3

Question

This is a general question looking to exhaust the topic. Should we love Hashem (ואהבת את ה' אלקיך) more than anyone else? Including our spouse (ואוהבה כגופו - Rambam Ishut 15:19), our children, our wider family, our friends and our fellow Jew (ואהבת לרעך כמוך)? What about the stranger (כאזרח מכם יהיה לכם הגר  הגר אתכם ואהבת לו כמוך)? What about mankind in general, given that Hashem loves them (e.g. Tehillim 107)?

Either way, what does this mean in practice?


Background:

I believe that over the years I have built up a picture that one should love Hashem more (e.g. Akedat Yitzchak*, and ma'asim from divrei Torah**), but I have also heard the opposite. I've heard that, if Hashem would ask someone to divorce one's wife because she is not religious (and not because of some halachic issue like Cohen and Divorcee), one would be expected to refuse, following the example of Moshe asking to be written out of the Good Book when being asked to sever himself from Benei Yisrael.

Nothing in this is conclusive though, so I am genuinely asking. If I were being honest, I would hope the answer is that it should be equal. I'd be a little bit uncomfortable if the answer is we should love Hashem more, but that would depend on what the nafka mina is.


* I believe that this can be explained that Avraham wasn't necessarily putting Hashem before Yitzchak, because Avraham believed that "going back to heaven as a perfect korban" was in Yitzchak's best interest.
** I once heard in a shabbat shiur a (frankly, probably Christian-stolen story) of a frum couple who couldn't have children and went to adopt, but the adoption clerk in the interview insisted they admit they would love the child more than God, but they refused, and therefore were denied, but were blessed with children later.

10
  • What does it mean, exactly, to love A more than B? Mar 30, 2023 at 19:22
  • @MauriceMizrahi the first thing I'd start with is stronger feeling. The next thing would be looking at practical situations. Should one die for Hashem over one's children etc. This is a starting place that might hopefully lead to some good facts. I am happy for the answer to your question to be part of the answer to mine. What do you think?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 30, 2023 at 19:32
  • "The greatest love one can show a Father is to do a kindness to HIs children." -me. But I would argue that the question is based on a false dichotomy, if it weren't so dependent on one's derekh and what one thinks the centerpiece of Avodas Hashem is. Chazal thought everything boils down to our bein adam lachaveiro. Other hashkafos exist, although I cannot find any other opinions that old outside of the Zohar. Mar 31, 2023 at 15:15
  • @MichaBerger I don't think your comment is enough for me to understand your point. I'd be glad if you could submit an answer, if time permits. Shabbat shalom
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 31, 2023 at 15:24
  • The problem is that my answer is presuming a Mussarist's perspective. It would gather down-votes. So to repeat in a comment: Hashem doesn't need anything. Everything He created was so that He could have someone to be good to. (To the extent we can talk about Hashem's motives as all.) Everything we do to worship him is about being able to emaulate Hashem and partner with Him in sharing His Good with others. The central expression of Ahavas Hashem is how we love the people we relate to. Family, friends, neighbors, the Jewish People, humanity, other living things, and even all of creation. Mar 31, 2023 at 15:58

3 Answers 3

6

Let's review the Sources and see if we can come to a conclusion.

1-You must love God: "You shall love your God יהוה with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might." [Deut. 6:5]

2-You must love people: your neighbor [Lev. 19:18], your parents [Deut. 5:16], the stranger [Lev. 10:19], and many others.

3-You must love yourself more than other people: "Your life takes precedence over the life of another." [Bava Metzia 62a]

4-You may love some people more than others: "The love of a father is for his sons; but the love of his sons is for their own sons, more than for their father." [Sotah 49a]

5-Loving God “with all your soul” means "even if God takes your soul". [Mishnah Berachot 9:5]

(5) implies that you must love God more than yourself, and (3) says that you must love yourself more than other people.

Therefore you must love God more than you love any person.

