Va’etchanan

By Rabbi Daniel Glass, August 12, 2008
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"And you should love the Lord, your God with all your heart" Deuteronomy 6:5

Cupid's arrow sails rapidly through the air and strikes the unsuspecting heart. Without warning, you are in love.

If love - and feeling in general - is something that happens to me, something that emanates, seemingly randomly, from an external source, if I either feel something or I don't, then how can the famous second line of the Shema command me to "love"? What am I being asked to do - to decide to love?

In truth, Torah has a complex concept of how we feel what we feel. On one level it includes that idea of an unexpected, unsolicited and immense swell of emotion - the pure arrow of connection. This can happen when two people fall in love. On the national level this was seen at the moment of the Jews' intense closeness to the Creator on the night of Pesach as they left Egypt. A gift of emotion.

But there is also a consciousness that we can go beyond these occasional and unpredictable emotional gifts. The human heart is a deep and yet largely undug well. The emotions that we feel naturally are often a hint towards a much richer world which lies concealed within us, a world which, with some effort, we have the ability to access.

The Shema tells us to start digging - not to feel immediately, but to dig. Our classic commentaries suggest various pathways as to how to do so, such as through setting aside time to contemplate the beauty and inexpressible complexity of the world God has created. What they all agree on is that feeling does not always have to be something that simply happens to us, but rather something whose structure we can build and whose seeds we can sow.

    Last updated: 11:10am, August 18 2008