love, love, love. All you need is love, dum da da da da dum … such an interesting phenomenon, love.

Looking for a definition, I found: an intense feeling of deep affection.

There was a lot more to it than that, but I think this is the main one. There is intensity, there is depth, and there is affection. When one puts another person’s needs and desires ahead of one’s own, out of generosity and without any kind of holding back, that is true love.

Love can be more casual – I did find definitions such as the sign-off on a letter, or “British informal”, people in shops calling you love. They do this especially in the north, and it is very endearing once you get used to it.

Of course, this means you are assuming that they are not experience an intense feeling of deep affection towards you when you are paying for your groceries. Or maybe they are – without you, would they have their job? Maybe they would be out saving the world, who knows?

Of course we love our spouses and our children, our friends and maybe gefilte fish, too. So many different meanings for the word love.

I also find it interesting to consider how love is handled in the Torah. There is love between spouses, between parents and children, we are told that G-d loves us, and we are commanded to love G-d. How can anyone command love? And yet that is the first paragraph after the Sh’ma, the one that little children learn in school with a jaunty little tune.

My kids even learned to do it in American Sign Language – I remember accompanying my eldest, back when he was in Grade 1, to the Manitoba School for the Deaf, where his class signed the Sh’ma and this first paragraph for their hosts. It begins, “And you shall love the Lord your G-d with all of your heart, and all your soul, and all your might.”

I went looking for explanations of this astounding statement, and I found lots of rabbis with ideas on the subject. My favourite is probably Maimonides, who said that contemplation of the glory of the natural world would lead to the proper love of G-d. As a scientist by training, I can appreciate that.

The Kabbalists declared that the world is held together by G-d’s love, and I can sort of see that, too.

It does kind of go against the definition of love I started with, though – surely G-d does not need our love? Presumably love for G-d is for our benefit, not G-d’s.

I do believe that the Universe is a friendly place, that there is immense love out there, and that we can tap into it and have the lives that we desire.

What do you think, is that too bold a statement? How would you refute it, if it is? Talk to me, I’m very curious!

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