What Does It Mean to Love God?

Nov. 23 2015

To the modern reader, the biblical injunction “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God” seems strange: how can one of the most fundamental human emotions be commanded? In his new book on the subject, Jon D. Levenson first places the verse from Deuteronomy in its historical context and then proceeds to examine how it has been understood by Jewish thinkers through the ages. (Interview by Debra Liese).

[Seen in the context of other documents from the ancient Near East], “love” has a technical, legal meaning in Deuteronomy and elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible. . . . [However], the technical usage doesn’t preclude the emotional or affective connotations that the word has for most people. To put it differently, sometimes loving may simply mean loyal service and faithful obedience, but we need to guard against over-generalizing from such passages, just as we need to guard against interpreting “love” in this context as a purely subjective, emotional state without normative behavioral correlates.

I try to show that in Deuteronomy God falls in love with Israel—I don’t think the language is exclusively technical but rather [that] it connotes passion—and demands a response that has its own affective character. In other words, we have to reckon with both an outward and an inward dimension. . . . In fact, the movement is in both directions. Actions awaken and deepen emotions, and emotions generate and make sense of actions.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Princeton University Press

More about: Deuteronomy, Hebrew Bible, Law, Love, Religion & Holidays, Theology

Why the Recent Uptick of Israeli Activity in Syria?

Sept. 23 2022

On September 16 and 17, the IDF carried out airstrikes in the vicinity of Damascus, reportedly aimed at Iranian logistical centers there. These follow on an increase in the frequency of such attacks in recent weeks, which have included strikes on the Aleppo airport on August 31 and September 6. Jonathan Spyer comments:

The specific targeting of the Aleppo airport is almost certainly related to recent indications that Iran is relying increasingly on its “air bridge” to Syria and Lebanon, because of Israel’s successful and systematic targeting of efforts to move weaponry and equipment by land [via Iraq]. But the increased tempo of activity is not solely related to the specific issue of greater use of air transport by Teheran. Rather, it is part of a broader picture of increasing regional tension. There are a number of factors that contribute to this emergent picture.

Firstly, Russia appears to be pulling back in Syria. . . . There are no prospects for a complete Russian withdrawal. The air base at Khmeimim and the naval facilities at Tartus and Latakia are hard strategic assets which will be maintained. The maintenance of Assad’s rule is also a clear objective for Moscow. But beyond this, the Russians are busy now with a flailing, faltering military campaign in Ukraine. Moscow lacks the capacity for two close strategic engagements at once.

Secondly, assuming that some last-minute twist does not occur, it now looks like a return to the [2015 nuclear deal] is not imminent. In the absence of any diplomatic process related to the Iranian nuclear program, and given Israeli determination to roll back Iran’s regional ambitions, confrontation becomes more likely.

Lastly, it is important to note that the uptick in Israeli activity is clearly not related to Syria alone. Rather, it is part of a more general broadening and deepening by Israel in recent months of its assertive posture toward the full gamut of Iranian activity in the region. . . . The increasing scope and boldness of Israeli air activity in Syria reflects this changing of the season.

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Subscribe to Mosaic

Welcome to Mosaic

Subscribe now to get unlimited access to the best of Jewish thought and culture

Subscribe

Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Syria, War in Ukraine