Wisdom of Kahana: On Love
One might question whether there is any wisdom in approaching the subject of love in a religious context. It is the single emotion which has caused most of us to fail exceedingly, commit folly to our baser instincts, and perform acts that we can only describe as extreme stupidity when examined with the gift of hindsight. Yes, it has reduced the wise to bumbling fools and even the fool to a state of blithering ignorance, but nevertheless, the Tanakh has advised us repeatedly upon this one emotion in an attempt to guide our lives and help us find our way to true happiness and knowledge. I probably wouldn’t even have attempted to approach the challenge presented by this raw emotion except that there has been an element that has encroached seriously upon the Karaite websites recently, so much so that it compelled me to write this particular article at this time. Love is demanded of us by God. YHWH’s own teachings have advised us on how we should deal with not only our lovers, but with other people as well. For God to place this emphasis on what we might consider a ‘foolish emotion’ then it certainly indicates that He does not consider it foolish at all. And for those that say they are adherents to the words of the Torah, the Tanakh and the teachings of our ancestors, then they betray everything that we have been compelled to teach when they demonstrate on these websites nothing but ridicule, detestation, cynicism and profound arrogance towards those that are seeking knowledge through the expression of contrary opinions. Friendly debate, knowledgeable discussion, kindly moderation, those are the ways of the Karaite. We must approach the teaching of the Torah no differently in the manner in which we attempt to find true love in our lives. Seeking the Torah is performed in a manner no different than finding our soul-mate and our one and only. Yes, we may all appear to be foolish at times but a true friend, a true Karaite will demonstrate compassion towards us at these times of frailty. The means to do so is definitively described in the Tanakh and Writings and therefore the passing on of the wisdom in this regard does fulfil the mandate that is proscribed to the teaching of a Kohen. And as Kohen then I have the responsibility to talk about Love in the Tanakh and will now attempt to do so.
Hosea on Love
For those wanting proof that God wants us to approach the Torah no differently than two lovers seeking one another then we merely have to read the prophet Hosea. In Chapter 2 it is written: 21 And I will betroth thee unto Me forever; yea, I will betroth thee unto Me in righteousness, and in justice, and in loving kindness, and in compassion. 22 And I will betroth thee unto Me in faithfulness; and thou shalt know the LORD.
Clearly God compares adherence to the Torah to being no different than a marriage. That those seeking the Torah must do so with righteousness, justice and loving kindness but most of all we must extend compassion to those that thirst for knowledge and the light of Karaism. Therefore, those that ridicule and condemn the attempts of others to understand the Tanakh merely because they disagree with their interpretation in actuality condemn themselves before God. So before you choose to chastise another in a demeaning manner for their contrary opinion, think about whether you are acting in a manner that YHWH would approve. If you cannot express yourself without anger, the use of ridicule or derogatory statements, then you certainly cannot build a loving relationship with either your soul-mate or with God. That is clearly the message He passes on to us.
Or as we see in Hosea Chapter 12, it is stated more accurately, “7 Therefore turn thou to thy God; keep mercy and justice, and wait for thy God continually. 8 As for the trafficker, the balances of deceit are in his hand. He loveth to oppress.” What is the trafficker you ask? For the definition in this instance we must rely on the descriptors in the previous sentence. The trafficker is one that has sought God and considers only his understanding and, his interpretation to be accurate. He is one that traffics in knowledge whether it be true or false. He will use the words of the Torah and twist them in order to oppress the opinions of others. He is without mercy and he certainly has no sense of fair play or justice. The same way he approaches the Torah is how he deals with the people and love in his life. Lies and deceptions which only impede the path to a true relationship.
Proverbs on Love
For as is written in Proverbs 15 Line 17, “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.” Herbs are a poor dinner whereas a steak would be a most excellent meal. But showing off a magnificent animal in a stall or a paddock does not bring it any closer to the dinner plate to feed those needing sustenance. But if we seek Torah and knowledge with love, even though we may not have a complete understanding or a mastery of the language, we are far more blessed than someone that has those resources but wields his knowledge like a weapon to bludgeon those less fortunate and doing so in an expression of disdain or hatred of those he considers ignorant. In that case he does nothing but show off what he has, like the man with the ox, but brings no benefit to those in need. Similarly, in one’s relationship having wealth and fortune (the ox) should not be the key to love. In a true loving relationship, even without wealth, even in poverty (the herbs) as long as there is love it can be successful. So though we are instructed on how to love the Torah in this Proverb, we are also being instructed on how to approach our own love life. If we choose to strut and demonstrate our own greatness then we have failed to understand that any relationship needs the two people to be on a level playing field in order to succeed. There must be no disparity between the two and one should not think of himself as superior in any way.
So love is of vital importance in all that we do. We must approach our studies, our friends, our partners and God in the spirit of love. It is what He requires from us. It is not an easy task for it is in man’s nature to deride and abuse, to subjugate all that we find unfavourable and be deceitful when it suits our personal needs. One merely has to read the Torah to see that man’s biblical history is a constant battle between love and hatred. And more often than naught it appears that Love is on the losing side. But if we acknowledge that we have failed in this respect, and we accept that we must work at manifesting love in all that we do, and recognize that God advises us to do so for our own benefit then I believe we have the ability to bring the message of Karaism to the world. But in the Tanakh and the Writings the subject of Love goes into even far greater depths as we are instructed on how to know whether we have found the perfect mate. That will be another subject for another time. For even in that instance God knew and understood that we should seek His wisdom in all matters, even affairs of the heart.
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana