Tag Archives: sages

Moshiach Rabbeinu

rabbeinu1Believe it or not, this week’s message was not inspired by the fact that the Catholic Church has chosen a new Pope; it just offers a convenient contrast. As you probably know, there is, in their beliefs, a doctrine of papal infallibility. When the Pope teaches the rules, he is always right.

It is natural to assume that Judaism has something similar. This is especially true, given the Torah’s demand that we listen to the Rabbis and Judges, and not deviate “right or left” [Deut. 17:11] from what they say.

-Rabbi Yaakov Menken
“Everyone Makes Mistakes”
Commentary on Torah Portion Vayikra
Project Genesis

I’ve been hesitating about writing this particular “meditation” because it has the potential to be rather controversial. As part of my conversations with Pastor Randy, we’ve been discussing what is Torah? That’s an amazingly difficult question to answer. It’s not just the Five Books of Moses, and I believe that it should be at least the entire Tanakh (Old Testament). I believe a great deal of the New Testament and certainly the epistles of Paul should be considered midrash on Torah, specifically in relation to the teachings of Messiah.

As I’ve said before (and will say again when I publish “Four Questions, Part 4” tomorrow), Pastor Randy believes that the Torah is too difficult to observe perfectly and in fact, has always been too difficult to observe. This is pretty much what most of Christianity believes, and along with that, the church sees the primary purpose of Torah as always pointing to Jesus. Once Jesus came, the purpose of Torah expired and grace was substituted.

I don’t happen to believe this, and my understanding is that Jewish people, including those who are disciples of the Master, remain obligated to the Torah of Moses.

But I’m not here to talk about the Torah as such (I’ll do that tomorrow), but rather how it is applied through Rabbinic interpretation and authority. This is the really touchy part. As Rabbi Menken writes, there’s a tendency to view the sages in a manner similar to how Catholics view the Pope, as infallible and that all Rabbinic rulings are automatically correct. But is that really true? Rabbi Menken continues.

We see from this week’s reading, though, that this is definitely not the case. The Torah prescribes special atonement for when the High Priest, the King, or the Sanhedrin [Lev. 4: 13-21], the High Rabbinical Court, makes a mistake. In other words, the Torah highlights for us that it is possible for the Sanhedrin to be mistaken.

This is not about a small matter, either. The commentaries say that the mistake described here is one in which the Sanhedrin teaches that it is permitted to do something, and the Sanhedrin later realizes that the behavior is prohibited — so much so that a person committing the act deliberately would suffer the punishment of Kares, spiritual excision [the exact definition of this is disputed, but severe]. Even in matters of religious law, where the Sanhedrin’s supreme authority is undisputed — even there, they could make a mistake.

So why, then, does the Torah tell us to listen to them? They could, after all, be leading us in the wrong direction!

That is an extraordinarily good question. It’s also the question that comes to the minds of just about all Christians, including many people in the Hebrew Roots movement who believe that the Bible contains everything necessary for a Jew to observe Torah without relying on external interpretation or additional instructions.

Based upon a proof from a Baraisa, the Gemara had concluded that a lechi post is not valid if it is not recognizable from the inside, although it is visible from the outside. Yet, the Gemara proceeds to inform us that the halachah is that such a lechi is valid. Immediately, the Gemara asks, “We have disproven the validity of such a lechi, and yet the halachah rules that it is valid?!”

The Gemara continues to resolve this halachic conclusion, based upon yet another Baraisa which validates such a lechi.

This give and take, where the Gemara proves one point of view, and then immediately concludes the halachah according to the opposite opinion is relatively uncommon. A computer check reveals that it appears only five times in Shas (here, Kesuvos 41b-twice, Bava Kamma 15b-twice, Bava Metzia 22b).

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“It is disproved – but yet it is the Halachah!”
Eruvin 10

That didn’t help. I admit, the complexities of Talmud escape me most of the time and yet religious Judaism in all of its variants, depends on these rulings, laws, and judgments for so very much.

My question is basic. Is literally every single ruling, judgment, halachah, and word of every sage everywhere across time valid and binding in religious Judiasm, or is it possible that at some point, the sages have gone too far?

Kapparot is a custom in which the sins of a person are symbolically transferred to a fowl. It is practiced by some Jews shortly before Yom Kippur. First, selections from Isaiah 11:9, Psalms 107:10, 14, and 17-21, and Job 33:23-24 are recited; then a rooster (for a male) or a hen (for a female) is held above the person’s head and swung in a circle three times, while the following is spoken: “This is my exchange, my substitute, my atonement; this rooster (or hen) shall go to its death, but I shall go to a good, long life, and to peace.” The hope is that the fowl, which is then donated to the poor for food, will take on any misfortune that might otherwise occur to the one who has taken part in the ritual, in punishment for his or her sins.

-Richard Schwartz, Ph.D.
“The Custom of Kapparot in the Jewish Tradition”
JewishVirtualLibrary.org

Solomons-TempleThe Torah, particularly the book of Leviticus, provides an extremely detailed description of the various sacrifices to be given at the Temple in Holy Jerusalem, and under what circumstances a Jew must present said-sacrifices. To the best of my knowledge, none of them involve the use of a chicken as described by the modern rite of kapparot. Dr. Schwartz details some of the Jewish objections to this practice.

Some Jewish leaders felt that people would misunderstand the significance of the ritual. The belief that the ceremony of kapparot can transfer a person’s sins to a bird, and that his or her sins would then be completely eradicated, is contrary to Jewish teachings. For, if the ritual could remove a person’s sins, what would be the need for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement?

The Mishneh Brurah, an eminent contemporary commentary on Rabbi Joseph Caro’s classical codification of Jewish law, explains the significance of the ritual. Judaism stresses that a person can’t obtain purity from sin, and thus obtain higher levels of perfection, without repenting. Through God’s mercy, we are given the Divine gift of repentance, so that we might abandon our corrupt ways, thereby being spared from the death that we deserve for our violation of the Divine law. By substituting the death of a fowl, one will (hopefully) appreciate G-d’s mercy and be stirred to repentance. By no means, however, does the ritual and the slaughter of the bird eradicate one’s misdeeds, even though the bird is donated to the poor.

If a Jewish person is a disciple of the Master and has studied and accepted the teachings in the Apostolic Scriptures, he or she understands that this particular ritual is not meaningful or necessary. The sins of anyone, Jew or Gentile, who has accepted Jesus (Hebrew: Yeshua) as Savior, Lord, and Messiah, have been forgiven. He died, paying the price for our sin as the ultimate atonement, and when we repent (and we must repent) of our own sins, turning away from them, and turning to God, we are forgiven once and for all without the need for further sacrifices.

So how are we to reconcile the rulings of the sages in relation to the kapparot involving chickens during Yom Kippur and the reality of the Messiah? The better question is, how are Messianic Jews to reconcile this along with any other Jewish practices that seem to contradict the teachings and life of the Master?

The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council has established official halachah for its member synagogues and individual members, but that’s hardly a universal standard. On the other hand, how halachah is applied across the rest of the religious Jewish landscape is not entirely consistent either. For example, we can point to the radically extreme differences between how the Haridim vs. Reform Judaism live out Jewish lives they believe are consistent with observing Torah.

It’s obvious that Messianic Judaism has to make a few “adjustments” to how some of the Rabbinic rulings are applied, but even given that, are we to understand that all of the remaining body of Mishnah is fully correct and fully valid? If we accept that the Torah doesn’t change (and there are those who debate even that), can we accept that Jewish interpretation is adaptive and evolutionary across time and culture? I had a recent Facebook conversation that included the following:

There are enduring realities in the Torah…the Shema is one…The pursuit of Justice is another…however there are changes in the way Torah is embraced…David recognizes that G-d wants a contrite and broken heart, not burnt offerings (Psalm 51) Micah gives the same notion (Micah 6)…so there is an evolutionary understanding of the nature and character of G-d that takes place…

