Every human relationship requires investment to stay healthy and grow. Likewise, building a relationship of love with God demands effort and sacrifice.
In this short video, Rabbi Dr. Reb Mimi Feigelson, Spiritual Mentor/Senior Lecturer of Rabbinics and Chassidic Thought at The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary says we need to share the totality of who we are in order to love God and feel loved by God.
What are you willing to do to build a relationship of love with God?
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It’s a yes, no question. One question. One answer. Yes or no.
Do you love God?
Question number two: Do you feel loved by God? It’s a yes, no question. Do you feel loved by God?
Our parasha this week is full of the word “love.” I’m not going to tell you how many times I counted the word “ahava,” love, in our parasha. We’re also, in our parasha, asked, told and commanded to love God.
Some of us recite the Shema at the beginning of the day and at the end of the day –וְאָ֣הַבְתָּ֔ אֵ֖ת יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ בְּכָל־לְבָבְךָ֥ וּבְכָל־נַפְשְׁךָ֖ וּבְכָל־מְאֹדֶֽך – here we have that as well.
Nonetheless, I want to ask you to pause for a moment. You can even hit the pause button and sit with it. Think of someone you love very much. And think of someone you feel loved by.
I want to ask you, what did you do, how much did you invest in order to come to that place of love and come to that place of being loved?
Take a moment and think about someone dear…a partner, a sibling, a child, a relative, a friend. What were you willing to give, what were you willing to surrender? What actions did you take on? What life changes did you make in order to be in that relationship?
Now I want to ask you, “Are you willing to do this in your relationship with God?”
And I’m not asking about the philosophy of love and the philosophy of what does it mean to love the infinite, the omnipotent, the omnipresent. I’m not asking philosophical questions.
The truth is, Maimonides, the Rambam, when he talks about loving God, he says like a partner loves their partner. He actually says like a man loves a woman. Like people. He doesn’t talk about these major philosophies. He actually says, “Love, we know what it’s like, we know what it feels like.”
I want to ask you, what are you willing to do, what are you willing to do to be in this love relationship with God? We’re now in the time of the year between Tisha B’Av and Tu B’Av
and we’re heading toward the ימים נוראים (days of awe) Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. What’s that going to look like?
Father Henri Nouwen, an amazing Dutch minister, says the challenge of our lives is to show up in God’s presence with the totality of who we are. Most of the time, he says, we only show up with our nice parts and that’s why our prayer life is lacking in so many ways.
What would it mean to trust God with all of who we are?
Those who we love most, they don’t only know the beautiful parts of who we are. Those that we love most and those that love us most are the ones who know about our blemishes. They know about our challenges. How would it be…the verse multiple times tells us to love God and also לדבקה בו– To cleave to God. What would that look like? What would you be willing to do?
I want to ask you to join me in this journey. It’s not easy and I’m not saying…there are days that I say, “Love you, God? I don’t know about that.”
The truth is, I also want to say, coming back to one of the verses,
וְעַתָּה֙ יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל מָ֚ה יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ שֹׁאֵ֖ל מֵעִמָּ֑ךְ.
And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God demand of you? (Deuteronomy 10:12)
What is God asking? And I want to say מָ֚ה, like the מָ֚ה right before the splitting of the sea. What are you calling out to me? But I want to say, “What?” That is the lesson.
We can stand in the presence of the Devine and say, What is this? What is this about? What are we talking about? What?
That’s all it would take. One word in the presence of the Divine with the love or pain, sometimes, or anger, sometimes. They’re all a different manifestation and facets of what it means to love.
I want to invite you to join me on this journey because it’s not a simple journey and I don’t believe we can actually do it alone. We need reminders and we need companions along the way. We need reminders of what that love feeling feels like and also the sacrifices and the gifts of that relationship.
I want to invite you to join me on this journey of walking towards a moment of feeling God’s love and a moment of truly being able to feel God’s love and being able to say, “God, I love you. God, I love you.”
Reb Mimi serves as the Mashpiah Ruchanit (spiritual mentor) of the Rabbinical School, and teaches Talmud and Hassidic Thought. She will guide and walk with the rabbinical students on their personal-spiritual journeys. She served as the Mashpiah Ruchanit of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies in Los Angeles for the last 16 years. Prior to this Reb Mimi was one of the founding administration and faculty members of the “Yakar” Beit Midrash and community.