Do you remember your first love? The one from high school or junior high whom you thought you would be with forever?
For most of us, that story didn’t come true. We learn as we grow that love has various shades and that we will be “in” and “out” of love many times in our lives (I used to love chocolate ice cream; not so much anymore).
Last week, the Torah told us that we must “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might. …” (Deuteronomy 4:5) In this week’s Torah portion, Ekev, we are again commanded to love. “What does the Lord your God demand of you? Only this, to revere the Lord your God, to walk only in His paths, to love Him, and to serve the Lord you God with all your heart and soul….” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Nowhere in these two verses are we led to believe that there is gray territory about how much we should love, nor is the idea that we should love a suggestion. It is black and white. God demands that we love Him. How is it possible to order a human to feel an emotion?
Here in lies the catch: Love in the Torah is not about an emotion or feeling state. People move in and out of feeling states regardless of what we ask them to do. Love in the Torah is about something else. It is about action. It is about how we behave and what we do. If you search the Torah you will find that each time we are told to love God, we are given the instructions on how to do it. Remember God’s teachings: Teach them to your children, reciting them at home and when you leave, when you lie down and when you rise up (see Deuteronomy 4 and 11).
When we behave in a way that shows a respect for Torah and a respect for God, when we personally strive toward a life of holiness, then we are truly loving God.
(This column is a service of the Greater Pittsburgh Rabbinic Association.)