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PARSHAT EKEVDevarim (Deuteronomy) 7:12 - 11:25
Haftorah - Isaiah 49:14 - 51:3
This VORT is dedicated to Cliel Shachter, son of Shalom and Marci Shachter, who celebrated his Bar Mitzvah this past Shabbat.
There is a famous pop culture song by Aerosmith with the title: "Love Hurts." What a distorted idea! Western culture attributes a painful reality to love. Even the common expression that one "falls in love," proposes the idea that one is swept away from a rational world into a world of confusion.
Nothing could be further from the truth! Let me qualify that statement. When one develops Torah values, THEN nothing could be further from the truth. Let us explore the Torah concept of love.
In last week's Parsha, we were introduced to the first paragraph of the Shema (the declaration of faith recited during morning and evening prayers and is also prior to sleep) that dealt with our basic love relationship with Hashem (Devarim 6:4-9).
As we all know, love is more than just infatuation and physical attraction. Love is a deep relationship of sharing and giving, it is the art of constantly doing for one's partner. By doing this, passion is borne at all times, while working and while relaxing. And we are all required to acknowledge our love for Hashem at all times, for love must always be acknowledged in order to exist and grow.
Therefore, the first part of the formula necessary to show one's love for Hashem or for one's soul mate, is performing Mitzvot - doing positive things that exhibit our love and our affection. Acclaiming and becoming preoccupied with that love is only the first stage of developing an intense love for either Hashem or for one's partner.
"And you should teach them [the Mitzvot] thoroughly to your children and you shall speak of them when you sit in your home, when you go on the way, when you lie down and when you arise" (Devarim 6:7).The second stage is mentioned in this week's Parsha. In chapter eleven Moshe again tells Am Yisrael (the people of Israel) that we must love Hashem for all that He did for us since He rescued us from Egypt (also see the "Vortify" for Parshat Devarim - Aug.1, 1998). Here, a new dimension is added to love and that is Yirah - or awe. This concept is included in the second paragraph of the Shema (Devarim 11:13-21) to show that both love and awe are necessary ingredients of a wholesome loving relationship. It is not enough to only display one's affection by doing positive things, one must also not act negatively towards one's beloved.
The Hebrew word for love is Ahava, the verb - to love - is Le'ehov. It indicates an inter-loving relationship, very different from "falling in love" as we perceive it in our secular culture. Being swept off one's feet, from a rational world into a world of confusion is not healthy. Developing a sound relationship based on merit, sharing, values and appreciation is the real stuff that love is made of.
Over the course of the years, I have counseled many couples in marital distress. Most of the couples shared one common thread, they concentrated on taking as much as they could out of their relationship. Whether it regarded a career, or responsibilities, or as common a problem as lonely nights apart, the partners were usually concerned with their rights and rarely with their obligations. Each one saw him/herself as a victim of the other's callousness.
The Torah teaches us that in order to love properly, one must fulfill one's obligations, thus defending the rights of their partner. The balance between DOING positive acts and NOT DOING negative acts is fundamental for a healthy loving relationship. But there is more.
Chazal (an abbreviation for "our wise men [Rabbis] of blessed memory") teach us that the relationship between Hashem and Israel is compared to a marriage. When the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai, the covenant between Hashem and Israel was actually a marriage ceremony. Shir Hashirim (King Solomon's Song of Songs) portrays the relationship between two lovers as an allegory of the relationship between Hashem (the male) and Am Yisrael (the female).
The give and take, passion, fulfillment, even disagreements - are what make a marriage. Love sparks, develops, is earned and nurtured, but never "fallen into". Chazal go even further. They teach us that marriage is the closest we can come to truly knowing Hashem. The inter-relationship between a man and a woman brings each participant to a closer relationship not only to each other, but also to their Creator. And just as we must work on the human love relationship, so must we also work on the spiritual bond between love and awe.
In the Garden of Eden, man and woman were once a single being. When Hashem separated them, they became complimentary to one another. The Torah calls woman an Eyzer Kenegdo (a corresponding supporter), for she is the balance for man, and likewise, is man for woman. Coming together, sharing the experiences of life, is what gives meaning and depth to our love relationship.
Moshe tells Am Yisrael that the same is true when attempting to develop our relationship with Hashem. We must constantly try to please our Maker, by doing those Mitzvot that show Him our affection, and by not doing those actions that would hurt our relationship. This mixture of love (performing positive Mitzvot) and awe (not doing negative Mitzvot) is how we humans can eventually develop and nurture a loving relationship with Hashem.
Rabbi Yosil Rosenzweig
Shema Yisrael Torah Network