Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Unconditional Love

[Post I’m reading – The Yahrtzeit of Rav Yisrael Salanter, at Modern Uberdox]

Many years ago, when the world was young, I dated a girl who was bothered by the idea that my feelings for her might be, to use the term from Pirkei Avot, תלויה בדבר, dependent upon something external that wasn’t really her. Like the world, I was rather young in those days, and I don’t know that I fully grasped what she was talking about… and it didn’t matter in the long run, as I ended up marrying the wonderful Rebbetzin instead.

The memory of those conversations about אהבה שאינה תלויה בדבר (unconditional love) came to mind during the last few days, though, during my all-too-short stay here in Israel.

As always, being here has intensified my frustration at living in the Golah. In some part it’s due to the same litany of reasons I’ve discussed on the blog before; read the eight posts linked here to see those discussions. But it’s also something else, leading to this ninth post on the subject. At this point, it’s אהבה שאינה תלויה בדבר, a love which is not dependent upon anything in particular. It’s unconditional.

Maybe this is because aliyah has been a goal for me for so long (twenty years and counting) that the very goal-ness of it has overtaken any specific reason for moving here. My satisfaction is no longer tied to the reasons for moving to Israel, but to the move itself. If I were to move here and not have any of my reasons fulfilled, I would be happy just because I was here.

(It’s sort of like the shul rabbinate, come to think of it. People ask me what I miss about the pulpit, and I have a long list of answers, but at the end of the day it’s just that I enjoyed being Rabbi. But I digress.)

One other thought, while I’m writing: I enjoy visiting fruit markets in Israel, just to admire the produce grown in this wonderful land. I sometimes feel a little guilty about this, because the gemara (Sotah 14a) declares that Moshe did not want to enter Israel for the sake of its fruit – as the gemara asks, “וכי לאכול מפריה הוא צריך, או לשבוע מטובה הוא צריך? Did he need to eat from her fruit, or did he need to be sated from her goodness?”

But it occurred to me just yesterday that the sages included those very words in the berachah we recite after eating, thanking Gd for giving us this land “לאכול מפריה ולשבוע מטובה to eat from her fruit and to be sated from her goodness.” I guess if it’s good enough for the berachah, it’s good enough for me.

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