The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (Library of Jewish Ideas)

What is the nature of the love of God in Judaism Does the love flow in both directions or does it flow only from humans to God Jon Levenson the Albert A List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard

What is the nature of the love of God in Judaism? Does the love flow in both directions or does it flow only from humans to God? Jon Levenson, the Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University. explores a multitude of related understandings of the love of God in his new book "The Love of God: Divine, Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism". (2015) The book is relatively short, but it is learned and densely written. It is a book that must be pondered and studied. The book is scholarly, but Levenson writes to convince. He wants to show the reader that there is deep value to the Jewish understanding of the love of God and to encourage a sense of religious awareness.Levenson argues that the love of God is perhaps the most essential part of Judaism but that it remains little studied and understood. The commandment to love God is at the heart of the Shema, the most important prayer in Judaism, with a text that derives from the Torah. Levenson explores love of God in Judaism in five distinct periods: 1. the Torah; 2. the Talmudic commentators; 3. the Prophets; 4. the medieval Jewish philosophers; 5. the modern day, with an emphasis on Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, two twentieth century Jewish philosophers who knew one another and who engaged in discussion about Jewish life. It is worth noting that chronologically nos. 2 and 3 in Levenson's presentation are reversed. Levenson finds a great deal of difference in the understanding of the love of God as developed over the centuries. He also finds a strong degree of continuity.Perhaps the most important of Levenson's insights occurs early in the book when he emphasizes that the concept of love, which focuses on individuality, free choice, and feeling is not the understanding of the early Jewish Bible. The critical locus of love in the Torah is between God and the people Israel. The love is mutual but asymmetrical and not based upon a relationship of equals. Levenson uses as a model documents setting forth the relationship between vassals and their human lords in the time period roughly contemporaneous with the writing of the Torah. The parties assumed duties to one another and pledged love and faithfulness. The Torah projects and radically expands this early, earthly feudal relationship into the relationship between God and Israel. This is a love that can be commanded, unlike the current human variety of love. And in the Torah covenant, it was everlasting. Besides drawing on ancient middle-Eastern texts, Levenson examines closely passages in the Book of Deuteronomy on the Covenant and the reciprocal obligations of love.In the second chapter, Levenson shows how the Rabbis during the Talmudic period expanded and subtly changed their understanding of the Covenant and of love, in part under the influence of Greek philosophy. The Rabbis tended to separate the soul and the body more explicitly than did the Torah and to emphasize a teaching of eternal life. The duty to love God with all one's heart, all one's soul, and all one's might became the most central of Jewish duties and was linked to the Resurrection.Levenson turns to the Biblical Prophets for an expansion of the Torah's concept of love of God to include a strong and growing erotic element. He offers a close reading of the Book of Hosea which I found most insightful. This is followed by a discussion of other writings in which love of God is analogized in different ways to human loves, including the Books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the Song of Songs.The fourth chapter of the book examines Jewish understanding of the love of God in the middle ages, under the influence of both Greek and Islamic philosophy. For me the most compelling section of this book was the discussion of the Sufi-Neo-platonically influenced "Duties of the Heart" by Bahya ibn Paquda. This was an early spiritual manual that taught how to become close to and how to love God. Levenson discusses this work in detail and, if I am not mistaken, leaves much of his own heart with it. Subsequent portions of this chapter discuss whether God can be said to love, or whether love is exclusively directed to God by people. The competing views of Moses Maimonides and Hasdai Crescas are discussed. Levenson's sympathies lean toward the latter thinker, who argued that God could properly show passion and love.The final section of the book is somewhat short and rushed, with its focus on only Buber and Rosenzweig. Levenson argues that while they differ about the role of Law, Buber and Rosenzweig agree that "ideally, what lies behind any valid observance is the voice of a personal loving God, and not simply a moral ideal, a natural process, a human need to identify ethnically, or any other modernistic substitute for the living and loving God of the ancient sources". Levenson finds inadequacies in both Buber and Rosenzweig. He encourages readers to engage with the sources he has discussed and to recognize that "[t]o acknowledge and respond to that highest reality does not require one to deny the lover ones; it requires only that one recognize they are all rendering something more, something that can be apprehended even if never grasped." This conclusion may be found in the Jewish sources Levenson considers, but it goes beyond them as well to other religions and approaches to God. The reader is encouraged to explore the ancient Torah commandment: "Love Me".It is valuable to see both the continuity and the differences in the understanding of the love of God that has been developed in Judaism. Levenson's book has an excellent historical sense as he repeatedly and insightfully warns his readers not to confuse contemporary individualisms or facile answers with the highly different concepts found in earlier sources. This thoughtful book can be read with benefit by serious readers interested in the religious life, regardless of whether the reader is Jewish, a practitioner of another religion, or non-religious.Robin FriedmanGood The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (Library of Jewish Ideas) By Jon D. Levenson are Books The love of God is perhaps the most essential element in Judaism but also one of the most confounding In biblical and rabbinic literature, the obligation to love God appears as a formal commandment Yet most people today think of love as a feeling How can an emotion be commanded How could one ever fulfill such a requirement The Love of God places these scholarly and exThe love of God is perhaps the most essential element in Judaism but also one of the most confounding In biblical and rabbinic literature, the obligation to love God appears as a formal commandment Yet most people today think of love as a feeling How can an emotion be commanded How could one ever fulfill such a requirement The Love of God places these scholarly and existential questions in a new light.Jon Levenson traces the origins of the concept to the ancient institution of covenant, showing how covenantal love is a matter neither of sentiment nor of dry legalism The love of God is instead a deeply personal two way relationship that finds expression in God s mysterious love for the people of Israel, who in turn observe God s laws out of profound gratitude for his acts of