Monday, September 08, 2008

Does God Love You?

In a recent conversation on the topic of emotional connection to God, a friend raised the idea of focusing on God’s love as a means to achieving reciprocal emotion. In other words, by reminding yourself that God loves you and by focusing on all the good things He has given you as a result of His love, you can internalize the fact that He loves you and, as the theory goes, you will then eventually love Him back.

My friend also mentioned a Rosh Yeshiva whose motto is “Do you know Hashem loves you?” and who will ask children, “Who loves you the most in the world?” If a child answers, “My parents,” he will respond, “No, Hashem loves you even more!”

This idea does not sit well with me. To my ears it sounds far more like the Christian mantra “Jesus loves you” than like an authentically Jewish approach.

My question is: does God really ‘love’ us?

Obviously, we believe that God created the world and the Torah for our benefit—clearly it could not be for His own, since He has no needs. However, is this concept of a personal, emotional love a part of our weltanschauung? Certainly we are obligated to love God, but does He love us?


Erachet said...


Uh huh. My thoughts exactly.

Josh M. said...

I don't believe that one can apply any emotion to HaShem, as it implies a certain variability or response to stimulus that we cannot attribute to Him. Be that as it may, there are numerous pesukim that describe His love for Avraham, Yaakov, Shlomo, Klal Yisroel, etc., which the Rambam would probably call an anthropomorphism, so that the rosh hayeshiva in question would appear to be relying on a sufficient precedent.

SJ said...

Of course, any attribution of a quality or emotion to God must be an anthropomorphism (at least according to Rambam) because to say otherwise would be to deny the ultimate unity of God. So the assumption is that a certain level of such attribution is permitted in order to allow us to relate to Him in terms that we understand.

With that said, pesukim that mention Hashem's love for the avot or klal Yisrael as a whole are very different than averring that God loves each of us in an individual, personal way. Is there a source for this specific conception of God's love?

G said...

Does it matter?

SJ said...

G - In the same way that all philosophical discussions matter.

G said...

Not so.

In this case you are specifically trying to create an emotionally recipricational (how does one go about registering a word with Webster's?) relationship with God.

Why does such a thing matter?

If, as you say, "Obviously, we believe that God created the world and the Torah for our benefit" and "Certainly we are obligated to love God" then what's the difference?

Think of it in terms of a parent (the closest relationship we have to compare it to). The two words used in the Torah are honor and fear...nothing about love.(I am assuming that if it was coming in one direction there would be mention of it going the other way...not sure if that should be so, but it's my theory for now)

Ezzie said...

This seems simply a debate of desire for a feeling of connection vs. the practical approach to daily life as a Jew. The latter certainly seems to be the basic way to go; anything more than that would be an "extra" that may fulfill other desires on the part of the person. If in general this is an easy, or at least not difficult, thing to achieve, that's wonderful, and go for it. But if trying for those extras is only frustrating a person, it might be worth stepping back a bit and focusing on the practical for a period of time and finding fulfillment there.

SJ said...

G - You may be right that this question does not matter practically, in terms of creating an emotional connection with God. However, my question was really more of a philosophical one about the concept itself and whether it has a place in Judaism.

And I'm not sure I understand what you're saying about the parent child relationship.

Ezzie - Huh? Are you saying that one should not bother struggling with creating an emotional connection if it is difficult to do so?

Northern Light said...

I don't know what kind of relationship Hashem has with us; love is obviously a term for something experienced by humans, not by God, who by definition is WAY beyond what we can know.

Hashem does have desires, it seems, because He expresses them as mitzvot in the Torah, and also whatever happens in the world is His desire. How is that related to love? We just can't know.

How does thinking about this help us get close to God? It still doesn't give me any emotion from God, in any way I can discern. His creating and maintaining the world and events doesn't feel like love; so in the definition of love I know, God doesn't love me.

What God does is something for which I'm grateful, yet we're commanded to LOVE God (not just be grateful, though that, too). He doesn't "love" me AT ALL like a human parent loves a child. Whatever God DOES do is awe-some but leaves me still disconnected.