2
  • Nice approach! Now, can you please break the news to my wife and kids? :) I will think it over. If I can find a case where one is obligated to die for another fellow human being, I will have a kasha on you. Right now I am researching if one is obligated to put one's spouse or children's lives before one's own.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 30, 2023 at 23:53
  • Are you in danger? If it is shalom bayis, Rambam says אוהבה כגופו ומכבדה יותר מגופו. Sounds like you either need to talk to police or someone with shalom bayis expertise.
    – N.T.
    Apr 5, 2023 at 21:03
3

It is my personal opinion that our holy Torah uses Abraham to teach us that it's not always best to love God most of All. I believe God did not give us the Torah through Abraham because Abraham loved God too much. And instead, Moses was found worthy of giving the Torah because he was willing to advocate for the people of Israel, even if it meant defying God Himself.

God made the following promise to Abraham:

Genesis Chapter 12

א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ. 1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee. ב וְאֶעֶשְׂךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל, וַאֲבָרֶכְךָ, וַאֲגַדְּלָה שְׁמֶךָ; וֶהְיֵה, בְּרָכָה. 2 And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and be thou a blessing.

God gives Abraham a promise that if Abraham leaves the people around him, that God will establish a new people through Abraham and his descendants. Every Jew learns of this promise, and its fulfillment. But what few Jews discuss is how the Torah compares Abraham's greatness vs Moses's greatness so we can see the shortcomings of Abraham. For example:

  • In order to fulfill God's prophecy of descendants, Sarai and Abraham try to have a child through Hagar. God eventually has to tell Abraham that this was not the path.
  • When God appears to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham advocates for those innocent in those cities. But he does not attempt to stop God, and Abraham does not attempt to save the innocent people himself, he just asks God to be righteous.
  • Abraham allows his family to be torn apart twice for the sake of God's promise. Abraham sends away Hagar and Ishmael, which eventually become the separate people we now call Arabs, but whom might have been one of our tribes if they had not been sent away. And Abraham offers up Isaac, and after the near sacrifice we are never shown Abraham and Isaac as talking or living together ever again. Abraham only has one descendant, Isaac has few, whereas Ishmael has many kids and becomes his own people much faster than Abraham and Isaac, which we would not expect to be the case.

We know that God rewards Abraham for his faithfulness, and truly there were probably none so devoted to God in our tradition as Abraham. And while the Torah does not offer commentary on whether Abraham makes the actual right decision, the Torah does give us another story to compare to.

God makes nearly the same promise to Moses, but instead of Moses doing everything to try and fulfill God's promise like Abraham, Moses does something else entirely.

Exodus 32

י וְעַתָּה הַנִּיחָה לִּי, וְיִחַר-אַפִּי בָהֶם וַאֲכַלֵּם; וְאֶעֱשֶׂה אוֹתְךָ, לְגוֹי גָּדוֹל. 10 Now therefore let Me alone, that My wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation.' יא וַיְחַל מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-פְּנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהָיו; וַיֹּאמֶר, לָמָה יְהוָה יֶחֱרֶה אַפְּךָ בְּעַמֶּךָ, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בְּכֹחַ גָּדוֹל וּבְיָד חֲזָקָה. 11 And Moses besought the LORD his God, and said: 'LORD, why doth Thy wrath wax hot against Thy people, that Thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? יב לָמָּה יֹאמְרוּ מִצְרַיִם לֵאמֹר, בְּרָעָה הוֹצִיאָם לַהֲרֹג אֹתָם בֶּהָרִים, וּלְכַלֹּתָם, מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה; שׁוּב מֵחֲרוֹן אַפֶּךָ, וְהִנָּחֵם עַל-הָרָעָה לְעַמֶּךָ. 12 Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, saying: For evil did He bring them forth, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth? Turn from Thy fierce wrath, and repent of this evil against Thy people. יג זְכֹר לְאַבְרָהָם לְיִצְחָק וּלְיִשְׂרָאֵל עֲבָדֶיךָ, אֲשֶׁר נִשְׁבַּעְתָּ לָהֶם בָּךְ, וַתְּדַבֵּר אֲלֵהֶם, אַרְבֶּה אֶת-זַרְעֲכֶם כְּכוֹכְבֵי הַשָּׁמָיִם; וְכָל-הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָמַרְתִּי, אֶתֵּן לְזַרְעֲכֶם, וְנָחֲלוּ, לְעֹלָם. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Thy servants, to whom Thou didst swear by Thine own self, and saidst unto them: I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have spoken of will I give unto your seed, and they shall inherit it for ever.'

