Levenson-love as obligation


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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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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