On Love
Summer Lecture Series 2018

Shai Held

Judaism commands us to love.  Learn with Rabbi Shai Held about what that mandate really means—is it focused on emotions, actions, or both?—and whom does it require us to love?  


Lecture 1: The Great Principle of the Torah is Love, but What Does that Mean?

No lesser a figure than R. Akiva declares that “love your neighbor as yourself” is “the great principle of the Torah” (kelal gadol baTorah).  Yet Jews have always struggled to discern just what this startling verse asks of us.  In this session, through careful engagement with both traditional commentators and modern academic Bible scholars, we’ll ask such questions as: What does this verse mean?  Can love (or any other feeling, for that matter) really be commanded?  Can we really love other people as much as we love ourselves?  And who is the neighbor we’re commanded to love, anyway?  

Lecture 2:  Is "Love Your Enemies" A Jewish Idea?

We are commanded to love our neighbor, but what about those who are hostile to us—must we love them too?  How should we feel and act toward them?  What clues can we derive from Tanakh, from Rabbinic tradition, and from modern Musar writers?  Jesus famously instructs his disciples to love their enemies. Is this orientation distinctively Christian, or is loving your enemies a Jewish value too?  More basically: is loving your enemies a good thing?
Lecture 3:  The God of Judaism Is a God of Love
It is one of the last acceptable prejudices in American culture: the God of the "Old Testament" is a God of vengeance, focused on strict justice rather than mercy, given to anger rather than love.  This perception is as mistaken as it is widespread.  In this lecture, we'll encounter a series of biblical texts that make the stunning claim that what makes God unique, what makes God God, is God's unfathomable capacity for love, mercy, and forgiveness.  We'll explore the common complaint that a God of love is (too) anthropomorphic, and we'll ask whether belief in a God of love is still plausible in this day and age.
The Great Principle of the Torah is Love, but What Does that Mean?
(audio/mpeg, 80.78MB)

Is "Love Your Enemies" A Jewish Idea?
(audio/mpeg, 83.69MB)

The God of Judaism Is a God of Love
(audio/mpeg, 94.26MB)