How can emotion be commanded? Yet the shema of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 contains the command “You shall love the Lord your God.” Most marriage ceremonies include the promise to love. Yet love as passion is a fickle thing that comes and goes. How can you treat it as an obligation?
In regard to God, is his love for us an obligation? And, if it is, does that not make it sort of cold and abstract? Do we not want God to love us for ourselves rather than out of duty or even commitment?
These are some of the questions that Jon Levenson takes up in The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism.
His approach is to highlight the idea that God’s love is bound up with the covenant he made with Israel. Certainly this is what the shema means in the context of Deuteronomy, a book all…
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