Presenting a Clinic in how NOT to do Parshanus haMiqra last week DovBear pondered the Mitzvah of אהבת השי"ת= loving G-d. He began with a legitimate albeit hey pey question, one that was famously posed by the Ibn Ezra on the tenth commandment. How can G-d legislate emotions? It is understandable that there should be commandments governing our actions, speech and even thought But how can I be commanded how or what to feel?
Dovie makes his first fatal error in resolving this question by turning to an ancient Assyrian Document. What is stated in the document and how it “answers” the question is something I will bl”n address later in the post. But for a Jewish mind and neshama looking first and foremost to Academia and ANE culture for an understanding in Torah would be laughable were it not so lamentable. The sadness is most profound as the post considers the meaning of not any old particular mitzvah among the TarYa”g but, arguably, the greatest mitzvah of them all, and among the few that can serve as the underpinning of all the rest.
Lashon Qodesh is muvdal qualitatively from all other languages. It is the language of prophecy, of revelation of creation itself. The first mans genius was expressed by his ability to intuit the proper Lashon Qodesh word for the בעלי חי-ים =animals, himself, his Creator and his helpmeet. If words in other languages bear similarity to those in Lashon Qodesh it is because the former was the universal language of mankind prior to the haflogah and presumably some residue of Lashon Qodesh remains in the 70 basic leshonos. But when making etymological comparisons one must never confuse the chicken with the egg nor forget that a chicken is alive whereas the egg represents a mere potential for life.
Torah and Mitzvos are muvdal qualitatively from all other disciplines and legal codes. Even when external similarity, to the point of identity, appears to obtain between a particular din of the Torah and a law of human invention we disallow being adjudicated under the latter
מַגִּיד דְּבָרָו לְיַעֲקֹב; חֻקָּיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו, לְיִשְׂרָאֵל.
He declareth His word unto Jacob, His statutes and His ordinances unto Israel.
לֹא עָשָׂה כֵן, לְכָל-גּוֹי-- וּמִשְׁפָּטִים בַּל-יְדָעוּם:הַלְלוּ-יָהּ.
He hath not dealt so with any nation; and as for His ordinances, they have not known them. (cp first Rashi in Parshas Mishpatim.)
We can never hope to apprehend the meaning of Torah unless we first turn to the bearers of the Mesorah who were plugged into the Sinai-given methodology for interpretation and who were acutely sensitive to the Qedusha and Havdala of the Torah.
The Rambam provides two paths to achieving Ahavas haShem; studying Torah and contemplating nature. In both cases the love begins with the spark of affinity one develops for a great author or artist when swept away by the beauty and truth of their works. Why such an approach would not resonate with DovBear and the cubbies is painfully obvious. Having accepted human, nay LATE human authorship of wide swaths of the Torah even if one is moved to ecstasy by Torah study there is now a disconnect between the Torah and it's true Author-the מלמד תורה לעמו ישראל. Having posited evolution as a fact and not as a theory many degrees of separation intervene between the בורא עולם and the עולמות that He created. I’d hardly be as big a fan of Mozart were I to discover that he’d only composed a five note basic melody for eine kleine nachtmusik but that the full orchestration was the collaborative work of a team of musicians spread out over decades or centuries.
The Ramban says that אהבה= the love of G-d is the underpinning of all מצוות עשה=positive commandments and that יראה = the awe of G-d is the underpinning of all מצוות לא עשה =negative commandments. And as love is the greater of the two modes of relating to G-d, in cases of conflict עשה דוחה לא תעשה =positive commands supersede negative commands. The Alter Rebbe (HT for correction to Not Brisk Yeshivish) explained that the Ramban is not describing psychological motivations for performance but rather the spiritual dynamic involved. Love is expansive and awe is contractive.
As G-d and His love are infinite any finite metaphor or allegory that we use to explain it will, of course, be inadequate. In Torah law and lore Yisrael’s love of G-d is, by turns, compared to that of a child for a parent, a sister for a brother or a wife/lover for a husband. When writing about the love of G-d the Rambam compares it to the obsessive, all-consuming, infatuation a lovelorn man has for a radiant woman.
The Rambam also writes that conscious erotic thoughts reside only in the hearts of Am ha’Aratzim, hearts that are devoid of Torah.
Per Khazal the love of G-d compels us to lay down our very lives rather than worship false deities yet only compels us to part with our property to avoid transgression of other sins. Per the Poskim the love of G-d prohibits us from kissing our children or anything other than a Torah Scroll in a synagogue. When pondering the meaning of the Mitzvah to love HaShem why didn’t Dovie turn to any and all of THESE Qeduhsa infused sources?
And now it’s time to set a well-deserved match to the house of straw that DovBear built. The very approach that the Assyrian document has any bearing at all on the definition of a Torah word is predicated on...
A. The notion that the word is a period based idiom addressed only to it’s “original audience” and thus has little or no relationship to contemporary meanings that we attach to the word “love” and that
B. Devarim is of later and separate authorship than the rest of the Torah.
Both these postulates are an anathema to שלומי אמוני ישראל who believe in...
A. Divine authorship of ALL the khumashim presented either megillah megillah or khasumah to K’lal Yisrael before they crossed the Yarden and
B. That the Torah is addressed to all generations of Jews :
כִּי אֶת-אֲשֶׁר יֶשְׁנוֹ פֹּה, עִמָּנוּ עֹמֵד הַיּוֹם, לִפְנֵי, יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵינוּ; וְאֵת אֲשֶׁר אֵינֶנּוּ פֹּה, עִמָּנוּ הַיּוֹם.
but with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day--
The "loyalty" definition of love that DovBear proposes here will not work for the many other places in the Torah where the word is applied; love of the peer, love of the righteous convert et al.
Nor does the “new” definition answer the question any better than the old one. Loyalty is also an emotion or set of emotions. Is the commandment to emote? Or merely to behave in a way that one actually feeling such an emotion/ range of emotions would? IMO it is the former with this caveat; if one has opened their hearts to all that would fan the flames of Ahavas haShem and avoided all that might douse them but still does not feel the love viscerally - one has fulfilled the Mitzvah. But if, as DovBear seems to think, this is not necessary then love can mean behaving as one infatuated would just as easily as it could mean behaving as one loyal would.
I’m really disappointed in DovBear. I really expected much more from an avowed fan of piyut. Or has he never sung Yedid Nefesh with any feeling?
הדור נאה זיו העולם, נפשי חולת אהבתיך, אנא קל נא רפא נא לה, בהראות לה נועם זיוך- אז תתחזק ותתרפא והיתה לה שמחת-שפחת עולם
I would paraphrase Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblatt's review of the new Koren Siddur and suggest that "[Khazal and the Meforshim's understanding of Gottleib sings in King David's key instead of [DovBears understanding ]that clumsily sags under the weight of [Academic-philological] correctness and emotional impotence." "
Finally I feel so sorry for HaShem, kavayokhol. Nebikh! Due to the Mega-J-Bloggers krumkeit and דעות כוזבותHis infinite love for DovBear will go so unrequited.
Qedusha-havdala...Have you had YOURS today???