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When we argue with each other, we can be fierce, and we are fierce, we are Jews after all, we need to engage and not disengage from each other and from the world because our banner is a banner of love.

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BT Shabbat 63a. Love is stronger than political forces, because it endures forever. Rabbi Akiva knew the power of love and how it can give you the strength to endure even the bleakest of hours. It is why he sought to find love in every moment and in every place. Love - not fear, not ritual, not obligation, is at the center of our covenant with God. When it came to adding the Song of Songs to the Tanakh, a small book filled with love poetry, it was Rabbi Akiva who was the biggest advocate. Do not, Rabbi Akvia said, underestimate the value of the poetry, for it is the song of love between God and the Jewish people.

It is with this small candle, this little love song, say the rabbis that the treasure of Torah can truly be understood. Songs Zuta And how right they were. Every moment renewed, revealed again as a love song between Israel and God.

The moment at Sinai being the greatest. According to some scholars God freed us from one tyrant and put us to bondage under the yoke of another. The smoke of the mountain evaporates into a chuppah, the fire is not heat of wrathful anger but the darts of love. The covenant carved into the tablets was a seal not in stone but that upon the heart and hand.

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Songs Rabba We must find love, everywhere, at every moment. For our covenant, our moment with God, the moment of revelation, the moment of bonding of truth to the world is a moment of love. Unlike the Caesar, who used Roman law to place his heel upon the necks vulnerable, Rabbi Akiva, and for us his descendants, the covenant with God, the law itself is a covenant of Love. Our God does not place the heel, our God outstretches the arm, to deliver the enslaved, to raise up the downtrodden, to heal, to partner, to upend the earth in love.

To love us and to be loved by us. To invite us under the chuppah. The Torah is a love letter to the world against the darkness and uncertainty of the meaningless of life.

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Existence itself -life itself- is an act of love. Here is just one love song we sing everyday. The covenant is a covenant love, the mitzvot are verses of love song. There is no Greek word for Covenantal love because it does not come from Athens or Golgotha. The Torah comes from Zion and Jerusalem. Covenantal love is called in Hebrew, Chesed. Chesed is love layden with responsibility, and clad in deed.

Chesed is the type of of love binds kindness and caring to our sense of mutuality, and our common fate. Chesed is the kind of love that comes as a seal, a covenant. There must be a covenant in order to have love. There must be the rule of law, but those laws, because they are given in love, must be flexible enough to caress the nape of human suffering. God holds you accountable, and remembers sin, according to the Torah. That is part of the covenant, but in doing so, God always begins in love. There is no prophet to intercede for you, there is no priest to make expiation.

We must all be held accountable and save ourselves on these holy days, and that redemption itself is possible, because because we know that God is a God of love. Bind these words as a frontlet between your eyes and a sign upon your hand. God gave us love through the word and we return it through the deed through mitzvot. The Hasidic tradition teaches that "Love your neighbor as yourself" the word kamocha , carries the numerical value of eighty-six, the same numerical value as the word Elohim.

To love your neighbor is to Love God. This is not an academic discussion. The repercussions are real, it is a matter of life and death. It is a matter of community and nationhood, of ethics and our mutual responsibility for each other. It only says twice to Love God in the Torah, but it says 36 times to Love the stranger, the widow and the orphan.

You cannot Love God who loves the orphan, the widow and the stranger without loving the widow, the orphan, the stranger, for each of them is your neighbor. Just as God chose to to pull the light out of the darkness, Rabbi Akiva chose love to resist the very oppressive dark world that surrounded him. When you see an act of hate, act with love.

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When you see an act of injustice, act with love. When you see an act of oppression, act with love. We cannot fight for justice by returning anger for anger and hate for hate. For that just means that hate wins. Both their anger and their hate and our anger and our hate. You do not hate the oppressor, but love the oppressed.

You do not hate the tyrant, but love the persecuted. You do not hate the abuser but love the abused. Which is why we return to our story. Domitian Caesar was assassinated by his court. He was replaced by a man named Trajan who abdicated the throne and then replaced by Hadrian, who was the worst of them all.


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Hadrian outlawed everything that was not indigenously Roman, including the teaching of Torah. Rabbi Akiva was arrested and brought the before Romans. He was asked by his students of his torments if he felt his sufferings were good for him, if the were justified.

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He said they were sufferings of love, issure shel ahava. Not because torture is good, or that the righteous can handle punishment, or that he needs to be a symbol to others, but because the Romans could not break his spirit. Even in pain at the end of his life, he still looked upon the world and saw love.

His students, weeping, asked why he was so joyus. Even until the moment of death. We do not have to martyr ourselves like Rabbi Akiva. But our lives depend on our choices in this moment.

Word Study: Ahavah - "Love"

You cannot love God, if you do not love justice. You cannot love God without loving the world.

You cannot love God without loving your neighbor. This is Jewish love, commanded love, covenantal love. This is what the gospels miss. This is what we often miss ourselves. The command is not new. It has always been there, from the very beginning.

You have all been shown what is good

We have to our very real problems, our environmental problems, our political problems, our racial and economic problems, but we must build a world of love. Skip to main content. London: Routledge It is into this world that Rabbi Akiva was born. It is love. Sifra Kedoshim Love your neighbor as yourself.