Unconditional love

Distinguishing between the love of God and the love of country

By HAIM O. RECHNITZER
July 10, 2013 15:07
4 minute read.
Pro-Israel students on US campus

Pro-Israel students on US campus 521. (photo credit: Courtesy JAFI)

Israeli students, even those who attend secular public schools, are fortunate to have Bible classes throughout their education as part of their core curriculum. However, young students often find these lessons a challenge to their secular views on such issues as gender equality, vengeance, or science. It can also bewilder their imagination. I still recall my teacher’s attempts to explain the precise vocation of that righteous woman Rahab, the harlot, or what had happened between Amnon and his sister Tamar.

Even more puzzling was our teacher’s attempt to explain to us seventh-graders this verse from the Torah portion Va’etchanan, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5). Little did I know that this very verse was such a pivotal idea for our Jewish philosophers from Maimonides to Yeshayahu Leibowitz in making the distinction between the worship of God “for its own sake” (lishma) or “not for its own sake.” That is to fulfill God’s Torah in order to avoid punishments and gain rewards, as against following the commandments as being good in and of itself.

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