«Jewish Observer»
February 2002
5762 Shvat

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This question that was formulated by Plato in his dialogue "Feast" is a philosophical challenge to the humanity. Jews had got the answer to this question long ago. According to the Russian language one can "love" sweets and country walks, a girl or modern art, native land or a sport commentator, an army order or your people and God after all. Nevertheless, the Jewish nature of the question is in its formulation: what should one do? It's possible to explain why, when and how this question becomes really Russian, but we'll write about it in some other article. Now it's important to understand that any emotional or social movement of a Jew, who keeps the Jewish way of life, not just presumes but demands some definite order of actions. Linguists think that even the word Dat (Jewish analogue of the word "religion") means "to make somebody do something". That's why we use the notion "the commandments' keeper" (shormey mitsvot) more often than "religious" when we speak about a religious Jew. In simple words, if you think that you're a Jew, then you have to do something for it.

As to the Jewish ideology, the existence of God is efficient: He acts in the history that different people can witness, but not only Jews are given documentary fixed advantage. The highest level of the godliness, from the Jewish point of view, is the imitation of God, so the question "what should one do" is undoubtedly Jewish. Moreover, God proposed through Moses, and the tradition to work out the Way that covers all human life. Such Way of Life is worked out for both Jews and non-Jews.

Now, following the "object" of love, let's discuss its possible subjects. In the Russian language it is possible to say using the verb "love" that weapon loves care and oiling, cats love "Wiskas" and kindness, a kid loves ice-cream and his mother, a mother loves her husband and TV weather-reports, motherland loves its sons and daughters, people love "bread and show", and finally ... God loves all people.

And some more: God loves his people and people loves God.

It's obvious that very important words are missing in the last sentence - "Jewish people". Only in this case the phrase becomes sensible. It's quite clear to us, Jews. There's no such exclusiveness in it, which anti-Semites blame us for. They think that it's possible to love "more" or "less", that love has some quantitative indicators and presupposes some privileges. It's impossible to persuade them despite numerous examples: parents love all their children, but in a different ways. This difference isn't quantitative but a qualitative one. Different quality of love presupposes different responsibility.

The subject of love can be both animated and inanimated "object" (say, motherland in our Russian meaning), or some socially important institution like some Jewish organization consisting of Jews only. Some of these Jews want to get something and some want to share something. If these Jewish organizations love Jews, then what do they do for them?

"Love people and make them closer to the Torah", "You're doomed to death if you don't study", "All who work for the welfare of society must do it in the name of the Heaven". These quotations are taken from the "golden deposits" of Jewish morality of "Pikrey Avot" (Directions of Fathers) - one of the Talmud's treatises.

These maxims don't need prolong comments: love is efficient and directed not only at the social or personal benefits but at the universal ones, including the learning of the Torah which is the prototype of the universe creation. If we take a Jewish prayer which contains the main psychological feelings of a Jew ("in love and fear before Your name"), then the main subject of our hope becomes the mizvot (commandments): literally "paste our hearts to your commandments".

Now, it's time to sum up: to love, from the Jewish point of view, means not just "to sigh on the bench"... we aren't embarrassed what the Russian poet writes about it. Personal aspect of love and love between sexes, from the Jewish point of view, isn't opposed to the so-called "common human" experience, but puts this aspect into definite limits. So, from the Jewish point of view, they are borders of humanity. These borders reflect in our ultimate world the Charity - one of the God's names. The other name, as it is well known, is the Judgement. That's why the personal aspect of love is supplemented with justice, and there's also humanity in these borders. In other words, love and justice are the essence of human cooperation.

Plato in his dialogue "Feast" asks and Jews answer what should one do "when he loves". And what is more, Jews know that "... everything is prepared for the feast" (Pirkey Avot, Mishna 16). As you see, Plato did know the Jewish tradition.

"MEG", Moscow

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