Love the Lord with all your heart, yet put Him second?

Do they want us to love with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our might, yet put Him second?

Answer me this:

Last week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, includes the six verses that make up the first section of the Sh’ma.

“Hear, Oh Israel, The Lord is God. The Lord is One.”

It goes on to say:

And you shall love the Lord your God with all year heart, and all your soul and all your might.  These words, which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; you shall teach them diligently to your children; you shall speak of them when sitting in your home, when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise up.

No Jew with Hebrew education can fail to recognize these words.

So, how does Aaron Starr, senior rabbi at Shaarey Zedek Congregation in Southfield, Michigan, a Conservative shul where I belong, organize a Read with the Rabbi session entitled “Putting God Second” based on a book of that name by the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem?

Putting God Second by Rabbi Donniel Hartman
with Rabbi Aaron Starr
Thursday, August 22, 2019 at 6:00 p.m.
Come early for Minyan at 5:30 p.m., join Rabbi Aaron Starr at 6:00 p.m. for this literary discussion, then everyone is welcome to remain for sips, sweets and our Berman Night of Learning featuring Nira Lev.In Putting God Second, Rabbi Donniel Hartman tackles one of modern life’s most urgent and vexing questions: Why are the great monotheistic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) chronically unable to fulfill their own self-professed goal of creating individuals infused with moral sensitivity and societies governed by the highest ethical standards?

How does Rabbi Starr – or the others he quoted on Shavuot – sermonize on the absence of a Covenant between the Diety and his Chosen People?  A video of Rabbi Starr’s sermon is here:

How can Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, whom he quotes, say this?

What then happened to the covenant? I submit that its authority was broken but the Jewish people, released from its obligations, chose voluntarily to take it on again… The Jewish people was so in love with the dream of redemption that it volunteered to carry on its mission.  (

Or, in Wikepedia’s words, “Greenberg sees the Holocaust as a seminal event in Jewish history, which should be seen as the “breaking of the covenant” between God and the Jewish People”

How does Rabbi Donniel Hartman, who self-describes as Modern Orthodox, write such a book?  Despite views such as this, his ordination came from The Sholom Hartman Institute, which he now heads.

This week’s parsha, Eikev, includes the third paragraph of the Sh’ma, in particular, (

Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse. כורְאֵ֗ה אָֽנֹכִ֛י נֹתֵ֥ן לִפְנֵיכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם בְּרָכָ֖ה וּקְלָלָֽה:
27The blessing, that you will heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today; כזאֶת־הַבְּרָכָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר תִּשְׁמְע֗וּ אֶל־מִצְו‍ֹת֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָֽנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם:
28and the curse, if you will not heed the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn away from the way I command you this day, to follow other gods, which you did not know. כחוְהַקְּלָלָ֗ה אִם־לֹ֤א תִשְׁמְעוּ֙ אֶל־מִצְו‍ֹת֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם וְסַרְתֶּ֣ם מִן־הַדֶּ֔רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֧ר אָֽנֹכִ֛י מְצַוֶּ֥ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם הַיּ֑וֹם לָלֶ֗כֶת אַֽחֲרֵ֛י אֱלֹהִ֥ים אֲחֵרִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־יְדַעְ

The above referenced paragraph is often omitted from Reform prayer books because the doctrine of retribution is different in the Reform movement.
How is it possible to love the Lord our God with all our hearts and all our souls and all our might while putting Him second and denying His Covenant?
It isn’t.

This prayer, Sh’ma Yisrael, is widely accepted as the liturgical basis for monotheistic religion.  The question I’ve asked is not a dispute between one congregant and one rabbi.  It is the seminal distinction between Progressive and Traditional Judaism.

Putting the Holy One second works for those who seek to make the Jewish religion into a political movement.  It does not work for me.

About the Author
A resident of Ann Arbor, Michigan, I hold BA and MA degrees in economics, and spent the first decade after graduate school in journalism. I have worked on Wall Street, met a payroll, won a wire service award, and served on three boards. With a partner, I am involved in a litigation funding business.