Parashat Ki Tavo

Love Is Not The Opposite Of Hate; Law Is

Law is essential to Judaism, establishing an external set of moral guidelines.

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Halakhah cuts through that solipsism, forcing people to integrate the needs of their neighbors and coreligionists, an awareness of God and the sacred, and the highest ideals of human morality. In an age of lonely individuals coming together to try to foster a sense of meaning without impinging on autonomy, Jewish law forges us into a community, with a framework to channel and guide our individuality.

Finally, halakhah extends the realm of the sacred and the moral beyond a once-a-week (or once-a-year) peek into a prayerbook or a synagogue. Instead, Judaism becomes the prism through which we refract all the rays of light from every aspect of our lives, sanctifying and elevating every moment, every deed and every place.

In the words of Rabbi Pinhas in Midrash Devarim Rabbah, "Whatever you do, the mitzvot accompany you. If you build a house . . . if you make a door . . . if you buy new clothes . . . if you have your hair cut . . . if you plough your field . . . if you sow it . . . if you gather the harvest . . .. God said, "Even when you are not occupied with anything, but are just taking a walk, the mitzvot accompany you."

Jewish law, then, is the powerhouse that has maintained Jewish unity, purpose and vigor throughout the ages. Through our halakhah, we reach beyond our drives to attain our aspirations, beyond our flaws to embody our ideals. As they have been for thousands of years, the laws of the Torah and the Talmud summon us to aim high, to become the earthly representatives of the sacred and the sublime.

In the words of Midrash Derekh Eretz Zuta, Jewish law allows us to let all our "doings be for the sake of God, revering and loving God, feeling awe and joy towards all the 'mitzvot.'" Take a stand against hatred; do a 'mitzvah.'

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Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.