Friday, January 28, 2011

A Commanding Love

And you shall love the Lord Your God with all your soul, with all your heart, with everything that you have . . . Deuteronomy 6:5

“Can God command our love?” I asked my sixth-grade students at Temple Micah, a Reform congregation in the Northwest quadrant of the District of Columbia.

They looked at me in disbelief and bewilderment -- and the ultimate test of listening: a resounding silence.

“Do you love your parents?”


"Do they command you to love them?"

Not exactly.

“How do you show them that you love them?"

Doing things that they want us to do.

“What kinds of things?”

Making our beds in the morning. Brushing our teeth.

“Anything else?“

Sometimes I surprise them by doing my homework even before they ask me to!

“So, how do we as Jews show God that we love the God of our matriarchs and patriarchs?"

They began to unwrap their answers.

By acting in a moral way. By praying thoughtfully. By helping others. By giving tzedakah. By loving your brother and not fighting with him all the time. By doing good deeds on a regular basis. By following in the path of the prophet Micah.

To do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.

One can command actions, but one cannot command feelings. The Ineffable One offers us directions on how to follow a path of goodness. We show our love for God when we perform the mitzvot (the commandments) out of love.

God is commanding the actions (the mitzvot) -- not the love they demonstrate. If we keep these words in our hearts and practice them, in return, our hearts and our souls and everything we have inside of us finds satisfaction and peace.

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