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'I am giving you today [said Moses, just before his death] life and good, death and evil… You shall choose life, in order that you and your children shall live. In order to love the Lord your G-d...' (30:15-20)
Earlier, the Torah states: 'You shall love the Lord your G-d, with all your heart, all your might, and all your glory' (6:5 - first paragraph of the Shema).
At first glance, this commandment is like none other. Love is not an act. It is a feeling, an emotion. You either feel that way or you don't. Feeling attracted to (and subsequently loving) someone is just not a choice. It is not even rational. If a young woman meets a person whom her parents, friends, and mentors think 'is a marvelous, wonderful person' and 'you should settle for nothing less', and she feels indifferent after meeting him, that is what she feels, and there is little she can do about that feeling. She will not suddenly sprout new lenses and see him the way her society wants her to.
Significantly, the second paragraph of the Shema links loving G-d with reward, but not with punishment: 'If you listen to My Commandments which I command you today - to love the Lord your G-d and serve Him with all your heart and your soul - then I will bring the rains at the right time' (and ensuing blessings 11:13-15). However, failing to love G-d does not earn Divine Punishment. That only comes when 'you stray and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then G-d's anger will burn against you' (and ensuing curses 11:16-17). G-d punishes those who actively distance themselves from Him. That implies that He does not bring the curses on those who have not yet come to love Him. However, in the next verses, He implies a remedy - Torah learning. 'You shall put these Words on your heart and your soul… You shall teach them to your children'.
Learning from any great book is meeting the author over the pages. Robin Sharma (The Greatness Guide 2006, p.13) puts it this way. 'Reading a book by someone you respect allows some of their brilliance to rub off on you. The hand that puts down a great book will never be the same. As Oliver Wendell Holmes observed: "A mind once stretched by a new idea can never return to its original dimensions."'
This point frames an insight into the command to 'Choose Life' (30:19) and the above blessings for those who manage to 'love the Lord your G-d' (30:20). You choose life by 'plugging in' to the Creator. For learning Torah sensitively brings you in contact with The Author. And learning Gemara is not mere legislative material - it brings you into the arena of becoming personally involved with the great Rabbis of the Talmud - their ways of thinking, diverse outlooks, and deep insights not merely into law, but matters Divine, and - last but not least - into what sits at the top of His Creation: human nature. As a person consistently undergoes a lifetime of Torah study, he sees the world and the Creator through new lenses. The world is different. The Universe is different. Every action he does feels different, and has previously un-sensed meanings. And he indeed comes to 'love' (and reap the blessings and benefits) from what he previously felt indifferent or lukewarm towards…
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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