David is specific…”burnt offerings you do not desire”…but a contrite broken heart….quite removed from the harsh Levitical code of bloody sacrifices…and those scriptures reflect evolving understanding of the nature and character of G-d…Jesus in the John 8 narrative lays aside the penalty that the Torah prescribes and challenges the lack of personal holiness/integrity of the woman’s accusers…

Part of the problem is that we can “interpret” the Bible to mean just about anything. If we give the Rabbinic sages (or anyone) carte blanche to establish binding interpretations and halachah for their specific streams of Judaism, are they always consistent with God’s intent for the Jewish observance of Torah?

There’s no way to know for sure. Well, there’s one.

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.

Matthew 23:1-4 (ESV)

phariseesEven as Jesus confirmed that the scribes and Pharisees did indeed have the authority to create binding halachah upon the Jewish people of his day (see the paper Matthew 23:2–4: Does Jesus Recognize the Authority of the Pharisses and Does He Endorse their Halakhah? (PDF) by Noel S. Rabbinowitz, JETS 46/3 (September 2003) 423-47 for details), he also criticized them for failing to follow their own rules. However, he didn’t agree with each and every one of their rulings.

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.

Mark 3:1-5 (ESV)

Now when the Pharisees gathered to him, with some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem, they saw that some of his disciples ate with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they wash their hands properly, holding to the tradition of the elders, and when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they wash. And there are many other traditions that they observe, such as the washing of cups and pots and copper vessels and dining couches.) And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

Mark 7:1-8 (ESV)

So what does all this mean?

  • There are some modern Jewish rituals and customs that contradict the reality of the risen Messiah.
  • Jewish ritual and tradition is not applied with universal consistency across all religious Jewish communities and across time.
  • Historically, Jesus affirmed the right of the ancient Pharisees and scribes to establish binding halachah for Jews.
  • Historically, Jesus refuted some of the halakhic rulings by the Pharisees and scribes and offered correction and criticism when necessary.
  • At least one modern Messianic Jewish body has offered an adaptation to Jewish halachah that is more consistent with the reality of the risen Messiah.

Oh. We know one more thing:

The nations will send their emissaries to the King Messiah, and the King Messiah will teach the world how to live in peace, and how to want to live in peace. Then, everyone in the world will enjoy eternal peace, for as long as this world will last. The great Rabbi, Rav Shlomoh Freifeld, of blessed memory, said in a talk he once gave that I attended that the Messiah will be a great teacher.

-from “What is the Messiah Supposed to Do”
BeingJewish.com

He will restore the religious court system of Israel and establish Jewish law as the law of the land (Jeremiah 33:15).

-from “Mashiach: The Messiah”
Judaism 101

It is my understanding that one of the things many Jewish people believe the Messiah will do is to teach Torah, to teach the correct interpretation of Torah and how it is to be lived out. According to BeingJewish.com, as we saw above, he will even teach the Gentiles peace.

So what am I getting at?

This is Rabbi Menken’s solution to understanding the puzzle.

One answer has to do with the power of unity. Different customs and practices are wonderful, but there has to be underlying agreement on “the basics.” One of the problems with calling different Chassidic groups “sects” is that a sect is “a dissenting or schismatic religious body.” Chassidic groups may be led by different Rebbes, but they don’t rewrite the rules. The disagreements of today are disagreements about shapes of branches on individual trees within a massive, unified forest.

And there is another answer, which requires still more humility. It is all well and good to say that everyone is fallible — but who is more likely to be making a mistake? The Torah gives leadership to people who dedicate themselves completely to Torah study, to learning the Torah’s “way of thinking.” Such people are inherently less biased by the latest news reports and the wise opinions of the chattering class, as we are. We recognize that it is much less likely that they will make a mistake, and that is why we trust their guidance.

torah-tree-of-lifeIs there a “unified forest” of Torah? I think there must be, otherwise there is nothing for Jews to observe except traditions (the shapes of branches on the individual trees); there is no root, no foundation, no sense of an absolute God who has core standards that are as unchanging as He is. Beyond a certain point, we can’t simply re-invent the Bible to fit our modern sensibilities so that they agree with whatever “politically correct” causes that may be popular this week, this month, or this year. If we did, our faith (and our God) would be no more consistent or eternal than the shifting viewpoints of a political party or social agenda.

