While I traveled the last two weeks I finished memorizing the V’ahavta.
V’ahavta et Adonai Elohecha,
You shall love Adonai your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your might.
For the purposes of this meditation, morality will be defined as immediate valuing: discerning (or mis-discerning) what is good or bad, or both at once, or neither. It is not the same as ethical codification, or deliberation over what is right, or even resolve to submit to what is good. It is value as we have it, as “experienced”.
With our being — with our moral heart, with our knowing soul and with our active might — we live within our world, a finite portion of God.
With all our being — all our heart, all our soul and all our might — we love beyond our world toward God, a finite speck of whom is each of us.
The beyondness, toward which our finite being exists in relation with God’s infinitude, extends from immediate presence of self, time and cosmos into inconceivable nothingness of Spirit, Eternity and Apeiron, which are dimensions of One: Echad.
(These dimensions might not be the only or even best way to conceive extensions toward infinity from immediate presence, but they are the ones most natural to me, personally, in this place, time and state of existence.)
With all our being entails more than simple feeling or simple knowing or simple doing, or even each of the three in turn. With all our being means simultaneously valuing knowingly and actively, knowing actively and valuingly, and acting feelingly and knowingly.
And loving with all our being means preferring a beloved beyondness more than preserving the particular being with which we presently love, our own self. It means allowing love to change who our self is, in response to loving a beloved.
This change of love, in every case, draws us toward the nothingness of infinitude despite our anxiety, into it despite our dread, across it despite our despair, and to the other side where love is consummated and prepared for the next traversal.
Anyone who cannot face being changed for love by love, who understands God to be found where bliss points and away from dread, will confuse God with the being of one’s own existence, not the One toward which love draws more than dread repels.
The misinterpretation of experience toward God is the corruption of religion in this time, and maybe all times.
What is religion? Religion is the conscious effort to situate ourselves within a reality that involves but infinitely exceeds us conceptually (soul), practically (might) and morally (heart).
It is not a merely physical reality that is, nor a merely spiritual reality who lives, nor a mere story unfolding, but all of these, and others we might one day come to experience and others no finite being can experience. God comes to us as constancy, as fate, as shock, as longing — as the destiny of going-toward-God-despite — as insistence wrestling with existence.
I’m shocked I can say a public prayer and mean it, albeit in my own way, but in a public made up of individuals who are all expected to say things in one’s own way. In Judaism (at least Reform Judaism), saying words in unison does not mean saying them unanimously. It is a perfect resolution of my need to be who I am in my way, but to do so without being isolated.
Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad.
Baruch shem k’vod malchuto l’olam va-ed.
V’ahavta et Adonai Elohecha,
This is my understanding from the last decade, finally translated into my native Hebrew.