If You Wish to Believe, Love!

One of life’s most profound lessons came to me when I was a boy. My parents separated, and my father brought a new puppy into his apartment and into our lives. I responded with guilt – wouldn’t loving this puppy betray the older dog I already loved? My father assured me that our hearts can hold an infinite amount of love: love is never displaced by additional love, it is enhanced, because all of our different loves are expressions of the one embracing love.

That same simple lesson emerges from Jewish teaching as well. The great Hassidic master, Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, teaches, “Whether one really loves God can be determined by the love borne toward others.” All love is, ultimately, one. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel reminds us, “The self, the fellow man and the dimension of the holy are the three dimensions of a mature human concern. True love of man is clandestine love of God.” Love is never displaced by additional love. The philosopher Martin Buber insists, “If you wish to believe, love!  He who loves brings God and the world together.” Our hearts can hold an infinite amount of love.

Our job, during the month of Elul and throughout our lives, is to increase love in the world – for ourselves, for each other, for the marginalized and forgotten, for creation, and for the Holy One.

If you wish to believe, love!


Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson (http://www.bradartson.com) is the Dean of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies and Vice President at American Jewish University in Los Angeles.  The author of 6 books, and a weekly email commentary on the Torah portion that goes to almost 12,000 subscribers, he served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. He lives with his wife, Elana, and their twins, Shira and Jacob.