an introduction to judaism – the nature of judaism – part 1a

this video is the first of a 3 part series of videos that are an introduction to traditional judaism as a religion – this is the first of two videos of the first part dealing with the nature of the jewish tradition


Jeffrey Radon

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  1. Rob

    Hi Jeff – enjoyed watching your video and look forward to the next one. Kol Hakavod.

    A question I had was how does Talmud interpret the positive commands:
    – “you shall love the lord your God”
    – or even “I am the lord your God”
    Is your suggestion that the first requires a “feeling” and a feeling is not a belief? Are are you saying that the command is actually interpreted in practical terms (e.g. Give up life,money,etc) for other commandments? But surely there are some Talmudic views that interpret the command as a feeling directed actually and specifically toward “your God”. And how can you have such a feeling without actually believing that there is a God? Commanding us to love God seems to have two implicit commands – I have to believe he exists and I have to love him.
    Finally is the first command – I am the lord your God – not an instruction on faith according to the Talmud?

    1. Jeffrey Radon

      Hello Rob, I want to begin by saying that my site is very new and until now as far as I know only family, friends or professional people who I have notified about the existence of the site have entered and have not written responses to reading material or video classes of the site – you are the very first to respond, and I want to thank you very much. I am a teacher at heart, and a teacher has as much a need for students as students for a teacher – as according to an analogy that I once heard that a mother cow has as much a need to release its milk as the calf has to drink the milk. Your questions are excellent – and I want to respond to them, but obviously I can only respond here briefly.

      1) The Biblical verse “you shall love the Lord your God” in its plain meaning is a command – the Biblical verse “I am the Lord your God” in its plain meaning is not a command at all but a declaration.

      2) The verse and command “you shall love the Lord your God” in its plain meaning indeed requires a feeling (love) – and certainly does not require belief in a theological sense. According to the verse in the context of the Biblical passage (Deuteronomy 6, 5-9) love of God is expressed not in theological belief but in words of Torah (guidance) that are to be in our hearts as a matter of moral character (and not theology). In the plain meaning of the Bible, there are no commandments regulating theological belief – the commandments regulate only feelings or action. In general, when the Bible regulates feelings the concern is with moral character traits that necessarily express themselves in good deeds. Commandments in the Talmudic tradition are only of action (in Hebrew mitzvot aseh and mitzvot lo ta’aseh), and the Talmud faithful to the Biblical conception interprets Biblical commands regulating feelings in a behavioral sense as requiring the performance of various deeds in order to fulfill the commands.

      3) The verse and command “you shall love the Lord your God” does not presuppose belief in the existence of God. The question of whether God exists is an orthodox and theological question completely foreign to the orthoprax and anti-theological nature of the Bible. To love God in the Biblical conception is a feeling in the heart in the sense of a moral character trait necessarily expressing itself in good deeds – regardless of whether one believes in the existence of God or not. In the Biblical conception, an atheist who lives a moral life demonstrates in his or her behavior that he or she truly loves God and truly believes in God (and even though the atheist would not term his or her moral behavior as love of God or faith in God, nevertheless such moral behavior is the very essence of love of God and faith in God in the Biblical conception) – as love of God (and faith in God) is a matter of the heart (moral character) revealed not in philosophic declarations but in moral behavior (and, conversely, one who declares belief in the existence of God but lives an immoral life demonstrates in his or her immoral behavior that not only that he or she does not love God but that he or she does not truly believe in God). The concern of the Bible is not an orthodox concern with theological belief but an orthoprax concern with moral character and moral action. So, the command to love God in the Biblical conception is only one command, which is a feeling (moral character trait) necessarily expressing itself in moral action – and the command has nothing to do with theological belief. If the command to love God were two commands presupposing a second command to believe in the existence of God, why then would the Bible not command us this second command explicitly? Nowhere in the Bible is there such a command to believe in the existence of God.

      4) The verse “I am the Lord your God” is not a command but a declaration. The verse in its plain meaning does not give instruction on faith, and in its context (Exodus 20, 1-4) the verse is followed by a demand of loyalty (of the heart) from the people Israel who are not to serve or bow down to (worship) other gods – the terms used in the passage (to serve and to bow down or worship) are behavioral and not theological concepts (and the term faith is conspicuously absent from the passage).

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