Hello, I’m Diane Rayor, serving on the Ahavas Board of Trustees, and I am on the Membership Committee with Sandy Freed and Abe Cohen (and hopefully with a few more people by October). I’m also a Classics professor at GVSU with a specialty in translating ancient Greek poetry and drama. I often see parallels between the ancient Greek languages and culture that I study and ancient Hebrew and contemporary Jewish life.
“Now you are to love [Adonai] your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your substance!” (The Five Books of Moses, translated by Everett Fox, 2000:Deuteronomy 6:5).
In his D’var Torah (8/17/19), Rabbi Krishef said that “loving God,” in Deuteronomy 6:5, is more about love in action than simply emotion. At least that’s what I understood. I’ve always mulled over this line, trying to comprehend the nuances of loving with all one’s heart (lev) and soul (being/nefesh). According to Fox’s notes, “heart” often means “mind,” and the meanings of nefesh include “life,” “breath,” and “self,” not separate from the body (p.881).
Interestingly, Greek terms for emotions also include the actions they trigger rather than simply feelings. For example, hubris is not “pride” but “arrogance that leads to violent action.”
As for welcoming people into our congregation, loving God in action is loving the stranger (ger) among us (Deut. 10:18). This includes a whole-hearted embrace of interfaith couples as an integral part of our congregation, as well as, welcoming immigrants (as we used to be) into our community. The Greek word “xenos” (as in xenophobia—fear of strangers or foreigners) does mean stranger or foreigner, but it also means guest. If people see the other person as a guest—a friend or fellow citizen—rather than a stranger, we can break bread together as guests to each other’s traditions and differences. For our congregation to remain vital and relevant, we need our current members and their families to know they belong. And we need to encourage new people to join us, even—perhaps especially—people who may be different than those we have traditionally welcomed into our family.