  • When God told Abraham he would make a people through him, Abraham changed his entire life to fulfill this promise. Moses is not at all tempted by this promise. Abraham advocates only for the innocent, but in the end would not stand between God and those God are judging. Moses advocates for the entire people, guilty and innocent alike.
  • When push came to shove Abraham was willing to give up both of his children for God's promise. When push came to shove Moses would rather be taken out of God's Torah than let the people of Israel be destroyed.

And so it is my opinion that the Torah comes to teach us the following: If Abraham would have been there at the Golden Calf, he would have let God destroy the entire people since all of them were at least a little guilty in the idolatry after witnessing the miracles of their salvation. Abraham would have watched God destroy them all, and then he would have tried to have another child to fulfill God's promise. The greatness of Moses and the greatness of Abraham are very different. And by comparing their greatnesses we can see where each fell short of the other. And I argue that we learn from Abraham that there's a cost to loving God too much

9
  • Could you elaborate please.
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 30, 2023 at 18:05
  • Moshe was the shepherd of faith. There's a Midrash that says that he brought back a sheep that was lost, because he cared even for the individual. Isn't that what Torah is about? Avodas Yisrael etc...
    – Shmuel
    Mar 30, 2023 at 18:10
  • @Shmuel could you also elaborate!
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 30, 2023 at 19:40
  • "Moses was found worthy of giving the Torah because he was willing to advocate for the people of Israel at any personal cost to himself." - This is where that Midrash comes to mind. Chassidus connects the idea of the faithful shepherd to Moshe Rabbeinu. For a reason ofcourse. He was looking after his people. See the meforshim on the story of the killing of the Egyptian. Moshe was willing to lead the people. To transform them. That's why through Moshe, we received the Torah.
    – Shmuel
    Mar 30, 2023 at 20:53
  • @Shmuel I understand these points but I am not sure what point you are making? Aaron - one thing I would like you to explain is, the cases of Avraham and Moshe are different. Avraham was asked to give Yitzchak to Hashem. Moshe was asked to abandon the people and let them get destroyed. How do we know, therefore, that Avraham loved God more than Yitzchak?
    – Rabbi Kaii
    Mar 30, 2023 at 23:57
2

"The greatest love one can show a Father is to do a kindness to His children."
-me

I would like to suggest that the question is based on a false dichotomy.

Hashem doesn't need anything. Everything He created was so that He could have someone to be good to. As Rav Shimon Shkop put it (Introduction to Shaarei Yosher, translation mine, from Widen Your Tent, Mosaica 2019):

For everything He created and formed was according to His Will (may it be blessed)1 only to be good to the creations. So too His Will is that we walk in His Ways. As it says, “and you shall walk in His Ways.” (Devarim 28:9)

(To the extent we can talk about Hashem's motives as all.)

Everything we do to worship Hashem is about being able to both emulate and partner with Him in sharing His Good with others. The central expression of Ahavas Hashem is how we love the people we relate to. Family, friends, neighbors, the Jewish People, humanity, other living things, and even all of creation. The broader one makes those circles of caring, the more one is in accord with Hashem's Will. Or as Rav Shimon put it, this is truly the measure of a person's soul.

Loving G-d and loving others are inseparable goals. It's more about whether or not you connect your love of your wife or husband to your love of G-d, of the image of G-d that she or he is, and your commitment to help Him be good to them.

Recall the pasuq Rabbi Aqiva considered the Torah's great principle:

וְאָֽהַבְתָּ֥ לְרֵעֲךָ֖ כָּמ֑וֹךָ אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֽה׃ ...
... and you shall love your peer as youself; I am Hashem.
-Vayiqra 19:18

2

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .