Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Our Passion for God


People don’t usually associate God with sex, and to some this might even seem blasphemous, however interestingly Judaism does make this connection.

The Song of Songs is a dialogue of passionate love between a man and a woman, which appears superficially to be entirely secular. God is unmentioned in it.

Nevertheless, in the Mishnah Tractate Yadaim 3:6, Rabbi Akiva states “all of the [inspired] writings are holy, however the Song of Songs is the holy of holies”. This is because, according to the Midrash, the Song of Songs is an allegory of the love between God and the Jewish people.

Therefore, according to Judaism, the love between God and man can be compared to the intense, passionate love between and a man and a woman. In fact, Maimonides in the Laws of Repentance 10:5 writes “What type of love should one have for God? One should love God with a tremendously powerful and fierce love, to the point of being constantly obsessed with it, like a man who is in love with a woman and thinks of her constantly, whether active, resting, eating or drinking. In fact, man’s love for God should be even greater than this as it is stated in Deut. 6:5 ‘with all ones heart and soul’ and as Solomon wrote in the Song of Songs 2:5 ‘I am sick with love’. The entire Song of Songs is an allegory for this.”

Based upon this concept, I think it becomes easier to understand why God has implanted in man a preoccupation with sex. In animals, the female goes into “heat” when she ovulates, the male and female copulate and it’s over. Purely practicle. Humans, on the contrary, are constantly active in this area. This is because the obsession with sex is actually an allegory for the obsession that we should have with the love of God. Just like a geography teacher will point to a globe and say, “This is a miniature model of the earth”, so God has given us sexual passion and, in the Song of Songs, He inspired Solomon to say “This is a miniature model of the love which should be between us.”

8 comments:

Avi Bitterman said...

You do realize that 1) humans are not the only animals who continuously engage in sex all year round and 2) humans are not the only animals who do not have an estrous cycle, but have a true menstrual cycle, right?

jewish philosopher said...

Bonobos and dolphins have been observed to have intercourse for non-reproductive reasons

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bonobo#Sexual_social_behavior

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolphin#Reproduction_and_sexuality

Both are promiscuous however; there doesn't seem to be any passionate commitment.

NC said...

"This is because the obsession with sex is actually an allegory for the obsession that we should have with the love of God. "

Maybe its a nice poetic claim, but here are the problems with this assertion:

1. It doesn't work: the overwhelming majority of humanity doesn't "get it" and sees sex as just sex, or sex as sinful. So it was a bad strategy.

2. How can man love an entity such as god with passion, an entity that he can't even define, describe, understand, let alone see? Fear yes, but love? Its not very credible, given man's emotional makeup. Can you give another example of a man loving something that he cannot hear, see, feel, understand or even define?

As pointed out in the article I linked to before about the Rambam-- it is possible that he said such things for common consumption, even though he knew them not to be strictly true. Rabbi Dessler is known for having stated this explicitly, in asserting that "truth" is that which brings one closer to a good goal, rather than being factually correct.

So its entirely probable that the rabbis said many things in line with this approach, including statements in the Talmud about this or that bringing somebody to olam habah or hell, even though they knew it to be a bunch of bunk. They said such things are part of moral preaching, not statements of fact.

מהו אמת ומהו שקר? בתחילת חינוכנו הבנו, שאמת הוא כשמספרים עובדות כמו שאירעו; ושקר, כשמשנים זאת. אך זהו רק באופנים פשוטים, אבל למעשה יש הרבה אופנים שבהם אין הדבר כן. לפעמים אסור לומר דברים כמו שהם... בלי תועלת והכרח, ולפעמים צריך דווקא לשנות, כשהאמת לא יועיל אלא יזיק, כי אז מה שנראה כאמת הוא שקר, שמוליד תוצאות של רע, ומה שנראה כשקר מביא לתכלית של אמת. נמצא, שאמת הוא מה שמביא לטוב ולרצון הבורא, ושקר הוא מה שנותן הצלחה לעסקיו של שר השקר, הסטרא אחרא (השטן)'
(ר' א.א. דסלר, 1953-1892, מכתב מאליהו, כרך א, עמ' צד).

NC said...

מהו אמת ומהו שקר? בתחילת חינוכנו הבנו, שאמת הוא כשמספרים עובדות כמו שאירעו; ושקר, כשמשנים זאת. אך זהו רק באופנים פשוטים, אבל למעשה יש הרבה אופנים שבהם אין הדבר כן. לפעמים אסור לומר דברים כמו שהם... בלי תועלת והכרח, ולפעמים צריך דווקא לשנות, כשהאמת לא יועיל אלא יזיק, כי אז מה שנראה כאמת הוא שקר, שמוליד תוצאות של רע, ומה שנראה כשקר מביא לתכלית של אמת. נמצא, שאמת הוא מה שמביא לטוב ולרצון הבורא, ושקר הוא מה שנותן הצלחה לעסקיו של שר השקר, הסטרא אחרא (השטן)'
(ר' א.א. דסלר, 1953-1892, מכתב מאליהו, כרך א, עמ' צד).

This is in line with the idea that "truth" is that which brings good, according to one's own values. It is not that which is factually correct. Therefore, it is probable that the Rambam, like the Talmudic sages, said many things as part of moral preaching that weren't factually correct.

Can you give another example of a man passionately "loving" something that he cannot even define, let alone understand, feel, see, or hear? Fear, yes, but love? Not very credible.

Besides, if sex was part of god's strategy for "loving" him, it obviously failed miserably. Almost everybody on this earth sees sex as either just sex or sinful.

Overall, not very convincing, JP.

jewish philosopher said...

"the overwhelming majority of humanity doesn't "get it""

Argumentum ad populum (Latin: "appeal to the people") is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges: "If many believe so, it is so."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

"So it was a bad strategy."

Or maybe we are bad people.

You see, one thing which I think you're missing is that God looks at quality, not quantity. See for example Deuteronomy 10:14-15

Behold, unto the LORD thy God belongeth the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, the earth, with all that therein is. Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and He chose their seed after them, even you, above all peoples, as it is this day.

http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0510.htm#14

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all that God loved, more than everything else in the universe. The few truly righteous are the focus of creation; all else is merely scenery for them to act out their lives.

"How can man love an entity such as god with passion, an entity that he can't even define, describe, understand, let alone see? "

That is our life's work. I've gone into a little detail here.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2009/04/real-happiness.html

Eclipse said...

"Can you give another example of a man passionately "loving" something that he cannot even define, let alone understand, feel, see, or hear?"

There is a somewhat well-known writer online who openly says she "loves" the planet Pluto. If she has seen it at all, it is as a tiny speck through the eyepiece of a telescope. Obviously, she cannot feel it or hear it, yet she is passionate about the question of its definition. Now writing a book, she says over and over that she "turned her life around" to fight the demotion of Pluto, that Pluto changed her life, and that she loves the planet with all her heart and soul. Apparently someone can love something they can't hear or touch, can barely see, and can only minimally understand.

NC said...

"There is a somewhat well-known writer online who openly says she "loves" the planet Pluto."

I love math. So what? What does this have to do with my question? The fact that a person is obsessed or strongly interested in something, has nothing to do with JP's exhortation. Could your online writer call on other people to "love" Pluto like a woman?

Anonymous said...

My ex loved alcohol very much like a man loves a woman. It was the first thing he turned to for support in any situation and the central focus of his life. He thought about alcohol every hour of every day. Yes, unfortunately, he could see and feel it (don't know about hear, but he definitely didn't hear me when he was doing his holy drinking). I finally gave him an ultimatum, the Bottle or me, and guess which one he chose?