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Re: "Love" in the DSS

On Sun, 07 Apr 96 12:22:53 EDT, PWEGNER@BROWNVM.brown.edu wrote:
Subject:      Re: "Love" in the DSS

Victor Hurowitz is absolutely right to point out that the central assertion in
the twice-daily-recited Shema' (whose centrality in Judaism is equal to that
of the Lord's Prayer in Christianity and the First Sura of the Qur'an in Islam)
is in fact the statement from Deut.6:5, *we-ahavta et Hashem elohekha*..."and
thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul  and
with all thy might."  Whoever posted the suggestion that Jews love Torah rather
than God seemed to me to be echoing, or at least influenced by, the Christian
misperception that the HB/OT is about law, while the NT is about love.  In
fact, few Christians are aware that when Jesus quotes this very verse from
Deut. (as reported in the three synoptic gospels) as being the "first" among
the commandments, he is EXPLICITLY quoting the Torah -- Jewish Scripture -- and
is giving expression to a basic Jewish belief to which, for obvious reasons,
he himself subscribed.  So much for the nonsensical notion that it is the love
of Torah that is basic, rather than the love of the (traditionally understood)
author of Torah!

However, Avigdor  also went on to say:

>I beg to differ.  If you will recall the ahavah rabbah prayer, which is
the second berakah before the recitation of the Shema there is the
request weyahed levavenu le'ahavah ulyirah et shemeka- and unify our
hearts to love and fear your name.<

       I would rather translate "weyahed" here as "single out", not "unify".
       So, accepting Judith Romney further correction below, the full phrase
       is "and single out our heart to love and revere your name". ("Levavenu
       is definitely "our heart", not "our hearts".) I don't think that "love"
       here should be interpreted as "loyalty", as Ms Romney does below. The
       Word "love" does not necessarily mean romantic love. The illustration
      "love of king and country" is well chosen, and such love also has its
       emotional side. Loyalty is only one of the manifestations of love.
                                                           Avinoam Mann

This of course is accurate, but the traditional use of the English word "fear"
to translate the Heb. *yir'ah* is itself highly misleading.  20th-century
English speakers are unaware that as originally used in King James translation,
the word "fear" has its medieval significance, namely to "revere."  It is this
and not "fear" in the sense of "fright" or "terror" that is the true meaning
of the Hebrew root *y-r-'.*  It is important to make this clear, since the
misunderstanding of the meaning of yir'ah/"fear" has all too often fed into
that other basic Christian misconception, namely that the God of the HB/OT is
a God of "fear" (in the "fright" sense), while the God of the NT is a god of
love.  Absolute nonsense, as is demonstrable from innumerable HB/OT quotations
that somehow the proponents of this idea always manage to ignore!

Mention of "love" brings me to the third point.  Avigdor  is quite right in
pointing out as follows:
>Also recall Moran's famous article in CBQ in which he interprets love in
covenant situations as fidelity and not the romantic, emotional type we
are used to in the twentieth century<

In other words, the first  word in the false dichotomy of love/fear as
traditional translations of *ahavah/yir'ah* has also been misunderstood.
The basic meaning of *'-h-b* in its biblical context is not so much "love"
as "loyalty."  (as in the patriotic "love" of king and country).

So there's no dichotomy here at all -- the Torah is speaking of loyalty
and reverence for God -- not "love and fear" in the popular connotations of
those words.

Judith Romney Wegner, Connecticut College