Rabbi Maurice Lamm says in “What is Torah” published at Aish.com:

In fact, far from being enslaved by the law, Jews were enamored of it. We cannot take our leave of the subject of Torah without expressing this most characteristic sentiment of Jewish literature – the love of Torah.

You may ask: can a people “love” a law? Yet, that is the exquisite paradox inherent in the concept of Torah – it is respected and studied and feared, while it is loved and embraced and kissed. All at once. There is no good in this world – no ideal, no blessing, no perfection, no glory – unless it is associated with the law.

To Jews, the Torah is “light”; it is the “glory of the sons of man”; it is the energizing sap of life for “the dry bones” (Ezekiel 37:4) which symbolize the “people in whom there is not the sap of the commandment.”

To Jews, the law is mayim chayim, refreshing, life-restoring, living waters to Jews; the sweetness of honey and milk, the joy and strength of wine, and the healing power of oil. It is an “elixir of life” that brings healing to all.

In Acts 15, Peter called the Law a burden but in Acts 21, Paul defended his observance of the Law. We also see in that same chapter that many of the Jews in Messiah were zealous for the Law.

And God, through Moses, said this about the Torah.

“For this commandment that I command you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.”

Deuteronomy 30:11-14

I think that for the Jewish people, there is an “ideal” Torah, a Torah that God intends for His people Israel. As we’ve seen in the record of the Bible, all things being equal, human beings will mess up a free lunch. We take everything God gives us and turn it on its side, we fold, spindle, or mutilate it, drag it through the mud, drag it through our biases, prejudices, and personalities, drag it through our theologies, our doctrines, our translations, and eventually on the other side, we come out with some approximation of what God wants us to say, do, and be.

How close are all of our approximations to the desires of God, how near is our fidelity to the original? Opinions vary widely. It’s not that we are dishonest and it’s not that we don’t want to do His will as opposed to our will (most of the time, anyway), but we are human beings. Everything we are as flawed, mortal beings gets in the way of everything He is as a perfect, immortal God.

That’s where Messiah comes in. Being human and divine, he can provide (and has provided) the correct “interface” for us. He is a teacher. When he comes, whatever we’ve gotten wrong, he’ll help us understand correctly.

If there’s an answer to how the Law is infinitely accessible, and a delight, and a light, and to be loved by those who have received it from Him, that answer comes on the clouds with Messiah. God is a teacher.

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Love and Commentary

praying_jewFrom where do we learn from the Torah that changing one’s clothes is a sign of respect?

-Shabbos 114a

The verse from Yeshaya 58:13 was already expounded to teach, among other things, that one’s Shabbos clothes should not be like one’s weekday garments (113a). Nevertheless, Rabbi Yochanan is quoted trying to show that this concept is indicated not only from a verse in the prophets, but that it is also rooted in the Torah. Ben Ish Chai explains that based upon this verse from the Torah, there is a practical difference which can be derived regarding the need to wear special clothing on Shabbos.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Suiting up for Shabbos”
Commentary on Shabbos 114a

I’ve been pondering a few things lately regarding Judaism and particularly the Messianic sect of Judaism which recognizes Yeshua (Jesus) as the Moshiach (Christ). There are many things about Judaism that I find beautiful and I find myself sometimes drawn to those traditions. In the days when I used to worship on Shabbos and pray while wearing a tallit gadol, there was a “specialness” about it I can’t articulate. Weekday mornings when I would pray shacharit while wearing a tallit and laying tefillin had a texture and a quality about them that I can’t describe. The blessings I recited from the Siddur (which are taken from Hosea 2:21-22 in the Tanakh or verses 19-20 in Christian Bibles) when donning the arm tallit, invoked a particular unity between me and my God that I think Christians miss some of the time.

