Friday, May 25, 2012

Loving God

I only have a few minutes, so let's see if I can do this...

Saturday night begins Shavuot, the holiday which celebrates the giving, and the receiving, of the Torah. Judaism has always understood this act of law-giving (because, the Torah is largely a book of law) as an act of love on God's part. How can laws be love?

I've long understood this as a parental metaphor - if I didn't give my kids laws, if I let them do whatever they wanted, that wouldn't be an act of love. I love them, in part, by setting boundaries. They may not like it, but that's different.

It's not a bad metaphor, but it's not the only one. More recently, I learned to think about law not as a specific body of legislation, but as the more general idea of commandednes. Let me explain...

Hillary, my wife, has laws for me. Stop snickering - I'm not talking about "Jason, do this, or else" kind of laws. I mean that, because of my relationship with her, and because of my love for her, there are certain things that I have to do. Certain ways that I have to treat her. Sometimes it's general - treating her with respect. Sometimes it's more specific - doing the dishes, because she hates that job. These are things that I have to do - not because she's said so, verbally, but because our relationship has commanded them of me. 

And--this is important--because they grow out of that relationship, I like those commandments. I even love them. Not every second, every time (sometimes, I just don't want to do the dishes!). But, often, and generally. They are taken willingly, if unspokenly. They reflect, support and even enhance our relationship. They are not a burden.

Every relationship is like this. Relationship breeds commandment (I think I learned that from Dr. Eugene Borowitz). Every relationship. I am obligated to my wife, to my kids, to my friends, to my community members - all in different ways, and to different degrees. But, by being in relationship with them, I am obligated to them. I am commanded, about them.

Relationship breeds commandment. Commandments reflect love. You simply can't have one without the other.

Chag Sameach, and Shabbat Shalom!

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