In the music video “Adore You,” Miley Cyrus gave her best effort at provocation, writhing between white sheets, on the verge of masturbation, as she films herself for the future husband she “adores.” Despite the overtly suggestive content, “Adore You” didn’t reach the YouTube success of “Wrecking Ball” or “We Can’t Stop,” with “only” 69 million views instead of the 596 million and 379 million, respectively.
Say what you want about the “sex tape” style of the video, but heard on its own, “Adore You” is a stunning, hypnotizing love song, with a critically acclaimed vocal performance that communicates longing, love, and vulnerability. Had she done a clean-cut video, it could have become the newest wedding song of choice.
Leave it to Miley to break open societal taboos as she stares into the camera, about to dip her hands beneath her underpants.
On philosophical level, masturbation, metaphorically, is an act of self-sufficiency and self-affirmation: the call to independence, in which one does not rely on others to give them pleasure. Of course, ultimate pleasure comes from the act of intercourse with one’s ezer k’negdo (soulmate), but God has created us with the means to take care of ourselves as we seek others who can fulfill us, and whom we can fulfill.
Therefore, it is only fitting to use Miley Cyrus as a vehicle to discuss a topic that people also don’t discuss in polite company: love of God.
In my new Miley Cyrus parody (following my viral hits “Jews Can’t Stop” and “Gaza Wrecking Ball”), I adapted the first minute of the song to communicate the most important concept in the Torah, one that Jews often overlook but which is the hallmark of Jewish experience: the Shema Yisrael and its call to love God.
It’s the prayer Jews recite on their way to death and affliction, and in their most joyful moments. And yet, this quintessential Jewish idea has been ignored or trumped in favor of other self-selected Jewish values. For Left-wing Jews, tikkun olam in the guise of social justice is the ultimate Jewish calling. For Orthodox Jews, Shabbat and kosher have become the touchstone of Jewish fulfillment. But what about the phrase we’re supposed to recite when we arise and when we go to sleep? That we stamp on every doorpost? The call to love God.
In my latest eBook, “Spinoza & Ayn Rand: Soulmates,” I hearken to Baruch Spinoza and Ayn Rand whose philosophies of reason and rational egoism are both celebrated and decried. While both philosophers of Jewish descent are often considered heretics, with Rand an avowed atheist, I believe their ideas can help us understand what is divine love.
Seventeenth century philosopher, Spinoza, interprets love of God in his magum opus, Ethics, as follows: “He who understands himself and his emotions clearly and distinctly loves God, and the more so the more he understands himself and his emotions.”
He gives “Love of God” a Latin synonym, conatus, which means “the endeavor wherewith a thing endeavors to persist in its being.” This is not different from twentieth century author/philosopher Ayn Rand’s reclaiming of the word “selfishness” to define the moral quest of an individual to actualize his or her potential as the ultimate means to survival.
Love of God is the effort by which we seek to be true to who we are, knowing ourselves fully – our special skills, talents, the experiences that shape us – so that we can make our distinct contribution to the world that God “created,” as we seek to understand it rationally, to the best of our ability. Love of God comes from “listening” — to God, to our innermost selves.
In Jewish tradition, God doesn’t have a name. He is written (in Hebrew letters) as YHWH, which intimates all conjugations of the verb “to be.” God is therefore like the purest form of existence, which, if we love, will lead us to the highest, truest state of self-perfection and actuality in this world.
What better way to communicate this radical idea than through the radical pop star, who pushes the limits on what constitutes self-discovery, self-exploration, and individual independence.
And in case you’re sick of my racy Miley parodies, don’t worry. The next one is an original, family friendly music video.