The love of God : divine gift, human gratitude, and mutual by Jon D. Levenson

By Jon D. Levenson

The love of God may be the main crucial aspect in Judaism--but additionally probably the most confounding. In biblical and rabbinic literature, the duty to like God appears to be like as a proper commandment. but most folk at the present time ponder love as a sense. How can an emotion be commanded? How may one ever satisfy this kind of requirement? The Love of God locations those scholarly and existential questions in a brand new light.

Jon Levenson lines the origins of the concept that to the traditional establishment of covenant, exhibiting how covenantal love is an issue neither of sentiment nor of dry legalism. the affection of God is in its place a deeply own two-way dating that reveals expression in God's mysterious love for the folks of Israel, who in flip notice God's legislation out of profound gratitude for his acts of deliverance. Levenson explores how this bond has survived episodes within which God's love seems to be painfully absent--as within the brutal persecutions of Talmudic times--and describes the intensely erotic portrayals of the connection via biblical prophets and rabbinic interpreters of the tune of Songs. He examines the affection of God as a non secular self-discipline within the center a while in addition to efforts by means of influential smooth Jewish thinkers--Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig--to get better this important yet endangered element in their tradition.

A breathtaking paintings of scholarship and spirituality alike that's sure to impress debate, The Love of God develops interesting insights into the principles of spiritual existence within the classical Jewish tradition.

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The NJPS Tanakh, for example, renders the expression as “an impassioned God,” and a Talmudic authority from the early third century ce glosses the phrase to mean, “I am jealousy’s God: I rule over jealousy, but jealousy does not rule over me” (Mekhilta de-­Rabbi Išmael, Bahodeš 6). ˙This rabbinic interpretation protects God’s sovereignty: he is not the victim of his jealousy, as we mortals are of ours, but can, as it were, turn it on and off at will. But even this leaves open the question of why he would ever want to turn it on, and with such fearsome intensity.

This very contemporary idea is not one that the Bible entertains. If a disparity in power prevents love, then the love of human beings for God—­of the creatures for their creator, of the emancipated for their emancipator, of the ben- A Covenantal Love  31 eficiaries for their benefactor—­would be impossible by definition. Indeed, one wonders how many of our own most powerful loves would still be judged possible if this contemporary restriction were wholly valid. Although biblical literature does not place the love and the fear of God in tension, the Talmudic rabbis often do just that.

We have been focusing on covenant as an instrument of diplomacy, and specifically as a binding agreement between an emperor and a lesser king. Especially in Deuteronomy but also throughout the Bible, the influence of these international treaties is strikingly present,32 and, not surprisingly, the discovery and study of ancient Near Eastern treaties have proven enormously productive for our understanding of the biblical variant. But covenant does not originate in international diplomacy. Instead, it borrows much of its character and force from something more primal: namely, from family rela- A Covenantal Love  23 tions.

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