Love in Jewish Education

Eran Shorr
Based on a lecture by Rabbi Bukiet

The Shema, a Biblical verse, (Deuteronomy 6:7) begins with a commandment commanding the Jews to accept God as one; “Hear, O Israel! God is our God, God is one,” and continues with the commandment to love God; “You shall love God…” How can someone be commanded to love? The rest of the Shema is the roadmap/instructions of “how to love”, and how to teach it to our children. It begins with the verse; “You shall love your God with all your heart…” In Biblical and rabbinic Hebrew, the heart is the center of the intellect, meaning, that to love with the heart is to think and to act using your intellect, reason and knowledge. The verse continues with commandments that one has to do something, to act, in order to express his love for God. One of these commandments that defines how Jews should love G-d, commands Jews to teach their children the Torah. The Talmud (a collection of doctrines and laws compiled and written before the 8th Century, A.D., by Jewish teachers.) interprets the verse and argues that the teaching is done intuitively. The child learns from watching the parent’s behavior. Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki‎ (1040 – 1105 (Rashi), a medieval French rabbi commentator on the Tanakh –Old Testament and the Talmud.) interprets the verse as saying, that the way to teach the child is by repetition. To repeat the learned material again and again. Rabbi Abraham Ben Meir Ibn Ezra (1089–1167, Spain) interprets the verse as saying that the only purpose of man in the world is to serve God, and to do that, one should learn God’s creation, and study science, math, etc. Rabbi Moses ben Naḥman, (Ramban, 1194–1270, a leading medieval Jewish scholar in Spain) interprets the verse as saying that the only reason Jews are obligated to teach their children, is to teach them the commandments, to teach the difference between right and wrong. Spinning it to our time, teaching our children to love means: 1. Teaching them to act upon things. 2. The action of love needs to begin with us as parents/educators, setting the example. 3. Love is learning God’s creation – science, math, etc. 4. Repetition of learning is important. Share with us your opinion.