Love, for many Jewish people, is equated with Christianity. The primary teacher within Christianity primarily taught about Love as the primary teaching within Christianity. Therefore, when a Jewish person mentions Love, they may readily be labeled as “too Christian” as well as “not Jewish”.
However, our very own Torah teaches us about Love. To love the stranger as we love ourselves appears 36 times there, more than any other precept. I learned about this fact as I studied for my Bat Mitzvah at the ripe old age of 33. The precept for loving myself is related to how I love and care for the others in my midst.
So, for me, Judaism is very much about Love. We have adapted this understanding as a Jewish concept primarily in the form of Social Justice. Most Jews can agree that a belief in Social Justice is part and parcel of Judaism, as well as what still makes Judaism a vibrant, moral tradition after so many millenia of practice. In fact, one could argue that our Love for our tradition, for one another and for our survival as a people enabled us to transmit an oral as well as written Torah throughout all of our many hard years. One might even include our Love for God and God’s Love for us as having helped us survive with our moral tradition in tact.
And speaking of morality, to Love is moral. For loving implies that we provide support to another being, another of The Lord’s creatures. Loving implies that we protect the stranger because we are told to. We are told to care. And to care is the ultimate form of loving.
Throughout history, however, Jews were frequently expelled, discriminated against, and hated. Anti-Jewish oppression was and still is real. In other words, Jews ourselves have not always experienced Love or lovingkindness. Perhaps especially for those who are the intergenerational survivors of the Holocaust, their terrorized and thus terrified parents and family members could not display any love whatsoever, although they were loveable.
Their terrorized and thus terrified parents and family members could not display any love whatsoever toward them, although these survivors of the Holocaust are and were completely loveable.
Following the Holocaust, many Jews were terrified and thus no longer able to live presently in the moment at any given moment. Some questioned God, yet others had an unwavering faith in Him that deepened. The “reason” for the Holocaust cannot be readily understood. So much pain, shame and humiliation of our good people. I do not claim to know the answer either. However, I would like to try to shed more light on this time in the life of our people by stating that my faith in God does not waver just because of our collective or individual suffering.
This is because God’s world and the events that occur are purposeful and ordered. These events– and the consequential suffering– are lessons in and of themselves. There are both individual lessons for each person as well as collective lessons for groups to learn for their evolution. These could, in one way, be thought of as loving tests to help us evolve and also as reminders to help us stay on track to manifest God’s plan. Seeing these events as loving challenges intended to help our souls grow, both individually and collectively, are rooted in God’s Love for us as well as the innate power and resources God gives us to overcome our challenges.
In the case of the Holocaust, yes, many individuals could not overcome this challenge. However, collectively, it is up to the remaining Jews as one unified cultural, religious, and ethnic group, to overcome together the challenge posed to us in the real and not imagined experience of the Holocaust. It is up to us to come together in smaller groups to heal and to understand one another’s experience and internalized learning around this event or test in order to better understand ourselves and what this event meant for us as a unified people. For us to heal…
For us to be able to heal and to grow as a people, deepening our knowledge around the event and finally coming to terms with its meaning and significance for all of us as Jewish people and for the world to also understand… would be powerful.
Let’s do this work together. Let’s discuss it more publicly as well. In this way, you and I will learn more about our heritage as one unified Jewish people, and heal our individual and collective wounds from the Holocaust. This will lead us to a greater appreciation of ourselves and our Jewish Resilience. It will grow within us a greater capacity for a great Love which we can turn toward loving ourselves well as in loving the strangers. The Torah teaches us that it is so important to love the stranger, not as we were loved but as we want to be loved. This is only part of what it means to Love in Judaism. However, it is a big part.
God dwells within each one of us.