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prayer pings #28 Unconditional Love: Putting the Shema into Practice

Last time, we explored how the Shema became central to our lives and religion and why it is the foundation of our individual and communal resilience. Now, we will reflect on how we can put this understanding into practice.

The answer comes from the original text itself. As we know, immediately following the anthem of שמע ישראל ה' אלקינו ה' אחד (Devarim 6:4), the Torah tells us ואהבת את ה' אלקיך בכל לבבך ובכל נפשך ובכל מאדך, "You shall love Hashem, your God, with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your resources" (Devarim 6:5). The juxtaposition of the Shema and these three ways of loving God is the instruction for how we can practically fulfill the mitzvah of Shema.

The Mishnah (Masechet Berachot 9:5) explains that בכל לבבך means with both your good and evil inclinations, ובכל נפשך means even if God takes your soul, and ובכל מאדך means with all of your monetary resources.

 

To truly listen to God's voice in our lives and accept the yoke of heaven is to love unconditionally.

Between people, unconditional love requires that we love even in the tough times, even with the flaws and struggles. So too with our love of God, kivyachol. We must love Him with both of our inclinations, even with our yetzer hara that is resistant and sometimes unwilling. We must love Him even when we encounter death and loss, when we feel downtrodden, angry, or despondent. And we must love Him even when we worry about how much it will cost us.

This is true love. It is not a naive, untenable, or destructive love, but a love that can withstand the ups and downs of life. It is a love that is unyielding. And it is this commitment that makes the Shema not just an anthem, but a way of walking through our days, from beginning to end.

~Rabbanit Alissa

Wed, February 20 2019 15 Adar I 5779