All You Need is Love, Love by Gevura Davis


Dear Chevra,

Many of my favorite songs, poems and novels are about creating a peaceful and just society. Since they are among the bestsellers of all time, clearly I am not alone is desiring to live in a world of peace, of brotherly understanding, and of love for one another. I look at this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, as G-d’s instructions on how we can achieve this noble goal, which is no less the reason we were created.

I am always taken by this Torah portion, drawn to its breadth and depth of meaning, its tremendous wisdom and beauty in a few seemingly simple paragraphs. People often think the Torah’s rules are either boring or out of date. In a world plagued with injustice, war, hate, apathy and general lack of love for humanity, I believe the Torah is a guiding light of instruction and lessons in how to achieve our lofty vision of repairing the world.

G-d challenges us in the opening line that we are to be holy because G-d Himself is holy. The Torah then gives us a long list of many mitzvot, among them prohibiting idolatry, requiring charity, the principle of equality before the law, Shabbat, sexual morality, honesty in business, honor and awe of one’s parents and the sacredness of life.

What is the connection between our obligation to try to live holy lives, imitating G-d, and all of these rules, the long list of do’s and don’ts? Far from being antiquated or irrelevant, I believe, in our generation, the goal of living meaningful and holy lives is as relevant now as it ever was. We learn about some of the fundamental statutes and goals that create a just and moral society. Most decent people want to lead holy, good, and moral lives. The Creator of the world gives us a very clear plan and explicitly says the commandments are the vehicle to take us to this ideal state of peace. Give charity. Observe a day of rest. Be honest in business. Respect your parents. Understand the value of life. All people are created equally and must be treated so in the eyes of the law. Who would be so bold as to argue that these are not the badly needed fabric of a society that is just and idyllic?

But, it doesn’t end there. This week’s torah portion is also where G-d gifts the world with the golden rule: “Love your fellow as you love yourself.” The great Rabbi Akiva called this a foundational principle of Judaism, and the sagely scholar Rabbi Hillel said this idea is the summary of the entire Torah. I am proud of being Jewish for so many countless reasons, among them the tremendous wisdom we have brought into the world in morality, ethics and social justice. Concepts that are now part of modern, universally accepted ethos but were novel when the Torah was given.

This simple line actually reveals one of the great precepts of life. G-d created us to be lovers. Not just to our own family members or to our friends or our literal neighbors. But, we also have to love those at different synagogues. Or, those who don’t belong to any synagogue. The people we have nothing to gain from. The people who are poor or odd or even vastly different from us. Even the people who support different political parties or candidates than us. Why? Because one of the purposes of humanity is for us to transform ourselves into lovers. People who care about people. People who want to help the “other.” People who respect others and treat them with kindness. This is how we become people who love. And, this is how we achieve self-actualization, meaning, and purpose.

As Victor Frankl so eloquently concludes in his seminal work “Man's Search for Meaning":

“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”

We all want to be happy and fulfilled, and live in a world of peace and understanding. These Torah precepts and laws are the way to get there, through observing G-d’s instructions and by igniting the tremendous potential for love we each possess. This is the purpose of Judaism. And, it is a noble goal we can all achieve.


Gevura Davis is an educator who currently works as the Director of Women, Youth and Family Division of the Etz Chaim Center in Elkins Park, outside of Philadelphia. She recently moved from Kansas City with her husband and five children. 

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