I will betroth you to Me forever; and I will betroth you to Me with righteousness, with justice, with kindness, and with mercy; and I will betroth you to Me with fidelity, and you will know Hashem.

Hosea 2:21-22 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

Christians sometimes criticize Jews for all their “man-made traditions” but there is a certain beauty in how observant Jews even prepare themselves for encountering God in prayer. After all, if you were summoned to appear before an earthly ruler, such as a King or President, you would certainly prepare yourself, including dressing for the occasion. Why shouldn’t the same be true if we are summoned to appear before the Ultimate King: God? And after all, Jews are indeed commanded to wear tzitzit (Deuteronomy 22:12) and to, in some sense, wear the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:8).

Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Take to heart these instructions with which I charge you this day. Impress them upon your children. Recite them when you stay at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you get up. Bind them as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead; inscribe them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:4-8 (JPS Tanakh)

But as my conversation with Pastor Randy reminded me the other day, there are also commandments and rulings that are beyond my comprehension.

All holy writings may be saved from a fire.

-Shabbos 115a

Perek teaches the laws of saving items from being burned in a fire on Shabbos. On the one hand, our sages realized that if a person is given an unlimited license to save everything he can possibly grab, the person would invariably be driven to try to extinguish the flames, which is a Torah violation… This is why the halachah put a finite limit on what a person is allowed to salvage from a fire. Once this quota of clothing and food is met, the person may not remove anything more from the burning building, even if the particular situation allows the time and conditions to retrieve more.

On the other hand, our sages were lenient to allow saving holy scrolls from a burning building. It is permitted to remove a Torah scroll, for example, to a domain which is normally rabbinically restricted. This is the topic which the first Mishnah discusses.

It is interesting to note that the sages put limits on a person regarding his property pulled from a fire in a building, whereas in other cases we find the opposite. If a person is traveling up to the last minute before Shabbos, and he fails to make it to the city, what should he do with the valuables he is carrying? The Gemara (153a) rules that a Jew in this predicament may instruct a gentile who may be traveling with him to bring the items into the city for him. This is normally a violation of “amira l’nochri – telling a non-Jew to do a melachah for a Jew on Shabbos”, but in this case our sages allowed it, being that they felt that if the Jew would have no recourse, he
might carry the items into the city himself. The Rishonim deal with this apparent inconsistent approach of the halachah to a Jewish person who is faced with a risk to his property. In the case of a fire we limit him although he is not doing any melachah, but when carrying into the city as Shabbos begins, we are lenient.

PogromFor a Christian, the problems being posed here and their solutions do not appear on our “radar screens,” so to speak. It’s as if a difficulty was made up for the sake of proposing a solution. Yes, the Jewish people are commanded to observe the Shabbat and to keep it Holy (see Exodus 20:8, Exodus 31:15-17, and Deuteronomy 5:12), but all of the Rabbinic rulings that go along with these commandments are enormously complex, at least to me. How can one even begin to observe Shabbos and remember each and every condition and circumstance that could possibly apply in a flawless manner?

But then again, I don’t live in the Orthodox Jewish space, so what do I know?

(I should say at this point that being married to a Jewish wife does give me an insight that a Christian who is not intermarried lacks, but on the other hand, my wife is the first one to say that she’s hardly Orthodox)

I can only imagine that there are many, many Jews who are Shomer Shabbos. I know that after the local Chabad Rebbetzin gave birth to her youngest child on a Friday night, her husband, the Rabbi, walked from the hospital to the synagogue in the middle of the night (since it was Shabbos and he was forbidden to drive or to even accept a ride from another) so that he could be at shul to lead Shabbat services Saturday morning.

I can’t imagine a Pastor ever being in a similar situation and from a Christian’s point of view, even if we had such a restriction, it is very likely that we would depend on the grace of Jesus and under unusual circumstances, overlook the commandment by allowing ourselves to drive or, in the case of a fire, retrieve any of our property we could lay our hands on before the fire could get to it (or to even put out the fire if we could).

