If a robot interviewed you, and the robot asked you “what is love?” – What would you say?
It’s a weird question, I know, but please bear with me! I was just wondering why we have 613 commandments in the first five books of the Bible when God could have just written one word: Love!?
Now let’s pretend just for a minute: If you were a robot and you knew little to nothing about love, wouldn’t you need a handbook explaining what love is all about? So here is “Love 101”, it comes in this great edition called Torah, and it says something like this: We show love when we don’t steal, when we don’t lie, when we don’t take advantage of someone’s misfortune; all the while we’re reaching out, we’re helping our neighbors, we’re giving generously, we’re conducting fair businesses, we’re taking a break from the daily grind on Sabbath, and we’re showing respect for ourselves and other people.
Granted, we are no robots, so the word “love” should ring a bell, but let’s be realistic too. We are born into various circumstances, not all of them very promising. Let’s take a look at the people of Israel for instance around the time when they received those 613 commandments in the Sinai desert. They used to be slaves, now they were refugees. They had been slaves for so long, it literally became their identity. All day push and pull; do this, don’t do that! – And the taskmaster was around all day long. A slave is considered a prized possession at best and mistreated like an abused animal at its worst.
After the exodus there was this great void that the taskmaster used to fill. A former slave had to redefine his entire existence. Welcome to a hefty identity crisis! Did this person need help? Certainly! Now multiply this case times a million – because 600,000 men of military age were counted when the Israelites left Egypt – and now we got serious issues. Did 613 commandments come in handy at the time? I believe so. It turned a bunch of refugees into the people of Israel who made it through the desert and are still around today. Do 613 commandments still come in handy today? Well, does humanity still have issues with the thing called love?
While the commandments penned down in the Torah are not a replacement for love, they are a road map when we get lost. Most importantly, the commandments point to its author. If we don’t know anything about love, God Almighty is always a good place to start!