You Shall Love- Part One


By Rav Eyal Israel Sternlieb

Translated by Moshe Neveloff

“You shall succeed like your friend”, was the title displayed at the top of an advertisement for a certain college.  After a minute of shock and digestion, I began to understand the depth of the distortion.

It’s not just a title, it’s the sickness of an entire generation.

Since we were small children they educated us to achieve, to be successful, and to get high scores.  On tests there are cold numbers and on report cards dry grades, which are seemingly supposed to tell us who we are- amongst the ones who are successful, mediocre or perhaps failures.  Later on we are measured by the amount of pages we’ve learned or the brilliant answers we give, according to the money we’ve made or the degree we receive.  The common denominator is a constant feeling that we are in a test- with an expectation to succeed, or at least, not to mess up.

The feelings which arise as a result of this are fear, disappointment, guilt, such as the phrase “I’m not okay” or “I’m not good enough”, failure, frustration and despair.  As a result of this we don’t feel in a deep way the truth of creation, the truth that “I’m loved unconditionally!”

We have inside of us a lot of conditions in order to ‘merit’ feeling loved: to be pretty or successful, wealthy of full of strength, funny or smart… there’s no such thing as just being loved.

“You shall say to Pharaoh, ‘So said Hashem, My firstborn son is Israel.”[1]  Why did Hashem choose to call us “firstborn son” specifically at the time when we were at the lowest level, complete failures and a consistent cause of disappointment?  Now’s the time for affectionate nicknames?

Yes!  That’s the time!  Hashem taught us a lesson for generations: I love you like a son, with no condition whatsoever!!!

It doesn’t mean that I won’t get angry and punish and be upset if you’ll do silly things and break boundaries, like children who get lost along the way, however the love stands forever: “From the distant past Hashem appeared to me.  And I have loved you with an eternal love, therefore I have extended kindness to you.”[2]  Also at a time of distance and difficulty and failure Hashem loves me and believes in me.

‘And there is love which exists in potential, that is to say the love which existed between the Jewish people and their Father in Heaven before the creation, when the Jewish people were still in his knowledge and mind’[3], this is love which existed before the creation, before the tasks and the exams.  We came here to the world to reveal a simple love with Hashem.

After the prayer “Shema Yisrael”, the legendary verse which our holy forefathers were murdered and slaughtered upon, we were not commanded with “you shall be successful” rather with “and you shall love”, a command to go and reveal the holy love in the world between man and his creator, his spouse, his children and friends.

To be continued next week…

[1] Exodus, 4:22

[2] Jeremiah, 31:2

[3] Likutei Moharan, Torah 33, Part 1

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