Do we admire such dedication to the commandments of God as they are understood in religious Judaism or do we consider observant Jewish people to be bound and gagged by the letter of the Law and also by the commentary on the letter of the Law?

That’s a tough one. Even if we in the church disagree with how Jews choose to obey God, it’s their choice, not ours.

But if those Jews are also Messianic, should we look at the mitzvot any differently? Should we allow ourselves to judge others because they are Jewish and they choose to live a religious Jewish lifestyle?

I’m in no position to do any such thing, but it does bring forth interesting questions. There is not always a single tradition in religious Judaism as to how to perform the mitzvot because there isn’t a single Judaism. Further, there isn’t always agreement between the ancient or modern sages as to how to perform certain of the mitzvot, and so one much choose which tradition to follow, usually based on which Judaism you are operating within.

But those are human choices not necessarily the will of God, unless we want to consider that God is “OK” with all of the variants on Rabbinic teachings, and that is a big “if.”

Setting that aside for a moment, another problem presents itself, but it too is a man-made problem.

I was recently criticized on another person’s blog about the questions I was bringing up as a result of last Wednesday evening’s conversation with Pastor Randy, but the criticism wasn’t coming from anyone Jewish. There is a certain corner of Christianity that believes we Christians are identical to the Jewish people once we come to faith in the Jewish Messiah, at least as far as the mitzvot are concerned…well, sort of. It’s complicated, but the core of their argument is that there is such a thing as a perfect Christianity/Judaism that can be divined solely from the Bible, and that it is possible to practice this very particular form of religion without any (or any excessive) human-created interpretation and set of attendant traditions, and using more than a little theological sleight of hand to “prove” their position.

What’s really interesting is that my critic and his friends who have commented on the matter, didn’t seem to actually read what I’d written. I was asking questions, not making pronouncements, and yet they were actively condemning my “conclusions.” The one thing I can say with certainty though, is that I see no directive for modern Christians to mimic modern Jewish religious behavior in an attempt to worship as if we are in one of Paul’s first century churches or synagogues.

I’m not here to criticize Jewish people or Jewish religious observance. I don’t have the right or the necessary qualifications to render a definitive commentary, only the drive to share my questions and thoughts on the matter, such as they are. I’m not even really criticizing how other Christians choose to view their religious obligations to God, except to the degree that they attempt to impose their personal viewpoints on other Christians and on observant Jews.

To the best of my understanding (and I’m attempting to improve my understanding all of the time), no human being has the ability to perfectly obey God in every single detail, regardless of the religious tradition to which they belong. This was probably as true in the days of Moses, Solomon, and Elijah, as it was true in the days of Jesus and Paul, as indeed, it is true today.

studying_tanakh_messiahPastor Randy suggested a very straightforward method of studying the Bible based on the three steps of observation, interpretation, and application. That requires some fluency in Biblical Hebrew and Greek, and lacking much ability in that linguistic arena, I’m already handicapped. This is why I speak with teachers who I respect to discuss and debate them on their insights. This is why I have so many questions.

But in the end, the advice of another friend of mine must be at the heart of every question and lay the foundation for every answer. In the end, and in the beginning, we should not seek out Judaism or Christianity, but only an encounter with God. This is something that not only are we all capable of, regardless of who we are, but in fact, it is something that we are all commanded to do, because it is God’s greatest desire.

“What you dislike, do not do to your friend. That is the basis of the Torah. The rest is commentary; go and learn!”

-Shabbos 31a

Yeshua answered him, the first of all the mitzvot is: “Hear, O Yisra’el! HaShem is our God; HaShem is one. Love HaShem, your God, with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your knowledge, and with all of your strength.” This is the first mitzvah. Now the second is similar to it: “Love your fellow as yourself.” There is no mitzvah greater than these.

Mark 12:29-31 (DHE Gospels)

Love God and seek Him and, if you do love God, seek out your fellows and love them, too.