Tuesday, July 31, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Vaetchanan/Tu B'Av (Show some love)

This past week we read Parashat Vaetchanan, one of the most liturgically important sections of the Torah. In addition to the Ten Commandments being restated, we also have the first paragraph of the Shema. Though this is probably the most well known passage in the entire Bible, the mitzvot described may be some of the most difficult to accomplish. Traditionally we number 613 mitzvot in the Torah. Very few mitzvot require special kavanah, a strict focus upon only the commandment which you are fulfilling. The Mitzvah here, not only requires kavanah but it asks for a feeling which is almost impossible to give freely. Let me illustrate with the lyrics to "What the world needs now" by Burt Bacharach

What the world needs now is love, sweet loveIt's the only thing that there'sjust
too little ofWhat the world needs now is love, sweet love,No, not just forsome
but for everyone.Lord, we don't need another mountain,There are mountainsand
hillsides enough to climbThere are oceans and rivers enough to cross,Enoughto
last till the end of time.What the world needs now is love, sweet loveNo,
notjust for some but for everyone.

The mitzvah here is the command to love the Lord your God with all yourheart(s), all your soul, and all your might. We recite this officially twice daily (We even recite in the liturgy "twice daily with love we recite the Shema"). Do we have to always love God as we say these words? If I am,God-forbid, sitting shiva, will I really be happy with God? If I had a bad day and I'm going to bed, is the last thing I say before I close my eyes to sleep going to be a lie? I don't have the answer to this question and it is one each of us have to come up with for ourselves.

However, there is another season of love, one which is celebrated in the most minor and unknown (but happiest) of festivals: Today's holiday of Tu B'Av. The full moon of Av, after getting out of the horrible Three Weeks season, we approach the High Holiday season of purity with celebrations of virility and fertility. Love and family are stressed on this holiday and was the happiest of days in the existence of the Temple, even if today it is only celebrated by omitting of Tachanun and all the Jewish Singles groups holding mixers.

Well, happy Love Day...

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