Parshas Vaeschanan – Serving with Love
In this week’s parsha (Parshas Vaeschanan), we read the most important prayer in Judaism. You probably know it already – it is the Shema.
Why is the Shema so important? Because it starts with a simple but powerful affirmation of our faith in one G-d. It consists of just six words in Hebrew – Shema Yisrael, A-donai E-lohaynu, A-donai Echad.
Let’s take a look at the full passage of the first paragraph of the Shema, as written in this week’s parsha (Deuteronomy 6:4-9):
Hear, O Israel: The L-rd is our G-d; the L-rd is one. And you shall love the L-rd, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your means. And these words, which I command you this day, shall be upon your heart. And you shall teach them to your sons and speak of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk on the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them for a sign upon your hand, and they shall be for ornaments between your eyes. And you shall inscribe them upon the doorposts of your house and upon your gates.
That’s what Jews all over the world say (at least) two times a day, in the morning and in the evenings (along with more prayers, of course).
Now, on the words “You shall love the L-rd your G-d”, Rashi comments:
“And you shall love [the L-rd]“: Perform His commandments out of love. The one who acts out of love cannot be compared to the one who acts out of fear. If one serves his master out of fear, when the master sets a great burden upon him, this servant will leave him and go away [whereas if out of love he will serve him even under great burden] This is a wonderful lesson for us all. Many Jewish people grew up with a negative perspective of Judaism, because they were only taught to serve G-d out of fear. “If you don’t do this or that, He will punish you!” “G-d will be angry at you if you do that!” And so on.
It works sometimes. It gets us to do things. But in the long run, it doesn’t. Because it ends up giving people a relationship with G-d that is not everlasting. What happens when it becomes too much? We call it quits.
But when we learn to see G-d as a loving father – as someone who always wants the best for us, and knows what exactly it is – then we will stick with Him, even when the going is tough. That’s what the Torah wants us to do: “And you shall love the L-rd your G-d”. Not fear Him. Love Him.
But it’s not too late to change your perspective, if that’s what you received in Sunday School back when you were ten years old. You can always open up a Jewish book or two, or attend a synagogue service. Instead of focusing on the “you shalt nots” of your childhood, think about what makes Judaism so beautiful.
What says you?
Write your comments in the comment area below! And watch the video above for a modern day example of this idea.