A Grain of Sand

"I will multiply you as the stars in heaven and as the sand upon the shore." - Genesis 22:17

"I can see the master's hand in every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand." - Dylan, Every Grain of Sand (on Shot of Love)

Friday, December 24, 2010

All You Need is Ahavah

The Ways of the Tzaddikim identifies Love as such an important middah that it

includes more acts than any of the other [middot], and when one employ's [one's] love for good, it is the highest of all the [middot]...

I want to point to one troubling passage and one fascinating passage in the chapter on Love.

First, the troubling. In describing the dangers of love that is not informed by wisdom, the text refers to ahavat nashim, love of women, as being a danger. All of the attitudes we might expect of a text written in the 16th century manifest here: a woman has the capacity to morally destroy a man; women lead men to "fornication" and "lewdness." In the passage describing the benefits of harmonious love, the text states that in a proper relationship

she keeps him from promiscuity, through her he fulfills the mitzvah of having children, she rears his children...she serves him all of her days, preparing his meals and looking after the other household needs, thus freeing him to study Torah and to perform mitzvos.
One wonders whether some essence can be derived from this that allows us to apply it to a loving relationship between adults. It is not at all clear that this can be "gender neutralized" so to speak - it may be inextricable from its patriarchal views.

I do think there is a larger point to be made about a balanced love between adults. We'll try to explore that territory in the next class.

The fascinating part is the passage about Olam Ha-Ba (page 110-111 in the Feldheim edition). Notice that his description of the World to Come in this passage is not at all mystical or mysterious: it is ethical. This jibes perfectly with Rabbi Stone's rather obscure argument in A Responsible Life.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting thought on the world to come; I think of my own experience with my father's passing; I truly believe that my father, Sherman "Shalom" has left a legacy that people want to carry on his goodness, they think about "what would Sherman" have done, and I think about what would my father want me to do? What is the moral thing to do...