deliverance Levenson explores how this bond has survived episodes in which God s love appears to be painfully absent as in the brutal persecutions of Talmudic times and describes the intensely erotic portrayals of the relationship by biblical prophets and rabbinic interpreters of the Song of Songs He examines the love of God as a spiritual discipline in the Middle Ages as well as efforts by two influential modern Jewish thinkers Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig to recover this vital but endangered aspect of their tradition.A breathtaking work of scholarship and spirituality alike that is certain to provoke debate, The Love of God develops fascinating insights into the foundations of religious life in the classical Jewish tradition.. Jon D Levenson is the Albert A List Professor of Jewish Studies at the Harvard Divinity School.He is a scholar of the Bible and of the rabbinic midrash, with an interest in the philosophical and theological issues involved in biblical studies He studies the relationship between traditional modes of Biblical interpretation and modern historical criticism He also studies the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.Levenson s foci include Theological traditions in ancient Israel biblical and rabbinic periods Literary Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible Midrash History of Jewish biblical interpretation Modern Jewish theology Jewish Christian relations.. Bestseller Ebook The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (Library of Jewish Ideas) What is the nature of the love of God in Judaism? Does the love flow in both directions or does it flow only from humans to God? Jon Levenson, the Albert A. List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University. explores a multitude of related understandings of the love of God in his new book "The Love of God: Divine, Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism". (2015) The book is relatively short, but it is learned and densely written. It is a book that must be pondered and studied. The book is scholarly, but Levenson writes to convince. He wants to show the reader that there is deep value to the Jewish understanding of the love of God and to encourage a sense of religious awareness.Levenson argues that the love of God is perhaps the most essential part of Judaism but that it remains little studied and understood. The commandment to love God is at the heart of the Shema, the most important prayer in Judaism, with a text that derives from the Torah. Levenson explores love of God in Judaism in five distinct periods: 1. the Torah; 2. the Talmudic commentators; 3. the Prophets; 4. the medieval Jewish philosophers; 5. the modern day, with an emphasis on Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig, two twentieth century Jewish philosophers who knew one another and who engaged in discussion about Jewish life. It is worth noting that chronologically nos. 2 and 3 in Levenson's presentation are reversed. Levenson finds a great deal of difference in the understanding of the love of God as developed over the centuries. He also finds a strong degree of continuity.Perhaps the most important of Levenson's insights occurs early in the book when he emphasizes that the concept of love, which focuses on individuality, free choice, and feeling is not the understanding of the early Jewish Bible. The critical locus of love in the Torah is between God and the people Israel. The love is mutual but asymmetrical and not based upon a relationship of equals. Levenson uses as a model documents setting forth the relationship between vassals and their human lords in the time period roughly contemporaneous with the writing of the Torah. The parties assumed duties to one another and pledged love and faithfulness. The Torah projects and radically expands this early, earthly feudal relationship into the relationship between God and Israel. This is a love that can be commanded, unlike the current human variety of love. And in the Torah covenant, it was everlasting. Besides drawing on ancient middle-Eastern texts, Levenson examines closely passages in the Book of Deuteronomy on the Covenant and the reciprocal obligations of love.In the second chapter, Levenson shows how the Rabbis during the Talmudic period expanded and subtly changed their understanding of the Covenant and of love, in part under the influence of Greek philosophy. The Rabbis tended to separate the soul and the body more explicitly than did the Torah and to emphasize a teaching of eternal life. The duty to love God with all one's heart, all one's soul, and all one's might became the most central of Jewish duties and was linked to the Resurrection.Levenson turns to the Biblical Prophets for an expansion of the Torah's concept of love of God to include a strong and growing erotic element. He offers a close reading of the Book of Hosea which I found most insightful. This is followed by a discussion of other writings in which love of God is analogized in different ways to human loves, including the Books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the Song of Songs.The fourth chapter of the book examines Jewish understanding of the love of God in the middle ages, under the influence of both Greek and Islamic philosophy. For me the most compelling section of this book was the discussion of the Sufi-Neo-platonically influenced "Duties of the Heart" by Bahya ibn Paquda. This was an early spiritual manual that taught how to become close to and how to love God. Levenson discusses this work in detail and, if I am not mistaken, leaves much of his own heart with it. Subsequent portions of this chapter discuss whether God can be said to love, or whether love is exclusively directed to God by people. The competing views of Moses Maimonides and Hasdai Crescas are discussed. Levenson's sympathies lean toward the latter thinker, who argued that God could properly show passion and love.The final section of the book is somewhat short and rushed, with its focus on only Buber and Rosenzweig. Levenson argues that while they differ about the role of Law, Buber and Rosenzweig agree that "ideally, what lies behind any valid observance is the voice of a personal loving God, and not simply a moral ideal, a natural process, a human need to identify ethnically, or any other modernistic substitute for the living and loving God of the ancient sources". Levenson finds inadequacies in both Buber and Rosenzweig. He encourages readers to engage with the sources he has discussed and to recognize that "[t]o acknowledge and respond to that highest reality does not require one to deny the lover ones; it requires only that one recognize they are all rendering something more, something that can be apprehended even if never grasped." This conclusion may be found in the Jewish sources Levenson considers, but it goes beyond them as well to other religions and approaches to God. The reader is encouraged to explore the ancient Torah commandment: "Love Me".It is valuable to see both the continuity and the differences in the understanding of the love of God that has been developed in Judaism. Levenson's book has an excellent historical sense as he repeatedly and insightfully warns his readers not to confuse contemporary individualisms or facile answers with the highly different concepts found in earlier sources. This thoughtful book can be read with benefit by serious readers interested in the religious life, regardless of whether the reader is Jewish, a practitioner of another religion, or non-religious.Robin Friedman

