“We Deliver Love…” If Only!

The other day I was stopped at a traffic light behind a floral shop delivery van:

“We Deliver Love”

Their tag line (as seen on the photo above): “We Deliver Love.”

If only life were that simple. If only our world could be filled with love by receiving a delivery of flowers! No more hatred, no more violence, no more racism. Only flowers…lots and lots of flowers, and therefore, love!

Unfortunately, we know this isn’t the case. We know where hatred, violence and racism abide, love, flowers and beauty seem to disappear.

How can we “deliver love” to the world around us in the midst of violence, evil and hatred?

Perhaps we can learn something from what has come to be known as “The Golden Rule”, one of the most famous lines in the Hebrew Bible which teaches about “love:”

“V’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha (Leviticus 19:18). Love your neighbor as yourself.” Many other religions have their own version of this as well.

There is much discussion surrounding this: what does it mean to “Love one’s fellow”? WHO is one’s fellow? Is it only people just like ourselves? Or is it everyone? Do we love those people who don’t love us back? I was thinking about this last week because as we are well aware, last Wednesday and Thursday, on two different continents, racism and hatred motivated vicious attacks on religious institutions.

We all know of the horrific shootings on Wednesday, June 17, 2015 at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC. Nine people who were engaged in bible study were gunned down in cold blood by a young man steeped in hatred and racist ideas. First, he sat alongside the pastor studying for awhile in this beautiful, historic church, before pulling out his gun. (For a thoughtful, cogent and articulate perspective, please read Rabbi Lucy Dinner’s “Response to the Massacre in Charleston”. Rabbi Dinner is a Reform rabbi and a southerner, with keen insight into the situation).

The very next day, Jewish extremists perpetrated a horrific arson attack on the Church of the Multiplication at Tabgha in Israel. This is one of the most famous Catholic churches in the Holy Land. They too, were steeped in hatred and racism.

And if we were to scour the news, we would find multiple other events happening across the globe on a daily basis, all motivated by those same ideologies: hatred and racism.

Racism and hatred are learned ideologies. Each of us is born innocent. Those who hate, are taught to hate by others around them, by their environment, by their cultural upbringing.

But there is hope that even those who grew up learning about violence, hatred and racism can change. For example, in Israel one NGO called: “Combatants for Peace” comprised of Israelis and Palestinians grew out of a desire of Palestinians and Israelis who were tired of fighting each other. They now work together to promote dialogue, understanding and harmony.

So what does “V’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha” have to teach us about this situation? Dr. Jacob Milgrom, (in his book “Learn with Torah,” Vol. 5, number 30) teaches us three things about this verse:

  1. Loving to or for your neighbor implies action not just feeling. (Do for your neighbor as you would do for yourself) (both Hillel and Jesus taught what is hateful to you, do not do to others, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you). Hatred is a learned response and therefore, it can be unlearned as well. We need to take whatever actions are necessary to teach understanding, respect and tolerance.
  2. “Your neighbor” implies someone who is physically close to you. This is not a stranger, not an anonymous next door neighbor – but someone who shares your neighborhood with you, who shares the same fears, hopes and dreams as you. For example, this means we must help our friends in the South understand that the Confederate flag is hateful and hurtful to many.
  3. How can you love someone else if you don’t or can’t love yourself? If we can’t find a way to love ourselves, it’s difficult or impossible to love another. When one feels worthless, one can’t find those God-like qualities within – and can’t recognize that other’s are also made in the image of God. Therefore, it becomes much easier to treat others as “less than” or as value-less.

So let us ‘deliver love’ by learning how to love one another and ourselves in our actions and our deeds. And then maybe our world can be filled with flowers, beauty and love for all. 

Love Is In the Air

My friend Pedie Wolfond is a gifted and talented artist. She’s part of a modernist tradition called “abstract expressionism.” She uses colour and light to to express her feelings and emotions. Mostly, Pedie wants people to feel joy, happiness and love when they reflect on her paintings.

In fact, she has a whole series of paintings that consist of just hearts. Bright, bold, beautiful, colourful hearts .

One of Pedie Wilfond’s Hearts, which she gifted to me. A large 30-foot version of this is displayed in the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Ontario.

Pedie’s intention with her “Heart Series” is: “to create more love and more kindness in this world. It is my wish that you will feel joy and happiness as you look at these hearts and share with others a desire to love and be loved.” (Pedie Wolfond, Introduction to “Find Your Heart”, 2011).

Pedie’s hearts are displayed in hospitals, galleries and homes all over the world.

She has published two books with her images, called “Find Your Heart.” Each two-page spread contains an inspirational quote, across from one of her heart paintings.

Pedie’s motto is simple:

  • live live to the fullest
  • care about friends
  • smiles are like sunshine
  • remember to give back
  • cherish those you love
  • create from your heart
  • count your blessings
  • giving makes the heart sing.
Hearts From Artist Pedie Wilfond’s “Heart Series”

I was thinking about all of this as we approach February 14th – Valentine’s Day. A day of hearts and flowers. A day when the hype in the media tends to make people who are not paired up seem to be left out.

Valentine’s Day has it’s origins in Christianity. St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Eventually it did evolve into the occasion in which lovers expressed their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering candies, sending cards.

Even though Valentine’s Day is Christian in origin, the concept of “love” is a very Jewish concept indeed. In fact, we even have a Jewish Valentine’s Day on our own calendar! It is called “Tu B’Av” – the 15th day of the month of Av. This was a spring-time day of matchmaking for unmarried women during the time of the 2nd Temple before it was destroyed by the Romans in the year 70 AD.

Now, Tu B’Av is celebrated much like our own Valentine’s Day, dedicated to romance, friendship and LOVE.

As we approach February 14th, I think we need to view the concept of “love” more broadly than just as a day devoted to romantic love. If we do this, February 14th, Valentine’s Day, will be more inclusive and not so exclusive. We can look to our Jewish tradition as our guide and model.

How is “love” viewed from our Jewish tradition? Here are a few examples:

  • In the V’ahavta – we are commanded to LOVE God,(V’ahavta et Adonai elohecha);
  • Torah is a symbol of God’s love for us;
  • Husbands and wives love each other (in the creation story in Genesis, we are told that a man leaves his mother and joins with his wife). And then, further on in Genesis, this is explained in the Isaac and Rebecca story (Gen 24:67): Isaac took Rebecca and she became his wife and he loved her.
  • In the Book of Ruth, we see the ultimate love of a widowed daughter-in-law, for her widowed mother-in-law, when Ruth says to Naomi, “For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people; and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.” (Ruth 1: 16-17)
  • And probably, one of the most famous uses of the word “love” is from Leviticus: V’ahavta l’re’echa ka’mocha: Love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18). This is known as the “Golden Rule”.

Love takes many forms: There’s romantic love, love for parents and children, love for the others who live in our midst, and love between the Divine Presence and ourselves.

With loving hearts together, we can create a better world.” –Pedie Wolfond