Tonight, G^d willing, will my son Shalom marry Bat-el. The following states in English what I hope to say there. Today is also the 39th yahrtzeit of my father, natan ben mordechai, and also 6 years since the death of the great Marshall Rosenberg. May our accomplishments all strengthen each other.
Tonight is a very special day of this month, the 26th. Twenty-six is actually twice thirteen. And 13 is the numerical value of the Hebrew for love.
Strangely, the Torah commands us to love. To love your fellow, to love the proselyte, and to love G^d, our G^d. This is strange since, generally, the Torah doesn’t talk a lot about feelings. It describes life as we can all see it, unaided by telescope, microscope, television, surgeon, or psychologist.
Why has your face fallen, G^d inquires to know from Cain. Not: Why do you feel lousy? The major exception about feelings is G^d Who is sometimes reported as being angry. But maybe, that’s the least one may do in staging SomeOne IncorpoReal. So, what is love doing in Scripture?
Please, let me suggest that the commandments to love do not mean that we must feel very happy with someone. “Waiter, bring me some fish — I love fish” reveals fake love. If you’d really loved fish, you would not eat it.
Rather, go love, in the Torah, means: Make the others feel that you love them. This understanding explains a few things I never understood before.
Isaac and Esau
For me, it’s inconceivable that the only child of Abraham, who loved everyone, Isaac, would not know how to love his son Esau. Only when he fed him game he would love him? And this great saint would not be disturbed to have his sympathy be ‘bough’? Never made any sense to me.
Rather, that’s not what it could mean. Esau knew how evil he was. Hiding his evil side from his father did nothing for making him feel better about himself. Only when his father ate fresh meat dishes of wild he captured and prepared, Esau felt some hope that his father could love him.
The saintly Jacob did not have such trouble. He just felt that his mother loved him. I once asked one of my children, when he was about five, how he knew that I loved him. He said: “Because, because, because I FEEL it.”
Moses and Jethro
On Shabbat, we just read, over a dozen times in one chapter, of Jethro being Moses’ father-in-law. Once would have been enough. Exaggerate and say it twice. Why so many times, I asked myself every year.
Maybe an answer can go as follows. We are commanded to deeply love proselytes. Yet, they may have a hard time believing it. Jethro served all idols in the world before turning to Judaism. And now the Jews, who suffered as slaves, are going to not only accept and honor him, but also love him while he had suffered nothing? Maybe they’re just being polite.
Of course, Moses honors him. To make your in-laws feel honored is part of the command to honor one’s parents. So, he feasts him to an exquisite banquette. But honoring is not making him feel loved. So, he can’t stop telling everyone that this is my father-in-law. How often? Thirteen times!
In the first blessing of our thrice-a-day main prayer, we say that everything G^d does for us is “from love.” The numerical value seems fifteen but let me suggest reading it differently: from: 2, love: thirteen: twice 13.
To pray in Hebrew is a reflexive word. G^d will hear our prayers but do we too overhear and pay attention to the words we say? The prayer should help us notice in our lives how much G^d loves us. And much of what we do and don’t do would warrant making G^d feel loved, so to speak. Twice thirteen. That’s 26. The numerical value of the Tetragrammaton, G^d’s special four-letter Name. Our relationship with G^d is a two-way street.
And that’s how it should be between husband and wife. Not that they feel good about the other. But rather, that they each make the other feel, by action, by words, by facial expression, by thoughtfulness, you are loved.
And when both feel the love of the other, G^d is with them.
May the One who loves us all, heal all the sick we care about, here, at home, in hospital, in the Diaspora, take away any life-threatening danger, shortness of breath, lack of taste, pain, or lack of energy, and return them to full physical and emotional health, still tonight, let us say Amen.