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  1. Jon D Levenson is the Albert A List Professor of Jewish Studies at the Harvard Divinity School.He is a scholar of the Bible and of the rabbinic midrash, with an interest in the philosophical and theological issues involved in biblical studies He studies the relationship between traditional modes of Biblical interpretation and modern historical criticism He also studies the relationship between Judaism and Christianity.Levenson s foci include Theological traditions in ancient Israel biblical and rabbinic periods Literary Interpretation of the Hebrew Bible Midrash History of Jewish biblical interpretation Modern Jewish theology Jewish Christian relations.

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The Love of God: Divine Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism (Library of Jewish Ideas) Comment

  1. What is the nature of the love of God in Judaism Does the love flow in both directions or does it flow only from humans to God Jon Levenson, the Albert A List Professor of Jewish Studies at Harvard University explores a multitude of related understandings of the love of God in his new book The Love of God Divine, Gift, Human Gratitude, and Mutual Faithfulness in Judaism 2015 The book is relatively short, but it is learned and densely written It is a book that must be pondered and studied The boo [...]


  2. This book analyzes the Love of God in both of its literal directions love of God by Israel and love of Israel by God Jon Levenson examines the commandment , You will love your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might, from the point of view of what it means to command love Ancient sources describe relationships between suzerainty and vassals Biblical, Rabbinic, and modern writings Buber and Rosenzweig are discussed The idea of closely following ritual observances as m [...]



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